Recently, I confessed—again—that there are times when I’m more intimidated by the world’s problems, the church’s challenges, and my own “stuff,” than I’m confident in the presence and power of God.
When the heat is on and the pressure is high, hope evaporates and joy wilts. In such arid seasons, I want to trust the way of Jesus which unflinchingly acknowledges, remarkably outlasts, and gradually transforms everything which threatens human flourishing.
It helps to remember that Jesus made his claims for God’s peaceable commonwealth in the face of imperial violence and oppression. He called for mercy in a land governed by tyrants. He was executed as the result of a conspiracy between religious and political powerbrokers.
By raising Jesus from the dead, God demonstrated that life is stronger than death. Love is mightier than fear. God’s refreshing energy flows in the desert of difficulty.
Whatever work we do for the sake of justice, reconciliation, and wholeness—however modest it is—expresses and intensifies the recreating and redeeming power of God. Our efforts become part of God’s relentless determination to heal us and to restore creation.
I don’t pretend to know how God uses our prayers and actions, but I trust that God does: nothing born of mercy, nurtured by grace, and nourished by hope is ever lost. “Love wins” is the gospel and not just for the world’s crises and the church’s challenges.
It’s also the good news for us when we’re in a brewing tempest of trouble, a blistering whirlwind of busyness, and a blinding storm of confusion.
A few years ago, as I was running breathlessly from one thing to another and showing signs of irritation and impatience, a friend asked me: “Do you think Jesus wants you to live the way you’re living?”
Her question made me angry. It also pushed me to confront how out-of-sync I was with what I claim to value. I had a painful and liberating realization. I said: “No. Jesus isn’t my problem.” My problem was the demands I’d placed on myself and the expectations of other people I’d shouldered, without much thought about whether or not they were right and reasonable.
I’d like to be able to say that the insight which came from my friend’s confrontation changed me permanently. It didn’t. I frustrate myself with my reluctance to say “yes” only to gracious invitations of the tender Spirit and to say “no” to the coercive impositions of my irrational fears and unbaptized ambitions.
In A Testament of Devotion, Quaker Thomas Kelly said that God “never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.” That feverishness comes, he said, from our attempts to be “several selves at once.”
He’s right. My life is most unmanageable when it isn’t, in fact, my honest-to-God life--when I try to be all the “selves” I think I ought to be, rather than simply living from and for my deepest and truest identity as God’s beloved child.
Kelly also said: “Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center . . . Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time.”
I’m off-Center, but I can hear Jesus’ calling me back to it: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”