When I was training for a marathon, I would fill my pockets with orange slices in Ziploc bags. As weariness snuck up, one or two slices popped in my mouth would push it back and give me strength to press on another few kilometers. God's words and His encouragement sometimes come in bite-sized slices -impressions, experiences, encounters - and are just enough to push weariness back and keep us pressing on a little further...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Life is for Living...

Meadows of Mercy
I think we forget, sometimes, that we are alive.  We know that we are busy.  We’re aware that we are stressed.  We have no doubt we’re under pressure to do more, be more, make more (though we’re trying to accomplish it by weighing less, sleeping less, eating less….). We may breathe in and out - our nerves humming and muscles contracting, heartbeats chugging along pressing oxygen into bone and skin and brain - but we often forget what for.

Trying to life “the Christian life” often further complicates matters.  We shuffle along, trying to do what we ought under the great and mighty shadow of “should”.   We should be nicer and more patient.  We should give more money away.  We should invite those people who drive us batty over for dinner.  We efficiently keep our emotional baggage packed and ready for frequent guilt-trips.  

The problem is, as I read my Bible, an existence like that is a pale and feeble excuse for the LIFE for which I was made.  Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10), which would be a terrible thing to say if life was never meant to be more than mere survival, a tedious trudging along towards sterile righteousness.  If He came to give me a life like that (and more of it on top of a first tasteless helping), I want a refund.

But when I look around, out past the shadow of “should”, over the towers of “worry” and the skyscrapers of “circumstance”, when I let Him lead me out to a sun-dappled meadow of mercy, a whole new world (don’t you dare close your eyes) opens up.  I remember that God is bigger than I think.  And He loves me more than I know.  And He has already given me gifts greater than I can comprehend.  And if He says that life is SO good that He (the source of all good, love, light, peace, hope, joy, and a million other mind-blowing realities) came and lived and died and fought death off so that we could have MORE of it, it must be something worth celebrating.

It’s really just a matter of perspective.  When struggles come (and they will) we can focus on the instability lurking inside the struggle – what we don’t know – or we can focus on the stability revealed in our lives by the God we do know.  For example, some people may not know how they're going to pay the rent next month.  Fear, worry, and nervousness hitchhike with uncertainty in a time like that, the whole gang of stress gunning their motors and rising up fast on the horizon.  But the instability of the future cannot affect sun-dappled meadows of mercy.  Or the fairy footprints of a swelling moon over still water.  Or the taste of a nectarine.  I don’t know if tart flirts with sweet from a distance, or if sweet and tart dance a tight tango through fleshy pulp from pit to skin, but however they meet, it’s magic in my mouth.  A God who can cook up a taste like that clearly knows what He’s doing.  I’m fairly sure He can shut down any gang of stress with just a look.  When I’m confident in Him, and in His intention for me to have life -and have it to the full - a whole new world (a new fantastic point of view) of trust and understanding opens up.  We don’t have to be bullied by struggle, guilt, or pressure.  We can unpack our emotional baggage and stay awhile.

The secret, of course, is knowing Him (again, the reason why it’s so important to know what our Bibles actually say).  So what if everything falls apart around me?  He never said it wouldn’t.  It doesn’t change who God is.  It doesn’t change what He said.  It doesn’t change the presence of gifts He has already given me.  I received no guarantee that my time on this planet would get spent being healthy, wealthy and wise.  My motivation for living according to His standards cannot stem from guilt, resentment, habit or self-righteousness – if it does, it will not hold up.   Scattered remains of that sort of fractured faith litter the parking lots of churches across the world.  A life lived His way bubbles out of gratefulness and joy.  My life, as best I can, is offered as a “Thank-you”, not as an obligation or a bribe.  We settle for so little (a pale and feeble existence) when he offers so much more (LIFE!).

The life I live as a Christian is not about “shoulds” and “oughts” and “can’ts”.  It’s about “get-tos” and “guess whats?” and, “did you sees?”  The God who births star nurseries out past the edges of our vision, tucked among the twinkling gems and milky pink clouds of distant space, the God who stuck rainbows on fish who’ve never seen one, the God who continually presses oxygen into bone and skin and brain, into taste buds, optic nerves and hammer, anvil, and stirrup has placed us in a world where it’s good to be alive.  We have the opportunity to dance in His meadows of mercy, to drink deep the wisdom of His word, to taste the sweetness of His presence, coming back for helping after helping, dish after elegant dish of rich, savory satisfaction for our souls.  And when we are no longer alive - by the standards of this world - we will finally be fully alive, by the standards of a whole new world (hold your breath, it gets better).

O Barefoot Sun walk soft upon my face
And let me breathe deep the vapor of life’s fragrant transience
I want to sleep in the arms of the wind
And upon my waking
May every fragmented moment
(Forgotten by lesser dreamers)
Unite in their fullness and taste
Sweet and stolen upon my wondering lips

Living, laughing, dancing, learning
            Ever yearning for
The life
            The life
                        The life
That is my sojourn,
That is my birthday gift,
That is my Once Upon a Time (forever)

(Would that I might never die while there is still breath within my bosom to burn with the life that is my passion.)

1 comment:

  1. Heather...your words are manna for my soul. Clearly God has uniquely blessed and equipped you to touch others with your creative-healing words. Thanks for helping me recalibrate today by embracing the God who is there and who cares about the biggies and smallies of my life and ministry. The aging Apostle perfectly captured my sentiment when he wrote, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 4). May God continue to rock this planet through you:)

    Your Aging Youth Pastor,

    Dave MacKenzie