So earlier today, I couldn’t get a signal on my phone to listen to a podcast while I was running to the pharmacy, so I turned on my old gospel station that I used to listen to all the time, and a preacher was talking, as preachers do.
The message was about being able to call on God in your darkest hour; no matter how hard things were hitting the fan, which I believe and we can surely appreciate this year. I was fine with his message for a long time, until – at the conclusion – he says with a quiver in his voice – “Beloved, if you are not yet a child of God…”
It then occurred to me that THIS is why I left evangelical Christianity. In ONE sentence, “the veil was lifted,” as they are prone to say. The whole inequity of a supposed god who loves his kids, but will send them to the eternal, conscience torment if they don’t tow the line.
Christians often like to say they are accepting and tolerant of everyone, because “God loves everyone.” They share a message of love, but tend wrap it up with an ultimatum. (Even though monitoring repentance is the job of the Holy Spirit, and she doesn’t need an apprentice.)
THIS IS NOT LOVE.
It feels icky and insincere because it’s a counterfeit “love,” and the world sees right through it.
In the back of many Christian minds, there is “us” and “them.” Believers and non-believers. “Saved” and unsaved. Righteous and unrighteous. That was my thinking all my life.
In short, “Enlightened or deceived.”
Oh, the duality!
But Jesus turned all of that on its ear. The least are first. The broken are exalted. The “can’t seem to get their shit together” people were welcomed. It was upside-down hierarchy, which the self-appointed “Beloveds of his day absolutely abhorred.
It’s no wonder that Christ followers are leaving the church in droves. The message of Jesus is so radical, it’s downright offensive. The NERVE of him, including all! WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS?
If you are reading this, I know the shit is hitting the fan. But you are God’s child.
I know you’ve been ostracized by the very people who purport to carry his message, but those who subscribe to the “us vs. them” mentality are just plain wrong. You are his child. He made you because he delights in you.
Salvation isn’t activated by any action on your part. I’m sorry, but you’re just not that powerful. The love of a supreme deity isn’t ours to ration or withold.
Your pedigree is magnificent!
When Jesus broke my heart for the broken, I had to deconstruct the faith I inherited and was afraid to question, and it was not always pretty. There were tears and doubting, and snotty tissues and dismantled pride.
What about all the rules? What about all the wrath and smiting? I was so well versed in regurgitating what I’d been taught, I missed the forest for the trees. Scripture is inspired by God but filtered by 2,000 years of dogma and politics, written by imperfect people.
But here is no “us” and “them.” One Love, man. And his love is so far-reaching and divine!
Beloveds, you are already his child. And there’s nothing you can do about it and no way to escape his confounding, overwhelming, grace-laden LOVE.
In my reconstructing my faith through the Spirit, I met a Jesus whose radical and scandalous love for this broken world is his actual brand. He is the Living Word. He turned the world upside down, and it wasn’t for rewarding the pious or following a set of rules. It was for the likes of me.
Let’s talk about “making the best of things,” because if 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s taught us that it’s going to be a major theme in our lives. (And it always has been, just not always so obviously so.)
This year is demanding that we pay attention.
As for myself, I have been slipping into this baseline tiresome-ness. I am starting to feel like nothing can surprise me anymore.
If, on my way to check the mailbox, a pterodactyl swooped down and picked me up, carried me to an active volcano and dropped me in, I’m not sure I would register surprise.
“Well,” I can imagine saying to myself. “I guess we are doing dinosaurs and liquid hot magma now. That’s 2020 for ya!” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
“Making the best of things” sounds like a platitude that you might have to dust off sparingly. Like maybe when you look back at your life, you’ll think of your overcoming those times – few, far between – and dodging other bullets of happenstance. I will admit I didn’t know how often adjusting my disposition would be required, but as it turns out, it’s the universal human experience. And as long as we have breath in our bodies, life is going to require it.
The truth is that making the best out of shitty situations is not likely to be a rare occurrence. It will either become a lifestyle or a liability – striving toward what is good, pure, and true – even in the face of pandemics, political chaos, and other hazards of life on Earth.
Dare I say …. it’s a choice?
When you think about the term “make the best of it,” do you hear it in a defeated tone? well, we will make the best of things” in a defeated tone? Does it harken feelings of settling? Sound like a cheap concession?
Because it’s a feeling that springboards off of disappointment, isn’t it?
But each occurrence of making the best becomes a springboard for the next instance of circumstances that require great faith to overcome. Life is full of those opportunities.
Bodies get sick.
Loved ones leave.
Finances give anxiety.
Our minds betray us.
Our spirits falter.
There will be times it will feel like you have to work harder than some others to see the best in things. But rise up.
But all God’s children got things that require overcoming. It’s the rule, not the exception.
It doesn’t mean that the pterodactyls won’t circle.
Or that we operate in denial that lava is hot.
This crappy thing that happened to you that seems like the end of the world? Making the best of things can look like upside-down gratitude, which is natural byproducts of acceptance. Self care nurtures a “make the best of it” mindset.
But trusting in God is a decision you will be challenged to make all the days of your life.
Because at the root of every inability to handle life on life’s terms is TRUST. Or perhaps lack thereof.
I cannot live transcendently if I’m not willing to trust that the story has a good and perfect conclusion – more importantly – that the Author is filling in the plot holes. Even when things make NO sense.
My challenge, should I choose to accept it, is to train myself to say it with hope. With determination. And with the assurance that this – whatever IT is – will too pass, but not without leaving me with hope and a kick-ass set of coping mechanisms.
There’s no need for a Polyanna mindset, only an open one. No denial required, only trust.
My prayer for you today is that you will be given grace in such measure that you take an active role in making the best of things in 2020 and beyond. Lets work to nurture our best selves, and live our BEST lives, no matter what life throws at us.