Monday, March 12, 2012

Strap me on, Jesus

I often hear dedicated Christian men and women respond to difficult circumstances with probing, examination and wrestling. "Why is God bringing (or allowing) this in my life?" we ask. "What lesson am I supposed to be learning?" "What did I do that earned me this punishment?"

Sometimes, misfortune can be traced to sinful or stupid actions of our own. But often, life just brings hurts, injury, trauma or betrayal because it does. Tragedies occur. Injustices can seem to run unchecked. Misfortune floods us or a loved one in an unremitting stream. We're reminded that there are only sinners to work with, befriend, or marry. We ask why. Not politely or gently; no, we pound the pavement and scream, "God, what are you thinking!"

Or it's not that dramatic. We're in a dreadful job with a boss who sucks the joy out of the room, but we can't speak up because we're afraid of being laid off. We made a serious mistake in choosing a marriage partner, and now the future looks bleak; it seems to contain only a never-ending struggle. Our health may be fragile, we're almost always in pain and we can't sleep. Or we have a child with serious emotional and learning problems, and get tired of how everyone raises their eyebrows in our direction, hoping we'll get the hint that we should be better parents.

I have come to believe that the actions of God in my life -- deliberate or permitted -- have one purpose. He wants all the things he brings or allows in my life to make me willing for him to draw me closer to him. He wants me close. He loves being with me, he wills better things for me than I can imagine, and by staying close, I can go where he goes.

I usually have a metaphor, don't I? So here it is: It's as if Jesus is a muscular mountain biker, zooming up and down hills, whipping around corners, and sailing broad curves at top speed. I, well, I'm the little waist pack he's got fastened to the small of his back.

Sometimes, I ask him to loosen the belt. It's a little "confining," I say. I can't see the road ahead to plan my next move. I can't plan. I can't figure it out. "Sure," he says, but then he swoops into a sharp corner, my momentum carries me in the old direction, and I end up with a big case of whiplash. I'm still fastened on, yes, but I'm frayed, bruised and dizzy. And, if I'm particularly unaware, I may ask him "Hey, what's the idea?"

But if I'm fastened firmly to him, I automatically go where he goes. The closer I am, and the more I nestle close, the more cushioned I am by his body (or Body). I learn to understand what it means when his muscles tense up a bit -- he's ready to make a move. And his voice comes to me by direct contact; his words aren't whipped away by the wind.

That's where I want to be. It takes trust, lots of it. That's why, if you were to overhear me praying, you'd hear me asking for more trust. All the time.




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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009