Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Can Jesus Be the Answer When My Life Is Such a Trainwreck?

I've started this post a hundred different times in a hundred different ways. It begins with the joy of holding my granddaughters and the anticipation of holding a grandson. It begins with the longing for a child to return to their roots in the church, and longings for a child who has never known the love of a church family to begin growing some roots of her own. It starts with the grief and finality of losing a father to whom I could never be reconciled, and the confusion and pain of losing a mother right before my eyes. It begins with weight issues and relationship issues, successes and failures; addictions and recoveries, good deeds and relapses. In short, this is a story of many, but it is the story that I know. It is my life story.

This Thanksgiving, our pastor had asked for folks to share a testimony, the thing for which they were most thankful. In the past I would have sought "the right answer." You know, the answer that would make the pastor swell with pride, knowing his sermons were not in vain. Jesus. But this time I earnestly looked for the answer that was true, and by God's grace it was "the right answer." And the authenticity of that answer -- for me, anyway -- begins and ends with my life story. God has proven to me, time and time again, that He is real, He is faithful, He is love, and He is the answer. Yes, I know it sounds trite. Yes, I know it sounds like I am the greatest suck-up to ever sit in the third row, right-hand side of Resurrection Life Church. And yes, I know too that there are no words adequate enough to describe the importance and the value of Jesus in my life.

As I prepared my testimony, the one thing that kept coming back to me was this:
"I believe in [Christ] as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see [Him], but because by [Him] I see everything else." ~~ C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry? (1945)
When I think of what my relationship with Jesus means to me, Lewis captured my thoughts perfectly. And isn't this true of most relationships and experiences? Why do people remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, or the Towers collapsed? Why do soldiers return from combat as entirely different people? Why does the lovesick teenager drop two grade points from one semester to the next? Why do some victims of domestic abuse turn to abuses of their own -- alcohol or drugs? Our relationships and our experiences can color how we prioritize things, or how we view the people around us. If we allow the relationships of this life to control who we are or what we do, no doubt we will vacillate from good to bad and from stable to manic. If we allow our experiences to determine the actions we take in future situations, we might well be apprehensive when we should be bold, or we might rush ahead in overconfidence when we should proceed with caution.

Malachi 3:6 says, "I, the LORD, do not change." Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." When I view life from the perspective of one who has put her trust in Jesus and has committed to handing over each and every situation to Him, I can rest knowing that He will manage the issue, not my fear, or ignorance, or impetuosity.

Who would plan a vacation around the carry-on they were permitted to take on the flight? "Hm, I can only take this small tote, so I guess I'll only be staying one night." Yet, we fashion entire lives around the baggage we choose to carry, trying to avoid being unprepared, or inconvenienced, or uncomfortable. Would a mother and father beg the obstetrician to deliver their bouncing bundle of joy months before she was due? Yet, we rush through our lives trying to get from one celebration to the next, trying to perpetually relive the joy of Christmas in the long, cold winters of our lives. We want painless. We want sunny and seventy-five. We want microwaveable and one-step. But what kind of a life would that be? Is it even living at all?

Jesus never promises us a carefree story, but He does promise to be there every step of the way, holding us, carrying us, dragging us if He must. He does promise to sustain and bless us (Isaiah 41:10). He does promise to change our hearts and make us complete (2 Corinthians 5:21). He does promise us a new life in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17) -- one that is not beholden to circumstances and experiences. He does promise us a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) -- even when this life delivers its worst. He is our refuge and fortress when our knees are buckled under the weight of tragedy (Psalm 46:1). He is good (Psalm 136:1), He is perfect (Psalm 18:30), and He is completely, madly in love with each one of us (Romans 5:8).

Not only are we unable to do all these things for ourselves simultaneously, perfectly, thoroughly, but we certainly can't stop the bad things from camping out on our doorstep every once in a while. God can, and sometimes He does. But if we do all we can to circumvent the bad parts of the story, we have no story to tell. Best to ride out the storms with the One who is my friend and "right answer" -- Jesus.
Post a Comment