Saturday, January 17, 2015

Untitled

I've been really struck, lately, with the fragility of life.  People die, relationships fall apart.  People are betrayed, things get broken, life can be such a struggle sometimes.  And, for a person like me, it sometimes seems like too much.

Don't hate the people who hurt you and the ones you love and make your life more difficult.  I don't mean pretend that they don't do any damage.  I don't mean minimize what they do.  There are some truly selfish, clueless, deceitful people in this world.  What I mean is that allowing their actions to pull you down into the cesspool of hatred, bitterness, and stress has a cost.  It takes a great toll on you, and I guarantee that if you knew that today was your last day on earth you wouldn't want a speck of that time or a single drop of your energy wasted on trying to beat them, stop them, silence them, punish them, or keep them from fulfilling their evil master plans.  Let them have it.  It won't make them happy.  You would want every bit of that time and energy spent on the things that matter.  You would want to laugh.  You would want to cry.  You would want to spend it with the people who matter rather than churning your gut over the people who don't.

Don't be so stressed out about things that don't matter.  We have too many cares, or we simply don't care enough about the right things.  We worry about what someone will think.  So, we carry the heavy burden of worry when we feel we have disappointed them.  We live in fear of how selfish people will respond, knowing that they have caused us pain and anguish before.  So, though we vowed to do otherwise, we live always looking over our shoulder, always being careful about what we do, always trying to protect ourselves, manage outcomes, and keep what is "ours."  While there is always room for reasonable caution, has it dawned on us that there are no guarantees in anything?  There are none.  Everything that we think we are keeping grasp of with our tense fists and sleepless nights can be gone in a moment.  And could it be that the good things and good people we have for the moment are gifts to be enjoyed, not museum pieces to be hoarded and kept?  They are things and people that are entrusted to us for a short time.  But everything feels so ultimate, so dramatic, so urgent because we have bought into the idea that everything depends on us, and in buying into that idea we have sold our innocence and our ability to enjoy and be grateful.  We have bought into the delusion of our own self-importance, but at the cost of our child-like ability to experience wonder, joy, and faith.  We have forgotten what it means to be carefree, making excuses for ourselves that we "can't" because we won't.   Certainly, we ought to try our best to do our best, but we need to laugh more, make room for the imperfect, give people room to grow and breathe, and leave the outcomes in God's hands... truly.  It really doesn't all hang on our shoulders, and thank God for that.  For, as much as we might like to think so, we are no saviors.  We don't trust God because bad things have happened, so we think we must be God.  We burden ourselves with the impossible task of holding life together.  We buy the lie, and every time something bad happens, we buy into it more.  But perhaps those bad things happen to remind us of this very fact:  that life is fragile and our worried, hasty, over-thinking hands don't really hold it together at all; they just make us numb to enjoying what we actually have and angry when our attempts to hold it together once again prove to be futile.  We curse the skies, not realizing that the fragility of life is not meant to teach us to hold onto things more tightly but to remind us to cherish and laugh and love, saving our heart for the best and simplest of things.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Worship

Father, I don't know why things happen in the way that they do.  I don't understand why I cry out for help and so many times it seems like nobody is there to hear me.  Sometimes I even wonder if you are real.

But when I sin, I hate it.  And in the quiet of the morning, when all is still, all I want to do is go to the edge of the river, lift up my hands, and worship You.  My soul is content.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Where was God?

"Where was God when that terrible suffering happened to me?"

"Where was God when I saw my grandmother suffer and die in such a terrible way?"

"I cried out to God over and over, and nobody came and helped me.  Nobody was there.  That's why I don't believe in God."

These are the words of many people I've known.  During some of the darker times of my life, over a decade of suffering and praying and begging God to help, only to have nothing appear to change, these were my cries.  These were my words, my thoughts.  This was my anger, my death of faith.

And the truth is, I really don't know the answer in detail.  I don't know how to call God to account for his alleged absence when things go wrong, when people die, when suffering lingers like an agonizing dirge.

I could point out the theological fact of God's sovereignty.  "God is in control.  You can trust Him to turn your pain into something good."  This is true, but in the midst of gut-wrenching torment, that is often cold comfort.  After all, we've cried out to Him, and it would appear that He turned his back on us... or simply doesn't exist.  It seems unfathomable that God could have good reasons for allowing it to happen.  Even though a transcendent God, by definition, could have reasons that we could not understand or see or think of, we still don't really like this.

I could take the route we find in the book of Job.  When Job finally reached the end of his rope, he called God to give an account for all the suffering and loss and injustice he had endured.  It felt so wrong, so unfair.  God must give an account!  But when God showed up and began to turn the questioning toward Job, suddenly Job was humbled and began to worship.  God's presence was enough for him, and he saw his rightful place in comparison to God's transcendence.

But really, if we want to know where God was when that terrible thing happened, when we begged and begged and pleaded with Him to relieve us of our agony and nothing happened, we need only look at the cross.  Where was God?  Hanging on the cross.

I'm not asking you to fully understand it.  I'm not asking you to even like it -after all, it goes completely against all of our expectations of how a "god" should handle things.  That sentiment is certainly nothing new.  So no, I'm just asking you to look.  I'm asking you to look at the cross, where Jesus of Nazareth -the one called "the Christ"- hung and died.

That, ultimately, is your answer.  It is God's statement to the world, His message, His Word in human flesh.  In a kind of eerie silence, God gives no answer to our demand for answers, no details as to why, for our specific situation, He allowed it to be so.  He offers no apologies or justifications.  The God-man just hangs there, like a lamb led to slaughter. Yet this gruesome event communicates more to us than language can capture or intellect describe.

In the darkest hour, when it seemed God was most distant, He was more near and more invested in humanity's plight than ever.  This is the paradox of the cross.  It is both our indictment and our salvation.   And it is where our demand that God be what we decide is exposed for what it is.  Our demands and claims against God are silenced by the silence of heaven in that solemn, sacred moment.  We see that our imperious hands put Him there.

In one act, the God of the universe who gave us breath and owes us nothing, declared to us, "I am with you, I suffer beside you, and this is how I chose to save you all.  On my terms, not yours.  By the shedding of truly innocent blood.  This is what had to be done for you, for you are filthy, stained by your arrogance.  Yet by this I will make you mine and, one day, set everything right."

And on the third day, when the Son of Man rose, mankind's new beginning rose with Him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

It's been a while, now, since I've really had time to develop thoughts into longer articles, but this thought seemed worth posting even in short form.  Today is Veteran's Day.  I am torn between avoiding it completely, since it was a military veteran who helped break up my family, and spiritualizing it into a discussion about Jesus' sacrifice for us, overlooking the actual sacrifices of men and women for the freedoms we hold dear.  But I think today I will resist that tension as much as possible.  I'm also not going to go all "Christian-patriot" and use this day as a soap-box to talk about how this is a Christian nation.  Furthermore, I'm not going to use this as an opportunity to warn us about how our freedoms and values are eroding from within, even though they are, or perhaps how our military is used to further a political and likely commercial agenda that is not in our best interests.  No, I'm going to do my best to resist the urge to do all of that and simply thank God and the men and women who have sacrificed themselves to serve our country.  I am thankful that I live where I live, that I can walk down the street without dodging mortars, that I can safely take my kids to the park, that I can pray to and worship God, and that I can live a blessed life with those I love; and I am thankful to those who have given their lives to contribute to and preserve that for me and for everyone else in this country.