Monday, October 15, 2012
Riding on Bent Rims
In a Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller writes, "What I love about the true gospel of Jesus, though, is that it offers hope. Paul has hope our souls will be made complete. It will happen in heaven, where there will be a wedding and a feast. I wonder if that’s why so many happy stories end in weddings and feasts. Paul says Jesus is the hope that will not disappoint. I find that comforting. That helps me get through the day, to be honest. It even makes me content somehow. Maybe that’s what Paul meant when he said he’d learned the secret of contentment. ...I’ve also let go of the idea things will ever be made perfect, at least while I am walking around on this planet. I’ve let go of the idea that this life has a climax. ...When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possession to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions. And when you stop expecting God to end all your troubles, you’d be surprised how much you like spending time with God. ...Do I still think there will be a day when all wrongs are made right, when our souls find the completion they are looking for? I do. But when all things are made right, it won’t be because of some preacher or snake-oil salesman or politician or writer making promises in his book. I think, instead, this will be done by Jesus. And it will be at a wedding. And there will be a feast."
Many frame Paul's words on contentment to reinforce the American narrative of pulling ourselves up from our bootstraps. Chin up and, in our human perseverance, sustain. Or, on the other end of the spectrum Paul's words are used to encourage leaping Pollyanna through life, saying that everything is rose` even when it's blue. I don't believe this was Paul's intent. I believe that Paul withstood unimaginable circumstances, consistently persecuted for this faith and torn down for his transformation. He didn't mask the circumstances with a hollow laugh or with trite writings on contentment. Instead, he held hallowed hope in the Christ he knew to be making all things new. He believed good, God work was all around, even if he couldn't see it. This is how he sang in prison. Because he knew that everyday was a prelude to the wedding feast.
Luke recounts Jesus' story of the prodigal son returning home. The father, elated, promptly whips up the banquet, prepares the feast, and ignites the party. The Bible says that as the older son approached home he heard music and dancing. The reunion of the father with his lost child culminated in a wedding-like celebration. The Bible talks of this coming reunion and subsequent celebration often. The preparations are being made for us. The caterer is scheduled and the band has been secured. Jesus awaits our return and we await His, all this anticipation bubbling.
I spend too much time trying to connect God's remedies with my challenges to produce desirable outcomes. If I was Paul, I'd have spent much time reassessing my evangelist strategies since the outcomes weren't producing quantifiable results deemed successful by human metrics. Does God want us to plan and prepare and produce? Certainly, in appropriate situations, he does. But, moreover, God wants us to laugh. He wants us to consider the feast for the prodigal and the joyful celebration in heaven that erupts when what's lost is found. He wants us to laugh this crazy, eye watering, belly laugh at all this grace, amazing. And even though we ride through this life on bent rims and popped tubes, He wants us to take in the view of the lake in the fall, with our family and friends, beautiful. He wants us to RSVP to the coming wedding feast. A tent card with our name carefully scripted is already placed. The music has begun and if we listen closely, we can hear it, the band warming up for a very long set.