Tuesday, May 20, 2008

12 weeks, 10 inches square

I have officially reached my twelfth week of pregnancy. What is normally a celebrated milestone is, for me, somewhat like crossing the point of no return. Most babies are not miscarried after 12 weeks. Or so they say. Of course there are always exceptions, but I have found that I tend to think of myself as the exception to the rule. Not something I'm fond of; in fact, this thinking is the voice that fuels whatever cynicism and pessimism I happen to hold onto. The voice that says, "Good things come to those who... aren't you." So, every day thus far has been about deciding not to listen to that voice. Sometimes I am weary and it takes too much out of me. But what I've found is that in listening, the weariness becomes absolute terror and fear. I'd rather be tired and trying to believe than without a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Hope, our pastor said, is a gamble. I don't like this idea.

When I was in college, there was a man who stood on a box outside the main building on campus and shouted at the students and faculty walking by, screaming that the end was near and that they should repent of their sins. I was always curious: why did he think that approach would work? What made him feel like evangelizing in such an annoying manner would ever have any positive impact? Now, I didn't do any follow-up on that guy, so I don't know for sure if, indeed, he was without a single convert. But it still begged the question: wasn't he uncomfortable up on that box, yelling at the top of his lungs? Even just a little embarrassed?

The truth is, maybe he wasn't uncomfortable. Maybe he stood up on that box and felt quite right in what he was doing. Maybe he believed that because he'd been baptized or said the Sinner's Prayer or went to church or whatever, he had something on the rest of us. Not in a malevolent or self-righteous way. Just in a way that's misguided. It occurred to me one day that if the box this man was standing on was a good six or so inches bigger than his feet, each way, then he might've actually had a pretty comfortable perch. The more room one has to shift and manuever, the more one feels a little less compelled to think about how they're going to remain atop. There's no reason not to start yelling. What more do you have to do?

Perhaps this can be said about our ideologies. The more room to wiggle we give ourselves, the safer we feel - the more we can decide what feels good to believe. What I have learned recently about God is that the box we get to stand on - and we have to stand on a box, we're called to - isn't comfy. It's not twenty inches square. We're lucky if it's 10. Someone - another pastor, Louie Giglio - recently said in a video I watched on YouTube (and to be frank, I don't know who Louie Giglio is, but I have to say, the man can speak) that no matter what I go through - no matter what you go through - God promises to carry me. What? That's the promise? Wait. I want the promise to go like this: "Remember all that crap you just endured? Well, you passed the test. No more. Now, sit back and enjoy the ride." See what I mean about 10 inches? There's not a lot of wiggle room here. If all I'm really promised when it comes to life is that God will see me through any and every situation that arises, then guess what? I have, by way of accepting this God and asking Him to be in my life, a built-in capability to go through just about anything and actually make it. It's like being one of those all-terrain vehicles when you'd really rather be vase on someone's mantle. We're designed to endure. We're made to experience life at a greater velocity, in more rigorous conditions. We're not supposed to get to stand on our box - where we're supposed to live and reflect Jesus in whatever capacity He's called us - and relax. Not that we can't know joy or peace. But they're not really joy or peace, not the true kinds anyway, if we've got some cushy set up. The minute that happens, we become like that man on my college campus: more interested in our box and what we can do to remind other people to get one, too, than constantly asking God just to keep us sturdy.

Now, don't get me wrong: sometimes, life is cushy. Sometimes things do go great. And I'm all for that. Believe me! But what I know now that I didn't know before is that the minute my understanding of God - not my circumstances - gets too comfortable, the minute I believe He's at all predictable, I better get ready. The box is about to become a great deal smaller. I'd better prepare to plant my feet firmly on whatever ground I've got beneath me. And that ground isn't always going to be what I wish it were. God's promises and God's Word aren't always what warm and fuzzy are made of. Just ask any regular man or woman who wants to know and love Jesus but who also happens to have a human nature. Not the easiest combination in the world. Remember when Jesus said we needed to hate our own family in order to follow Him (Luke 14:26)? Most of us know that simply means that following Christ - really following - is equivalent to one life-altering concept: sacrifice. The box just got a whole lot smaller.

But what I also know to be true now is that, just as we're designed for intensity and struggle, we're in the same breath made for adventure. To have our belief not only challenged but vindicated. I sincerely believe God will not only stand beside us in our darkest hours, He will make sure we know He's there. They're two different things. And the latter makes the former somehow not only easier to embrace, it makes it worth having. Adventure isn't something most of us look for in life these days. Perhaps it's stress or exhaustion, perhaps its apathy or ignorance. Perhaps it's a sense that adventure, in the whole, isn't to be had anymore. A notion for times gone by. The reality, I think, is that adventure - the true realization of what one feels in the deepest part of their heart, the actualization of what we're born knowing to be true - waits for those who are willing to stand on that box, no matter the dimensions, and look up. To expect that, at any moment, there might be more fullness to what we now know in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). That tomorrow, we might know more about this bewildering God than we do today.

So this is, for me, an adventure. Half because it is risky. A gamble. That's what hope is, after all (regrettably or not). And half because the box I'm standing on is outrageously uncomfortable for the moment. I'm hoping it'll expand a bit with time. But for now, all I can do is accept what room I've been given and keep looking up. Never stop looking up.

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