This is my huddle of gorgeous young women, or most of them. My serrogate teenager isnt in the picture because she was having a teen ‘moment’, ha! I seriously love them all. I’m torn in a maternal struggle of wanting them to dream big dreams, chasing after those dreams with everything they have – and wanting to wrap them all in cotton wool, trying to protect them from any pain. But when I step back and tell myself to get a grip (I have to do that a lot) I know that I could never do that and all I can do is try and equip them for the challenging but thrilling reaity of life and the awesome plans their creator has for them.
As I sat down with these girls yesterday, we started to look at the book of James in the Bible. Its a letter written, most probably, by Jesu’s half-brother to the Jews during the time of the early church, after Jesus had smashed death and went back up to heaven. Right at the beginning of the letter he approaches the innevitability of having troubles in life. Cheerful start.
No one’s immune from having a rough time every so often. Not me, not my pastor, not my baby girls and not my young people. It’s part of life.
Our impulse with anything less than pleasant is to want out. And fast. I’m completely target minded and I have been known to do a little dance when I’ve crossed something off on a list, particularly if it was something I had been avoiding. I love that feeling of phew I’ve done it, I dont need to think about that again. It’s done. Only with me, as soon as I’m done with one thing, something replaces it straight away (been there??) – so you find yourself on a hamster wheel always chasing being done. But as a mum, and a mum that likes to be in control, I have become familiar with frustration for six years because I never seem to reach the end of ‘the list’ of what needs doing.
But this morning, listening to this podcast (Steven Furtick from Elevation Church) I just got it. A lot of what Im writing is coming from a middle-of-the-night session of insomnia and this podcast. You might have got it a long time ago and I’m just being slow. But he was talking all about it being a process not a project. ‘life’ isn’t supposed to be ‘done’ and polished off. When I’m on that hamster wheel (I’d use a treadmill as an analogy but to be quite honest, a hamster wheel is probably more believable) and I’m trying to get to the end, to finish ‘it’, I’m just going to exhaust myself trying and become dejected with hopelessness.
We can miss a lot of growth within the journey when we’re just trying to get it over with. Even the hard and painful stuff. Especially the hard and painful stuff.
Steven furtick talks about a Prison of war in Vietnam – Admiral Jim Stockade – who was held captive for over 8 years and regularly tortured. He got out alive – and so its a happy ending. It’s easy to see hope in something when you know the ending, right? He was interviewed and asked how he held onto his faith when he didnt know what the ending was going to be. His answer was this;
“I never lost my faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into a defining event of my life which in retrospect I would not trade.”
Impressed, the interviewer asked Jim who didnt make it out. Jim answered “oh thats easy, the optimists“.
Completeley confused the interviewed told Jim he didn’t understand, after that what he’d just said about faith, and so Jim continued:
“They were the ones who said ‘we’ll be home by christmas’ but christmas would come and go and then they’d say ‘we’ll be out by easter’ but easter would come and go. Then it would be thanksgiving and then christmas again. They died of a broken heart. This is an important lesson: You must never confuse faith that you WILL prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront even the most brutal facts of your reality, whatever they might be.”
I found that staggering. A beautiful balance of faith and the courage we need to face our realities. Denial just pretends to be our friend.
Our situations sometimes really suck. It’s not easy. But there’s promise of growth and goodness in this process we call life and there’s someone who can walk with you through it. He’s called Jesus.