Something Special

There’s something special on the other side of this moment.

                And its about what you and I decide

                And its important for you to remember we did this together

                And finally, they’ll know the story of our lives.

Pharrell Williams, “There’s Something Special”

 

A tattered old ugly memory occasionally sneaks into the room in the middle of the night. He climbs up on the bed and taps me in the throat with one clawed finger. I wake up to find him gleefully squatting on my chest ready to chat about a twenty-year-old event. He is there to remind me that tomorrows stress is nothing to what a real failure I was yesterday. He loves to tell me that if anyone knew the real me they would turn away or worse yet, they might tell everyone else.

I eventually fall back asleep, after drifting around alone a while on the sea of loserness. Hopeless, it’s hopeless. That’s the middle of the night message. “Remember that from twenty years ago and add this from last month and know that you will always be caught up in the mess. You could run from all these problems but wherever you go you will be there to screw it up again in the end. Look at yourself and despair.”

I have millions of ragged little memories, shames, and not so tiny insecurities that create in me a default hopelessness. “That project won’t get done because you know you don’t finish what you start. Your marriage won’t make it because you know she can’t carry the weight of the real you. The kids are doomed to failure because you work too much and don’t spend enough time with them. Remember your brilliant contribution to that conversation yesterday? Hoo boy! That was soooo dumb.” Shame builds entire structures on top of tiny pieces of truth and then condemns me to live in them.

A couple of weeks ago, during a continuing series of brutally difficult, death-defying conversations, I told Hannah that story that wakes me up at night. For a couple of years, we have talked about being more vulnerable with one another, being transparent about ourselves and genuinely curious about the other. Or I should say, she has talked about these things. The dam between us broke last month and for four weeks there has been a flood of this talk in our house. We are finding that shame is a devil who can only work in the dark.

As I told her the story, the only time eye contact was broken was by me. The only time anybody said anything condemning it was me. The one who turned away to not see this train wreck was me. At the end, she hugged me and acknowledged that it was a humiliating story and that she was glad I told her. Somehow, I had only ever seen the shameful side and hadn’t thought about how unfortunately humiliating it had been. Each of our conversations has felt like smashing through the door of hell and finding that the other side contains nothing but grace and love.

I realize you can’t lay out all your business for the world to see, that’s why this is short on details. But I’m learning that I need a safe person, or safe people, and it was a lie to believe that the safest person I know couldn’t handle knowing all of me. The Imago Dei isn’t faces and fingernails, it’s the impossible, unstoppable love of Jesus shining in the eyes of someone who refuses to look away from your darkest shame. Amen. That sentence makes me cry.

The light of that kind of love burns up shame. It burns up insecurity and petty jealousy and all the other reasons to keep secrets and hide. With the shame and insecurity burned up the hopelessness doesn’t have anywhere to grow and soon little sprigs of hope begin popping up everywhere. If my most hopeless place grows a miracle then everywhere else can have one too. When Shame comes around running his mouth find someone safe and get that garbage out in the open and put some light and love on it. Because there is something incredible on the other side of this moment.

MB

 

On Living in a Pandemic- Borrowed Thoughts from CS Lewis

This is a guest post by my good friend Adam King. Adam King is a husband, father, student at Liberty University Divinity School, Army officer, ordained by Grace Bible Church, and is directing his life toward pastoral ministry. He likes spending time with family, coffee, good discussion with friends, books, and cooking.

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.

We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

~C.S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

C.S. Lewis is often called a prophet. It is clear just from this passage alone that what gives Lewis the quality of a prophet is his understanding that “there is nothing new under the sun.” He recommends that we all read old books so that we do not make the same mistakes that our ancestors have made, and that two heads are better than one because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. Here the clear sea breeze of the past sweeps through and gives us a strong reminder for today.

Our situation in the coronavirus pandemic is not new, and in fact we all have an appointment with death, and since we all have that appointment, we should all be doing “sensible human things.” However, there is something to be reminded of in moments like these. Let this pandemic be a reminder that we are on a sinking ship, and if our hope is only in this life then we of all species are to be pitied most. I mean, that if there is nothing eternal outside this life, and we, having accidently become aware of our situation, are tempted to assign meaning to our truly meaningless life, then “eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”

I am a believer in a more hopeful answer.

They might have a point

One of my books took more than a year to write, ten hours a day. Another took three weeks. Both sell for the same price. The quicker one outsold the other 20 to 1.

A $200 bottle of wine costs almost exactly as much to make as a $35 bottle of wine.

The cost of something is largely irrelevant, people are paying attention to its value.

Your customers don’t care what it took for you to make something. They care about what it does for them.

~Seth Godin, Cost and Value

Pastoral work familiarized me with the feeling of doing work others found less than helpful. You have to get used to unattended meetings and sleeping congregants. At times I would question the spiritual maturity of the flock. If they only knew, they would hear my sermons and read my writing with rapt attention. They would remove their sandals and bathe in my glory.

Writers like Godin help me reconsider. I might actually be boring. Am I creating value? Am I speaking and writing in a way that helps my congregation see things they’ve always wanted to see? Am I causing the Bible to seem boring and useless for everyday life?

I’m aware that it is God who gives growth (1 Cor. 3:6). The gardener can plant and water, but photosynthesis needs to do its thing. Pastoral work, as with most of life, often involves planting seeds and praying for their success.

Unfortunately, many pastors use this truth as an excuse for shoddy work. We leave our seed in the bag and commend its growth to God. Rather, the Apostle Paul would say things like “I worked harder than any of them” (1 Cor. 15:10).

I can safely assume that I could have done something better. I can always speak with more vitality and clarity. I’ve never prayed too long over a sermon.

The trick is to work hard on the right things in the right way. Your congregants don’t care what it took for you to make something. They care about what it does for them.

Ravi Zacharias

In the teaching of Jesus, eternity, morality, accountability, and charity define the nature of our existence and the pattern of our behavior. Is it any wonder that the Christian faith is the richest faith in music and worship? It is based on a relationship, expressed in worship, demonstrated in charity, a great leveler of humanity, and it reaches into eternity. It can take captive the mind of a child and set free the greatest philosopher—both can express wonder in the most simple yet sublime terms.

~Ravi Zacharias in Jesus Among Secular Gods (p. 60)

Ravi is now with the Lord he faithfully served. He taught me that my desires for wonder and beauty would find their satisfaction in the person of Jesus Christ. He was a classy kind of guy. He also convinced me that I should read widely to deepen my faith. God’s kindness allowed so many of us to benefit from his ministry. He was a philosopher of the heart and a preacher of the cross.

I’d love to hear from you about his impact on your life. Feel free to share in the comments below. Pray for his family. Kyrie Eleison.