Plastic Smiles (May 15, 2019)
Dear VICC family,
April was one heck of a month! It has been weeks since I’ve written you, thanks mostly to the craziness of life. Between juggling big life-and-family issues surrounding my father and his healthcare needs, getting the Alpha Course team out to a big training event, preparing for a joint Good Friday service with Bethel Church, planning our own Easter Sunday events, saying goodbye to Donny and Susie Lester, and then heading to Idaho for our network’s annual conference, last month was a blur. And the blur didn’t stop. Once we got back from Idaho, my wife the florist immediately had to start preparing for the week of Mother’s Day. Phew!
I am sure many of you can relate to crazy seasons like that, and to crazier. God has created a world of rhythms (“days, months, seasons, and years”), but life as we know it seems to operate more on a feast-or-famine schedule. If you ask most people how they are doing, the two most common answers you will receive are, “Busy” or “Tired.” And this is not just true of us church folk (who have an unhealthy tendency to tie our self-worth to our activity-levels). Boredom reigns, but thanks to technology the boredom that we know is a boredom that sets in over a matter of minutes rather than days. Loneliness reigns, but we also can’t wait to get the heck away from people. We want quiet and calm, but we also want meaningful experiences and genuine friendships. In some ways our tendency to never quite be satisfied with life is a manifestation of our sin, of our ingratitude and selfishness. But in other ways its just one more reminder that life is not quite right, that things are broken somehow. And underneath it all, the rhythmic nature of God’s creation carries on. Every day is followed by night, and every night is followed by day. Winter is followed by spring, and one month follows another. This could be good news or bad, depending on how you look at it. But one thing is for certain: Life goes on, with or without us.
One of the most surreal things about my mother’s death ten years ago was how, even though she was gone, the world kept moving. Of course, in some ways everything had changed. But in other ways, everything remained the same (except there was this empty space where Mom used to be). It was the sameness of the surrounding world that made her death so surreal.
God has given us a beautiful world and a beautiful life, if we will just stop and look at it for a second. But through the brokenness of sin, God has also given us a world where nothing lasts forever and things don’t always seem to go right. Things keep moving and we can’t hold onto them. Sometimes too much is going on and we wish things would just stop. Sometimes too little is going on and we just wish someone would reach out and invite us to dinner. Despite the well-meaning claims of some Christians, there just isn’t a cure for every ailment in this life. Some things we have-to endure sometimes (busyness or loneliness, for example). An easy and popular option is to find someone to get mad at, someone to blame for our unhappiness. I know. I’ve done that to others and have had other do it to me (pastors are an easy target for that sort of thing). But it’s also in these absences of perceived grace that God does some of his best work. He is forming us for eternity, not for next Tuesday, and in his perfect wisdom sometimes pain does the surgery that happiness can’t do. The fruit of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22), but the daily Spirit-filled Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). He knew that joy was set before him (Hebrews 12:2), but he still felt pain, emptiness, and abandonment (Matthew 27:46). Yes, the life and suffering of Jesus were unique, but we find our life in his, don’t we?
I for one am grateful that a biblical faith does not require plastic smiles.
Your partner on the journey,