new life

Good Friday in the Laughter of Children & Aged Lovers

Our world is a difficult place to live.  A quick glimpse at the news, the neighborhoods we live in, and our own families reveals the story of the world as a story full of dysfunction and pain.  We long for something else.  Something different.  Something divine.  And so we run hard after things that fool us with illusions of healing and wholeness.  Money.  Success.  Social change.  Legislative reform.  But when all that we run after reveal themselves as illusions, we are left disillusioned.  When they don’t fix things the way we thought they would, we’re left wondering what went wrong.  We decay slowly from the dreamers of our childhoods to the cynical shells of ourselves that many of us know far too well.

However, there is a different story unfolding.  Today, Good Friday, we remember that a man died two millennia ago, believing he was dying for each and every one of us.  Jesus of Nazareth was either out of his mind or God himself in human skin.  Whatever he was, we can all agree the he is not easily forgotten.  He is undoubtably the most transcendent figure in human history.  His legacy is obvious, here and now, even in the midst of suffering and pain.

Yes, his followers have often done evil in his name.  Over the centuries, genocide and bigotry have been carried out under the banner of the Christian flag.  But his followers have also done tremendous good.  Education for the poor.  Medical care for the marginalized.  Freedom for slaves.  These are just a few examples of global reforms that were initiated by those who bore the mark of Christ in their lives.  It is a complicated story and its nuances are far too many to understand with just a single, narrow perspective.  Careful and humble consideration is required.  A learning spirit and a willingness to admit that we don’t have it all figured out is where we must begin if we are to experience the shalom, the peace, that Christ himself promised.

Today, as we ponder the cross and what it means for the world, may we open our eyes, ears, and hearts to the hum of new life in the air.  It’s all around us.

It’s in the joyous laughter of children too young to know that there’s nothing to laugh about.

It’s in the embrace of lovers celebrating decades of faithful commitment to one another, too old to care about the acrimonious taunts of a generation that doesn’t believe in love.

It’s in the restoration of broken relationships, brought about by the relentless grace of those who refuse to give up even when it feels like there’s nothing left to fight for.

It’s in churches and bars.

It’s in our hearts and the hearts of our enemies.

Good Friday reminds us that Jesus believed in all of us enough to give up his own life in order to afford us an opportunity to join him in writing a different story for the world.  So may we yes to this invitation to write a better story.  May we give ourselves wholly and completely to the work of making certain that the story of every person on this planet doesn’t end on Friday, at the cross, in the grave, but instead culminates in new life, resurrected and restored, on Easter morning.

christ cross

Another candle on the cake

Tomorrow’s my birthday, so it’s time to put another candle on the cake.  The cake is starting to run out of room.  Thirty-two candles seems to be a bit much.  The aesthetics are off with so many.  Maybe 32 cupcakes with one candle each would be better.  But then again, that’s a lot of cupcakes.

I still vaguely remember when my birthday was something to look forward to, a sign of progress, another step toward that ever elusive driver’s license.  Then, it was another step toward being legal, purchasing alcohol, renting a car, and so on.  Now?  No idea.  Is there anything one can do at 32 that one couldn’t do at 31?  Probably not.

My wife enjoys plucking white hairs from my head.  This has been happening more frequently the past few months.  I go to a chiropractor every Monday morning.  When I miss an appointment, I walk at an elderly pace for a while.  In college I felt most alive between 10pm-2am.  These days I’m dosing off on the couch by about 8:30.

Most people older than me either shake their heads in knowing contempt, or chuckle with an “oh how little you know” smirk when I mention my frustration with aging.  Most people younger than me just laugh and confirm that I am quickly and swiftly closing in on senior citizenship.  Either way, all of us, young and old, are marching toward the grave, taking step after step in the same direction every moment of every day.  But it’s not as hopeless as it sounds.  Aging isn’t so bad.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “…do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

In some ways, every day is a birthday.  Every morning we awake and are born into the newness of what lies ahead.  No matter how redundant, trite, or mundane your life may feel, each breath you breathe is new and different and a gift.  And though we are getting older, wasting away, new life awaits.  I don’t just mean at some point in your future, on the other side of death.  New life awaits in each moment, as your old life dies.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  Every moment lived is a moment emptied out from our present and lodged into our past.  But that empty void is filled with something better, something more eternal, unconfined by the boundaries of time.  We are filled with the unending life only God can offer.  So maybe we ought to embrace aging.  It’s the road by which we journey toward the eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

But then again, I’m only 32.  What do I know…