My daughter Narcie wrote recently in her blog “Blessings on the Journey” (www.narciejeter.wordpress.com) about being in the anger stage with her upcoming brain surgery. Denial, bargaining, anger, resignation, and acceptance aren’t descriptive enough to handle the emotional roller coaster of dealing with life’s crud. I have no clue where I am right now, but it’s for sure that I’m pretty tired, no offense, of the well-meaning clichés that abound. I know behind those clichés that you care, are praying, and love us. Please cut me some slack if I give you a wierd look if you say, “God is in control.” My God isn’t a puppet-master. God’s a Savior who sees us through. Nevertheless, I thank you even for the platitudes. You mean well. Sincerely, we thank you, and all the more as the May 10 surgery deadline approaches.
Good God, I just wrote the word “deadline” and it freaks me out. The uncertainty of it all is so scary. Narcie is such a person of faith and strength, but we aren’t pie-in-the-sky sugarcoating types. It’s not that we don’t believe that Jesus can heal her, but, hey, if the amount of faith were the determining factor wouldn’t Lazarus still be walking around? Dead for days and risen – if a tiny mustard seed of faith can make a mountain jump into the sea, surely Lazarus would have enough faith to cure any ailment – right? But, wrong. Lazarus is dead. I have seen plenty of faithful people suffer and die. All the Disciples are dead and gone. Papa Mac and SaSa, Ganny and Gandaddy – they’re dead. I get it even if I often don’t like it – the only way to have eternal life is to die. There’s no Easter without a Good Friday.
The Christian Gospel is no clichéd sham of a utopian existence. The Good News that Jesus brings to me is incarnational in essence, though right now a Christus Victor triumphalism is preferred. So I’ll cling to the Jesus who meets us where we are even when it is in the bewilderment of the walk to Emmaus when all seems lost. The Incarnation proves that Jesus knows all our sorrows and redeems them. As much as I presently deplore the import of Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good for those who love Him,” I am comforted by the fact that we do not worship a God who has been insulated from humankind’s desperate plight. Jesus came to earth to be with us, faced temptation just like we do, and stayed faithful to God’s commands when we couldn’t. Since the wages of sin is death and Jesus didn’t sin, the grave couldn’t hold him. Our faith in his victory seals our own triumph over death and the grave. Therefore, all things can work together for good. Maybe that is Christus Victor triumphalism?
But I want it right now. Sure, I know that the Kingdom of God is already and not yet, both come and coming. I don’t want to wait, do you? I want a Jesus riding in on a white horse in Christus Victor style to save the day, especially to save my daughter – now, by God! Yes, I know someday that miracle will occur and its fullest expression of triumph will be through death and resurrection, but I want Narcie to win the lottery now. Heck, I am very certain that the early Christians felt this way. They faced persecution and martyrdom with a certain hope in Christ’s deliverance through their death, in spite of death even.
Gosh, what keeps ringing in my ears is a swing from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4 to the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent.” Paul said (2 Corinthians 4:16ff): “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands… Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In Philippians 1:21 Paul adds the capstone: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Part of me wants to shout, “Malarkey!” Or, perhaps, I want to say that Paul was speaking from a perspective that only comes with age or severe pain. Surely! I have unfortunately seen the heartache of parents who have lost children. I buried an eighteen month old, a nine year old, and two twelve year old children. There are no words that suffice, only one’s presence and that of Christ can help – the hope and certainty of redemption and reunion. Maybe the whole point of today’s blog is to make the most of life, to make the dash (-) between your tombstone’s birth and death dates mean something – to count each second and treasure them. Listen to the words from “Seasons of Love:”