People are watching. They peer into our windows and look for our behavioral patterns and rhythms. They take note of our reactions to political movements. And dare I say, they see fear and anger more than love. They watch for us to react to sexual allegations and argue on social media about the role of women. And they watch us deal with suffering, and wonder why we suffer at all when our God is alive.
But is he?
Does our behavior point to a living God?
I never thought I would get my mom in and out of bed while I was a mere 32 and she a young spry 60. Children don’t write their stories this way. Neither do mothers.
But for two weeks I found myself staring intently at a cruel, degenerative disease called Corticobasal Syndrome. The disease looms in my mom’s brain. It reigns in the broken left side of her body. And its most cunning of all tactics is its slow alteration of her personality.
Mind you, she is still my mom despite the disease’s destruction. But the light in her eyes is a different light. It seems to be a glossier kind.
Then, in the same week of caretaking for my mom, I found out the baby whom I’d been carrying and nurturing for 34 weeks in my womb, was measuring small for her age. The doctor came in and processed the news with me slowly. “More than likely everything will be fine,” she said, “but you need to know the complications.”
I couldn’t take any more complications. My God had taken me to every limit that I had and pushed me to my capacity. Physically, emotionally and mentally. I had nothing left.
And so she left the room and my husband let me cry. I stood up in front of the mirror that hung above a sink and gulped air. Thoughts raced through my mind of how nothing seemed to be going my way.
But life has a funny way of not going our way.
And God seems to be orchestrating it all.
But people are still watching. And my God is still alive.
Not The Only One
Truth is, it seems like I’m not the only one whose life seems to be unraveling either. As a pastor’s wife, I know of the deep hurts that find themselves hemmed in and out of pew cushions. I know men and women who are grasping at marriages. I feel the spirit of oppression that comes from secret sin. I know many who have been waiting expectantly for miracles and they are still waiting.
You know these, too, because you and I have stories quilted with disappointment and heartache. We watch the news and we ache.
Pastors, this is what people need to remember on Sunday morning: people are hurting immensely and peering into the future with fear.
And we need not make mistakes. One person’s hurt is no different than another’s. We all hurt no matter the ”level.” We walk in a fallen world. Planet Earth, shackled and bound by the filth of sin. But Jesus has come and he is ushering in Eden day-by-day. We hope for it to come to completion.
Because of this truth, our behavior can look different – should look different – needs to be different – so our dying world can witness a living God.
What we need to teach and preach is how to walk through the hurt that seeps dark red onto our church carpets. What people need to know right now is that although the world might fear political moves, the believer need not. God is sovereign. His plan will not be thwarted.
We need these reminders so that God’s people might live in his victory and that others might view his victory through us.
We need to remember that in the midst of great trial, we can smile. In the face of all the fear, we can sing. Inside confusion, we can find peace. And while we stare death in its face, we can lift our hands in worship.
Even though many of us are facing our own struggles, we can still gather around tables, enjoy good food and good company. Keeping time the way Jesus did – among people, food, and genuine love. This is where we find substance again.
We remember around a broken table that there was once a broken cross and that means something. It means we are resurrection people.
And wouldn’t you guess our dying, broken world is craving to be around resurrection people? Not people slandering other Christians despite our differing views on Twitter. Wouldn’t you think our dying world wants to see God’s people live resurrected and alive, not in fear of a political leader’s next move? And finally, wouldn’t it be a testimony to an empty tomb that when we face deep loss, the sufferer can sing?
I say absolutely.
NT Wright puts it this way:
“First off, Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world ... That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God's new world, which he has thrown open before us.”
We are the resurrection people leaving behind all of Earth’s broken pieces. We can be glad, genuinely glad because the empty tomb is ours for the claiming. Despite the wreckage of our lives, may our songs rise. People are watching.