Next week my son will finish sixth grade. In our school district that means he moves on to junior high. For him it is a big shift – me too! My youngest child will be in junior high in a few months. Where did the time go? I won’t even broach the subject of his sisters, both of whom are in college.
In my mind’s eye my daughters and son are still babies, toddlers – maybe preschoolers. They can’t be young adults – can they? Sometimes I know my parental imagination leads me to treat them as I see them in my memory. But they aren’t babies any more. And haven’t been for a long time.
I am wondering today if I see God the same way? Is God a baby – the same God I was taught in Sunday School? The God of word searches and coloring pages, of easy reader Bibles?
God doesn’t grow up or mature. But my understanding of God does. Or should. God is complicated, God is infinite and eternal. But just as I want my children to stay the way they were, I want God to be simple. No demands made of me. No sacrifices to make. No intrusions into my plans.
That’s the God I want sometimes – maybe most of the time. But not the God who is. My God needs to grow up.
I try not to just post other people’s thoughts here. Although – if we are honest- very little of our thought is original regardless of who we are. We all reflect what we have read, heard, experienced over our lifetime.
One of the enduring questions for people of faith is “why do evil things happen?” Sometimes it’s easy to ascribe it to an individual’s mental health or personal evil the cause for some tragedy. But then things like the tornado this week strike it’s hard to blame an unbalanced individual or evil intent.
If you’ve read this far, I hope you will click the link to Rachel Held Evans’ piece on this question – it is worth the extra moments to read and consider:
I can’t say why children and adults died in Oklahoma. I can’t tell you with certainty how God figures in the chain of causation that led to the violent storms that devastated the towns and people of that area.
But I can say that the God of light and life did not bring this day of darkness:
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
(1 John 1:5 NIV)
I am at the stage in life when, sometimes, I am anxious about what I have achieved. Or not achieved. Most – probably all – of you reading this post will know that I am a pastor. Even we have measures of success and accomplishment. Perhaps more now than ever when things can be measured and shared and analyzed in ways they could not in ages past.
Lately I have been experiencing some feelings of failure ( mostly in comparison to my peers in life, ministry, etc.). And part of what I have to admit is that even though some of this is middle-age angst, some of it is real. I have failed at some significant things. At some crucial moments. It’s one thing to have feelings of failure, regret, etc. that have to do with where you are – it is another experience entirely to confront the reality and consequences of genuine failure.
Yesterday I came across and posted to Facebook this gem:
“A leader must face failure squarely, including the failures of people he likes. But life is not a reality show., with an elimination round. If a leader believes there is ability and solidity in a man, he should be given the opportunity to show it. Good men are rarer than good days, and more valuable.” (George Washington on Leadership, by Richard Brookhiser)
What is rarer still is the leader who understands the wisdom of these words. Although I have failed, I have not become a failure largely because good leaders did exactly what Brookhister says here – they gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my ability even after a failure. What have molded me more than the failures (which have taught me much) have been the grace and compassion and confidence of such leaders.
Jesus does this with Peter following Peter’s denial – his failure at being a faithful disciple. In John 21 we witness Jesus’ love and mercy but also his giving Peter the opportunity to show anew his calling and his fidelity and his love. I hope that I am learning more and more to be such a leader and to remember how others have led me with such strength and opportunity.
I thought I had written about my Grandpa Blackburn – Poppy to his family – but I can’t seem to find the post. But it’s worth repeating even if I have. He came to mind as I’ve listened to the coverage about the people recovering from the bombing in Boston, hundreds of people injured including some who needed amputation.
My grandfather – Olin Joseph Blackburn – limped most of this life. Only near the end of his life did he have a hip replacement surgery to correct his limp. I didn’t know why Poppy limped. He just did.
When Poppy was a child he contracted polio. In earlier generations polio was a much-feared disease and still is in some parts of the world. The polio left Poppy with a leg that didn’t work as it should. The family history is that his mother made him walk. They were tenant farmers and if you couldn’t walk you couldn’t work. In her mind a boy who couldn’t work didn’t have much of a future. So she made him learn to walk. He overcame a huge physical roadblock to have a good life and work at good jobs including decades as a stationary engineer. No coddling. No excuses. She just made him walk.
That walking left him marked with that characteristic limp. Which brings to mind another person who limped – Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32). Sometimes our adversity in life leaves us with a limp, a mark. Sometimes those marks are not physical like Poppy’s or Jacob’s but behavioral or mental. They are just as real.
Sometimes we seem to promise people in the church or out of our individual faith that God will take away all our hurts. But sometimes our healing leaves a scar, a limp, a mark. They remind us that our healing in this life is always incomplete and imperfect. And our limps- internal as well as external – tell the world that we have wrested with God as Jacob did and that we overcame that adversity.
Thank God today for the limps and scars and marks that say you have overcome!