What a few weeks.
During the last week I have watched my FaceBook and Twitter feed carry on a long discussion fed by strong opinions on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue and both sides of the issues of race. Deeply personal reactions to flags, laws and how we are to live in this Nation together. I have listened and watched and seen some carry themselves with wonderful grace, and others with deep frustration and anger.
I am not one keen to dive into political or theological conversations on FaceBook. I need to have the time to pause and to think and to hear the tone in your voice. I need to be able to back up and correct how I state things. I need conversation in these topics, not wall posts. I listen, but I very rarely engage online.
This last week in the midst of listening to these conversations, deeper situations have held my attention. There is a young man who plays hockey a level up from my oldest. He completed tryouts a few weeks ago, even though he was not feeling well. His mother, concerned with his color, took him the ER the day after tryouts. They have been through a tailspin of diagnosis pointing to viral meningitis, viral infection, heart failure. Lungs filled with gunk. Liver and kidneys failing.
What is that argument on FaceBook? It does not have me holding my breath in the way that this young boy’s struggle has caught me and held my attention.
His mother has prayed. She has offered her fear and her distress alongside her hope and her trust in God.
She is trusting in a reality that is beyond what is before her eyes. She, and others reposting her thoughts, have kept us updated with each step of this young man’s struggle.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, in the midst of posts laced with hope, this young man Mitchell passed away.
All the other debates on FB feel trivial at the moment, and I apologize because I know they are not. I know they are deeply personal and important…but did you hear me? This young man who had just skated in tryouts for the highest level of hockey in our town, died three weeks after those tryouts.
At the same time, I heard from my family. A soccer teammate and friend of my nephew jumped into a river in Colorado to cool off. Strong, athletic, responsible young man. Hiking with friends who are co-workers at a camp, he hopped in a flooded river to cool off. Last I had heard they still have not found his body.
What do we do with the promises and the reality beyond what we see?
I have no idea how I would react in those situations, in the moments that follow. I cannot imagine the grief.
We could all list rapidly the stories of those in our lives who are walking through such deep pain and such tremendous struggle. Pastor Saeed and his family, little ones struggling with cancer, parents fading to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Here is the reality, though. I do believe in a God who is true and who does fulfill His promises. I believe that He heard every one of those prayers, and that somehow he holds this grief and these situations in His care in a way we cannot understand in the moment.
Those promises…that reality, is founded on a the truth that He Is. The reality that He carries not only the desire, but the power, to care for those who believe in Him.
That He is the Way the Truth and Life.
And that means something.
That His revelation to us is true and even when things seem out of control, they are not. He is still there and there is a reality deeper than the surface we see.
That He rose from the dead.
Is this simply platitudes and fairy tales?
What if the reality is that the revelation of God is true?
What if the promises are true?
In order for the promises to be true, there has to be an authority behind them. There has to be One who causes the promises to be true. Otherwise they are simply platitudes we hang on our walls. Sayings we hope carry some encouragement.
When the promises are given by someone who has conquered death, they carry weight. They carry authority. They are spoken by One who can change everything.
And when God has spoken in ways we can understand, we need to pay attention. When it is not simply fairy tales and wishful thinking, we need to listen. We need to understand that He understands our reality far more deeply than we.
What does He say?
He says that His grace is there for us. For all of us. He says that He has overcome all the boundaries which keep us from knowing Him.
He says that He is near, and that He cares.
He says there is a way to live that brings healing and life, and there are ways to live which leave us broken.
He says to love our enemies, and to care for the widow and the orphan.
When those in our midst are overwhelmed, when they are beyond themselves with grief, there has to be a truth that is deeper than hopeful thinking. I need to pay attention to that truth, so I have something to offer those who are overwhelmed, those who are broken, those who are in despair.
Something to offer that changes everything.
Something that speaks to that mother mourning her son. To that soul that is in torment because they simply do not know who they are. To that child watching their parents age and slip to dementia. To the young person wondering how they will find a job, how they will succeed in a life that looks so daunting.
To them, the promises held by the One Who conquered death hold a reality that is more firm than any law can provide. In that moment, I trust that the reality that these promises are not fairy tales gives a foundation when there seems to be none.
And here is the catch….that those of us who proclaim to know this truth live in a way that reveals the utterly amazing truth that we believe. That we live in a way that proclaims compassion and grace. Ultimately it is not about winning arguments, and sometimes we will come to different conclusions when we read the words that I believe are God’s revelation to us. Ultimately, it is about realizing we are all broken people needing grace.