Friday, 30 July 2010

Sailing between the stars and reaching for hope ...

Kurk Gayle's father is reaching the end of his life - it is a wrenching terrible time and and yet he is caring for his family and loved ones by reading to them ... in a whisper but with such strong words.

Tonight as I read what he had shared I felt ministered to by a man at the end of his life whom I have never met. He is caring for his family right to the end.

In recent weeks I have felt ministered to by many who have received terrible news, of death, of illness, of redundancy, of divorce, of miscarriage ... Yet I continued to weep for my own loss, the loss of a dream, the loss perhaps of love, the loss of a sense of the future. So very selfish, so very self-obsessed, so very petty.

Reading this helped me a little to at least know that hope will return and I shall one day be in a place where the tears do not fall unbidden every day.

There aren’t any easy answers to the big questions that haunt us and hunt us down. Friends commit suicide. Grandparents die awkwardly and alone in nursing homes. We get fired. We have affairs. Our kids get hooked on drugs. Time and gravity wear us down as we travel across this vale of tears.

Yet when we have hope, we have a refuge. I like how Paul put it: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”. Or, as … Peterson paraphrases it …, “We’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it looks like things are falling apart, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” And grace is always stronger than my circumstances.

Every day we’re both wasting away and being renewed. When God’s Spirit moves, joy is reborn, and our lives, once new, can continually be renewed through faith and the promises of faith.

Here’s what I have to keep reminding myself: pain is real, but so is joy. Every moment, hope is available. Even now, peace can be mine. And the sparkling moments of joy that make life worth living are just as much a part of our world as the speeding tickets and funerals. When you take the time to look at both sides of the equation, you realize that life is both more depressing and more delightful than you thought.

I think it’s significant that the Bible never says Jesus enjoyed suffering. Pain is no fun — at least now for healthy, emotionally stable people. Hebrews 12:2 says we should keep our lives focused on Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” Jesus didn’t enjoy the cross; he endured it. If you meet a Christian who acts happy all the time — that shallow, plastic kind of happiness — avoid him like the dentist after Halloween. He has one eye closed to reality.

Jesus never acted artificially happy. And despite what you may have heard from some well-meaning preacher, Jesus did not like being tortured to death. He didn’t delight in it; he put up with it. To enjoy pain isn’t Christianity; it’s masochism. But to willingly endure suffering because you love something more than your own comfort level, well, that’s getting closer to the heart of the divine.

Joy is often wedded to sorrow, peace often accentuated through pain. Christianity isn’t just about putting up with hardships or dealing with problems or handling suffering. One of the paradoxes of faith is embracing those things voluntarily as a way of expressing devotion to God. Christianity is a journey that takes you everywhere you’ve always wanted to go but never by the route you’d expect. Or choose.

This voluntary aspect of love (and in some cases the willing acceptance of pain because of it) is one of the features of Christianity that sets it apart from other religions. Obligation and duty are not the same as love. Love offers itself. It actually volunteers for the cross.

i want to untangle the future
but for now i’ll let
the riddle of
your love for me
take me along the current
of this moment
as i whisper
my yes
and strive to live out
my thanks.

From Steven James’s book Sailing Between the Stars

1 Comment:

Mavis said...

Thanks Jane