Monday, April 4, 2011

The Quest: Whatever.

My friend Nancy makes me laugh.  I don't know what it is about her, but her unique perspective on the quirkiness of life causes me to smile and want to stay close to her.  We go back and forth on Facebook nearly every day.  She suggested that I go duck hunting, but I don't remember why.  She tells the funniest stories about her very cute and very clever five-year-old son, Caleb.  Incidentally, I'm really grateful for Facebook friends who are also friends in real life because right now, as I'm finishing up school, I don't get out too much.  So I FEEL like I see Nancy every day even though I really only run into her once or twice a week.  It's not the same, but it helps.  

A few days ago we were going back and forth about something.  And I used the phrase "whatever."  She said it was her favorite word.  And I know she meant it in an ironic sort of way, but it kind of tells the story of her life.  I mean, her life is filled with "whatever."  And not the good kind of whatever.  Hard stuff.  

Her authentic faith response strengthens my faith.  By authentic, I mean that she doesn't pretend like everything's okay.  She trusts God, but she wrestles with that trust.  And I like that too because she helps me feel okay about wrestling with God.  

On Saturday, Nancy's oldest sister and best friend in the world died suddenly.  Whatever.  
All afternoon, I prayed for her and for her family.  

On Sunday morning at church, I continued to pray for her.  And as I looked around, I saw more people suffering.  Some dear friends of ours are going through a divorce, and we love both of them and we love their kids.  And the dad, who is stationed out of state, visited the kids this weekend and came to church with his two little people.  His daughter's arms were wrapped around his neck, like she couldn't bear to let go, and I wanted to cry.  Whatever.  

And another friend has just been diagnosed with some kind of tumor.  And she doesn't know what this means yet.  Whatever.

And yet another friend has breast cancer, and they thought they got it all, but they didn't, and now she faces more surgeries.  Whatever.  

And I could go on and on.  Whatever.  

Sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes it's harder than other times, but it kind of makes you wonder.  What's the point?  

Difficult times drive us into the arms of Jesus.  At least they can.  When we can't fix or control the "whatevers" that life throws at us, we choose how to respond.  We can get angry and lash out at God.  We can drink too much or use other substances to check out.  We can yell and scream and hurt people.  

Or we can surrender the "whatevers" to God, allow a new relationship with him to be birthed in our lives, and watch what he does through these same "whatevers."  

I've been reading Jesus Manifesto, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola lately.  The book argues for the supremacy of Christ, that idea that in Christ, we live and move and have our being, but all too frequently we get distracted by theologies and philosophies and behavior and causes and programs and on and on.  Not that those things might not be necessary, but they should never take our focus off of Jesus.  

Anyway, I came across this section which I'll share with you in a moment.  They speak specifically of the incarnation of Jesus, not just being a one-time event in Mary, but an ongoing process of allowing Jesus to live through us.  

They begin by talking about the birth of Jesus, a story which they say we like to make "cute."  Cute baby Jesus.  Away in a manger.  The cattle lowing.  Round yon virgin.  At any rate, Sweet and Viola speak of the incarnation, saying, 
Christ wants to be conceived anew in your heart, in your hopes, in your family, in your community--but not as a cutesy little baby who's still in the manger.  Jesus Christ is the author and perfector of our faith, not a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.  So for Him to be conceived a new in you, you must enter into a faith-filled, dynamic, life-giving relationship with Him through the Spirit of God so that He radiates from you in all you do.
But what kind of journey might the "Radiance of God's glory" put you on?  It could be  hard one; not all journeys are easy.  When Mary affirmed, "Let it be with me according to Your word," she could  not foresee all that the little word it would bring to her life.  "It" was definitely not easy--or cute.  
"It" would mean a pregnancy out of wedlock.
"It" would include giving birth far from her home. 
"It would be a death sentence on her child's life, and a night flight into Egypt.   
"It" would be long years of a simple, ordinary life in a non-name village. 
"It" would be three years of trying to understand the transformation of her son into the Son of God and . . .  
"It" would be the horror of the cross, and a mother's heartbreak at the tomb. 
But "it" was worth it all when it became, finally, the story of the bright Morning Star.  
"It" might mean "whatever."

Mary's declaration, "Let it be according to your word," means we die to what we think life should be and surrender to "whatever" God brings into our life.

Sweet and Viola put it this way, "Christ wants to be born in you and to live in and through you" (74).  In order for that to happen, we have to die to ourselves, our plans, our hopes, our dreams, and embrace "whatever."

This is all so metaphorical, and three times now I've been tempted to delete this entire post.  I make these claims right now, as my life is actually going pretty good.  Right now my whatevers are pretty sweet, and the last time life got really tough, I totally crumbled.  Do I really even understand what it means to die to myself?

In Galatians, Paul says, "My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in my.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."

In Philippians, Paul says, "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.  I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or the other, I will experience the resurrection from the dead!"

These are hard words to accept.

I just keep thinking of Nancy, who is stuck in the middle of whatever.  I want to ask her what she thinks all this means, and I will.  Soon.  

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