My heart is heavy lately. Cold clings to the air now, my fingers feel brittle as I type. Friends are experiencing excruciating family loss, marital turmoil, relational division. Life circumstances change and, even in the midst of blessings like marriage, children, new jobs, it’s still change: the attending shifts in relationship are difficult. Others go back on their word; those who once pursued friendship with us purposely cut us off or – what may be worse – simply let the relationship die a slow death due to nutrient deprivation, moving on to “more suitable” friendship “matches.” Still other loved ones simply do not have the time we might desire they give us. We are pummeled with warnings of deadly plagues, unprecedented threats and murky ways forward; the fear seems too much to break free from. People in positions of leadership in our churches, schools and governments make excuses, shirk responsibility and fail to submit to standards of accountability. Come. Lord. Jesus.
I’ve definitely resisted being overtly personal in these posts, though the only reason I can cite at the moment is the fear that I’ll regret putting myself out there or I’ll come off as attention seeking. Today will be slightly different but only in the name of “context.” I’ll be starting a new series next week and my goal therein is to hold a magnifying glass to the kingdom of God – or at least what Scripture tells us about it. This, in my opinion, is of the utmost importance and seriousness and current events, both global and personal, only serve to make it more so.
It’s been a strained several months for me. The shooting at my school ended what was a protractedly difficult academic year. Over the last few years, most of our friends have moved away. We’ve still not found a church community to call home. It’s deflating seeing first-hand how demeaning the job-search process is, how wit, eagerness and creativity (not to mention experience, intelligence and credentials) are not sufficient…over and over and over again. My personal vocational/career lostness and hopelessness about ever finding my way while people around me go on to do great things is grinding. I have acutely felt the guilt of “wasting time” and the panic of not knowing how to remedy that. Last night, after a gentle gathering of people who I should believe by now care about me, the shame was too much. I don’t belong with this group of gifted God lovers poised to change the world in His name. Everyone who’s told me I’m brilliant, humorous and talented is either wrong or I’m squandering those gifts.
Of course, this is the voice of satan, enemy of our souls. But it’s not because these statements are false – even if they were true, one tactic of the evil one is to get the children of God to lose their focus on Chirst. It should not matter whether you’re bright as the sun or gifted as a Christmas tree or not. And yet, it does so very much to me. I want the people who think I’m smart and funny to be right so that I can stand on my own and make a claim for myself (even as I sometimes want them to be wrong because I am so completely unable to earn my existence based on my own merit anyway). In other words, I want not to need grace.
But grace is the thing that matters. Beautiful creation (marred and suffering as it is), companionship (painful as it is) and meaningful work (elusive as it is) do not exist because of any person’s intelligence or sense of humor. They exist because God is love and God loves – that is, they exist because of (God’s) grace. What matters, then, is what God makes and sustains in grace. With the din of the specter of a worldwide ebola outbreak, the roil of our ever-changing relationships or the vastness before we hear our calling in the background, then, I’ll be endeavoring to look closely at where grace, peace and love are at home and flourishing: the kingdom of God.