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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You know, this world is tough. We might be tempted to anesthetize ourselves to this fact with pleasure or unreasonable Pollyannish optimism, but it doesn't take long to realize the futility of this. People die suddenly. Friends get sick and injured, the earth beneath us quakes and traps people in rubble and we're left wondering why. When things are going well, there is a part of me that waits for the other shoe to drop. I'm not cynical; in fact, I'm quite the opposite. But I am, as they say, acquainted with grief.
Right now, I struggle to love a person who doesn't like sad songs, who doesn't want to hear of misfortune, who doesn't know that we live in a sick, sad, world that would have nothing going for it but that Christ Jesus took on flesh and died for us. It's a beautiful world, too. But make no mistake: He made it that way, we messed it up, and Jesus came to set it (and us) right again. It's not that I don't feel joy, I don't laugh, or love; it's just that I don't find myself able to do those things apart from the truth of Christ.
I went to a trivia night the other day to raise money for a friend with leukemia. I would note for the sake of the curious that it was my first time darkening the door of a Protestant gathering-place since May. What I noted was the joy. You can feel the reality of faith in the risen Lord at times like this. It's in the air. I knew that this large extended family had struggled and cried and asked God just what the jimmy He was doing. None of us who were aware of such a struggle could fail to take note of its threat to life. But sure as I sit here, as if it was written in green paint on the wall, this sentiment was present: This is hard, but Christ has been raised, so we have joy. And we do not fear. Why? Well, why do we like redemption stories, stories of triumph, stories of endurance in the face of impossible odds? What is the story of humanity redeemed in Christ, if not this? People who refuse to look at the bad are just as bad as the misanthrope who sees no dignity in us at all.
If you will permit me, remember the final scenes of 'Top Gun,' where our protagonist Pete Mitchell is thrown into the climactic air battle with the Soviets bent on destroying a disabled US Navy ship? Still reeling from the accidental death of his navigator, Mitchell hasn't shaken off his fear or self-blame for the incident. He spends several long minutes on the periphery of the battle, while his rival (who'd warned their Commanding Officer of Mitchell's lack of readiness) yells at him to "Get in the fight!" He does, and victory is had. We too need to get in the fight, but we need to take accurate stock of what the fight is, and what we are equipped to do. If we find ourselves inadequate to the task--as we surely will, in our own strength--the logical course is to seek strength and meaning from the One who made us. It will not do to shut our eyes to this broken world, nor to fashion meaning apart from Him, but to actively take part in the drama of redemption. Because every fleeting joy, every great meal, every powerful love derives its goodness from God, who wills that it be perfected in Christ. Outside of the truth of Christ and His saving work, nothing good lasts. But nothing of sorrow or pain does either, in Him.
I just needed to say that, because I struggle to love and to abide in Christ. May He be the keeper and Author of all joys and sorrows, now and forever.

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