On a search for a better world, finding it in the most unlikely places
I have accepted it; I will always be a nocturnal creature. My best ideas – my moments of inspiration always reach out to tap my shoulder from behind the dim curtain of a night sky. So be it. I’m learning to play to my strengths, and self-imposed insomnia is apparently one of them.
Wow. I don’t know who reads this, and how much they would be interested in the life of one crazy, itinerant troublemaker, but I have to say it’s been interesting. I have spent the summer in a strange schizophrenic world. someday, when I’m far removed from the people and places that comprise them, I’m sure I’ll be able to relate all of the stories in detail, but for now suffice it to say I have seen the beauty and the ugliness of Christian faith and practice in America. That, however, is not what this blog is about…I could go on about the negative and never touch on the positive, and that would be a horrible tragedy.
Tonight, I want to talk about grace. See, in our foray into the world of ministry, myself and my wife (Amanda) found ourselves immersed in a nightmarish combination of unrealistic expectations, horrible Christianity (by which I mean the “practice” part of “faith and practice”), and painful interpersonal conflict. A couple of days ago we finalized our exit from the ministry (unfortunately hastened by another relational snafu), and turned our attention to the process of recovering our finances, reconnecting with our community of friends, and taking stock of life in general.
The result of this has been a twofold realization for me; 1)Life, particularly my life, is a beautiful thing. 2) Grace is a big deal. Not a “kind of important” sort of thing, but a “BIG DEAL” thing.
First things first: As I have taken stock of my life as it is, I have realized how much I love everything that God is doing in me, through me, and for me. I don’t say this flippantly or with casual appreciation. I am deeply and almost indescribably grateful. I have been blessed with a beautiful, unbelievably understanding wife who puts up with my ridiculous and often difficult personality. I have an amazing daughter, who has brought so much joy into our lives in her 10 months of life. I am surrounded by a community of brothers and sisters, a tribe who has supported, encouraged, listened, and prayed. Additionally, I work for a company who values the people who work for it more than most, and goes out of its way to make their lives better. I don’t even know how to begin to say how thankful I am for these and so many other things. All of this, however, pales in comparison to the existence of grace, and it’s availability to humanity.
God doesn’t just invite us into a life where we have the opportunity to atone for our mistakes, failures, and shortcomings. Rather, he invites us into a world where those things don’t exist. Rather than pretending that we have not ever screwed up, God says “All have screwed up (that’s “sin” for you churchies) and fallen short”. Yeah, I can agree there. I’m screwed up – you’re screwed up. But then God -goes and says “I’m going to die for all the screw-ups. Oh, by the way, you are free. I Am the One who makes all things new…”. I know one thing is true for all of us; in the words of a good friend “we all got sh!* to deal with”. So true – we who are struggling, falling, messing up, and often hopeless. God just steps in and says “stop it. I got this”. What kind of a God is that?!
Let me tell you – if there’s one thing we Christians don’t understand – it’s grace. So if someone out there thinks that Jesus is like that bitter, controlling, angry tortured soul who they think represents God and the Church, I want you to know He’s not like that. Rather, He’s like the guy who you want at your party because He makes the snobs uncomfortable and puts the losers at ease. Every time He went “to church” He started a riot, and once He chased off a bunch of angry, chauvinistic hypocrites who were about to stone a woman who was sleeping around. The rich and powerful hated Him, and the poor and disenfranchised couldn’t get enough of Him. Jesus is the patron saint – the Savior – of “down-and-outers” and “can’t-quite-get-it-togethers” like me and you.
So as I step into the future, I step into a new world. A world where I am free of my past, my self-destructive behavior patterns, the shame of every time I’ve wrecked things for myself and somebody else. Jesus doesn’t give me the luxury of hiding behind what has happened. Rather – you, me, and everyone else are invited to face a future without self-imposed limitation. This is truly a Brave New World. This is grace, and this is the gift of God who came to us “Not to condemn, but to give life.”
So as I move forward in life, I do so with bi\oth an abiding and profound sense of humility, and a fire in my heart to fight for the world that Jesus talked about – this Kingdom of Hope. I am watching and praying that it will come – in my life and yours.
The Suburban Vagabond