That’s What It’s All About

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?”  Still makes me laugh.  This is going to be a heavy post.  Feel free to come back next time if you are here to read funny stories about life in Africa or about how Fred routinely chokes himself with the spoon now that he’s eating solids.

Nothing makes me ponder my own mortality like watching a sappy movie where a character dies.  This weekend we watched The Time Traveler’s Wife (spoiler alert!) – a pretty creative book turned movie.  After watching, BB and I struck up a two-day discussion about our mortality and how terrible death is.

I’ve been thinking about death a lot since we’ve moved here.  It could be the matatu (bus) rides around town through the mountains crammed into a tiny bus.  It could also be because we are far away for a long time, and there’s that fear that you might have just seen someone you love for the last time.  The bigger possibility is that, for all the beauty and development in this great country, we are walking the scene of mass murder.  There are ghosts on the street and in the eyes of every Rwandan we meet.

Twenty years is not much time.  Every single Rwandan has a tragic story.  One million people slaughtered, countless more who died in the war, and a massive number of perpetrators equals a tragedy of epic proportions leaving no one unscathed.  While it doesn’t technically come up in discussion, and it would be insensitive to bring it up, it’s the extremely large singing elephant in the room that you can’t talk about and yet he makes a lot of noise.

But this post isn’t really about that either.  When I am faced with the reality that I am going to die and the even sadder reality that everyone I love will one day die, I question my faith.  The greatest gift I’ve received since being here is the opportunity to worship and pray with Rwandans – people who have a lot to be angry with God about.  It makes me wonder whether my faith will sustain me through the deaths that are to come in my life.

There are so many unknowns in life.  But regardless of anyone’s religious bent (or lack thereof), this reality remains: we are all going to die, and it could happen any moment.  I’ve observed two main reactions to this – (1) accept that it’s coming but try and make the best of life, storing up treasures in family, work, projects, leisure, adventure; or (2) embrace a lukewarm religion where you think about it only on Sundays and major holidays and otherwise pretend it’s not happening.  Neither is good enough for me.

Christianity is really all about death – all about addressing this inevitability.  The entire religion is centered around an execution.  Maybe it does make sense that Christianity would offer some antidote to this crippling denial and fear that we all seem to deal with.

Truly my only hope is that the gospel is true.  My hope is that the Cross did happen.  That Jesus did actually die and rise again.  Because if He did, then there’s hope that I (and my loved ones) will too.  Of course I don’t know everything, but I haven’t heard anything better.  Is it far fetched?  Maybe.  But it’s also pretty far-fetched that at one point I didn’t exist but then after a tryst in Peotone, Illinois, I came into being, and now I am writing this blog from Rwanda.  And then at some point in the future, I will cease to exist. That’s a little bit crazy too.

 

 

 

 

Flexibility

Can I just say how great it’s been to be (relatively) media-free for a day and a half?  My brain feels so much calmer than normal.  It’s actually possible to just sit quietly and not stare at my phone.  Who knew?

Yesterday (because I wasn’t sitting in front of the computer all day), I read the book of Mark.  I’ve also been reading Tim Keller’s book King’s Cross, which goes through the book of Mark.  I’m no theologian or expositor on Scripture, so take this with a grain of salt.  

I was struck by the plight of the Pharisees. We know they’re the “bad guys.”  We look at them and scoff at how they were so wrong.  Jesus was constantly rebuking them.  They just. didn’t. get. it.  I was feeling sad about it – I think because I can so often relate.  Here I am in my ivory tower of wisdom, riches, and understanding.  I’ve read the Bible times over, I’ve listened to 100s of sermons, I’ve read 100s more books about the Bible and Jesus.  I meet with friends to discuss the Word.  I can recite the prayers, the hymns, the feast days.  I know the “rules.”  I try to live a moral life.  For all intents and purposes, my life looks a lot more like a Pharisee’s life than it does John the Baptist’s or Jesus.’ 

After all that, I still so often don’t get it.  I still want this Christian life to be predictable.  I want to work hard and get blessings.  I want to follow the rules and get the reward.  I want things to work in a predictable way.  I want God to do what I think he should do.

The Pharisees knew the Scriptures that predicted the coming Messiah by heart.  They were seeking him.  They knew with clarity that they were part of a chosen race and followed the teachings of Scripture better than anyone.  The problem was that they were unflinchingly rigid in what they believed the Messiah to look like, and Jesus didn’t fit that.  There was no flexibility built into their religion.  They had determined a set of characteristics that the Messiah would possess, and they had a limited understanding of the character of God.

Don’t I do that to?  I have my list of things that God could never ask of me because it wouldn’t be fair.  I have my own understanding of right and wrong, and surely God must follow that.  When things are good, it’s God’s blessing, when they are bad, I must have missed the mark.  In my mind, it has to work this way.  There’s no room for flexibility.

God can’t be limited to my rules and my reading of the Bible.  God does not act in ways that are predictable.  As my pastor said today, 10 steps in a straight line with God tells us nothing about the 11th step.  Of course, God always acts consistent with his Word and his character, but my pea brain doesn’t always put that together.

I’m looking for a King on a throne, but he’s a baby in a manger.  I’m cheering for a knight on a white horse, but instead, he’s a lamb led to slaughter.  I’m trusting in my knowledge, but Jesus tells me to be like a child.  I want riches and fame, but God offers me a heavy wooden cross to carry on my back.

Lord, grant me eyes and see and ears to hear.