I felt it before I saw it. I can't describe how or why, but I felt it. As I opened my front door the hair on my neck and arms stood on end, my heart rate spiked, my breath was sapped from my lungs. Right there, a few feet from our front door, in the middle of the otherwise untouched snow of our front yard, someone had carved a 12-foot by 12-foot swastika. I wasn't prepped to see that symbol. I knew something was off, but I wasn't prepped for the depth of that. I closed the door, prayed, asked the Lord for courage and clarity, and then stepped out into the cold night, fairly certain that whoever had wanted to leave that message was probably still around.
Do they need admonishment? May I give it humbly, lovingly and boldly. Do they need encouragement? May I give it faithfully, fervently and fearlessly. Do they need help? May I give it gently, helpfully and empathetically
Like most of you (I presume) I sat aghast yesterday as I saw the scenes unfolding in Washington DC, and in particular, the scenes of rioters overtaking the US Capitol. As someone who is strangely as steeped in decades of US exceptionalism as the rest of you even though I didn’t grow up here, it was stark and troubling. We expect to see scenes like this on our screens from far flung places that don’t have the experience and “sophistication" of generations of democratic experience. It felt like a movie, a far-fetched one with really bad acting. And yet, it wasn’t a movie. It was a mirror.
Chaos on the sea was widely understood in the Jewish world as a sign of God's judgment or God's absence. We see it in the creation account, in the flood and in a lot of other imagery throughout the Old Testament.
But, then Jesus rebukes the wind. He speaks to the sea. And it listens! If a raging sea was a sign of God's judgment, then Jesus was presenting Himself as one who had the authority of that judgment! If the sinking boat was seen a sign of God's absence, then Jesus was announcing His presence in way they could never forget!
When I re-read the story of Samson today, it was no less tragic but I could see some of the strands of grace. A man with low impulse control, who is remarkably gifted by God's Spirit but who cannot control his ego, his temper or his sex drive ends up being weakened and humiliated, and the only glimpse of redemption comes in the form of self-destructive revenge, and yet, God uses Him in the ongoing advance of His Kingdom, and gifts him grace and power, in spite of himself. That's just like God, to love and empower and work through really flawed people.
We don't like to live with tension. We don't like ambiguity. We don't know how to embrace the word ... AND. What the spread of this virus has been helpful in exposing is that we don't know what we don't know. It has revealed the limitations of our creatureliness in a pretty stark fashion. It is new to everyone and so we are all learning together. You would think that would eliminate our hubris, but it might be making it worse.
It explained why I would come home after multiple church services on a Sunday with a level of exhaustion that I couldn’t even begin to describe. Not just tired, soul level exhausted. It explained why my true friendships were few in numbers and were all with people I had known for decades. I have always been a guy with hundreds of genuinely fond acquaintance relationships and very few friendships. It explained my anxiety around situations and scenarios with lots of strangers where I had to mingle and not where I got to have the relative position of safety of being the pastor guy on stage. It explained a lot of my self-loathing that I put myself through because I wasn’t more fun as a hang, or why I couldn’t be more winsome and charming in conversation. It explained … my life.
I have found it true, in my thirty years of walking with Jesus, that God and I have a different sense of time and urgency. When I want something to move quickly and with urgency, then that seems to be the exact season that God seems to slow things down and make me wait. When I want things to go slow, then that is when everything seems to come at me all once. The fact that God and I don’t have the same sense of time and urgency shouldn’t be surprising as God and I have very different perspectives and very different priorities.