As a society we hate calling ourselves a society. We hate labeling our culture as “our culture.” There are so many loose ends and stray fibers in the configuration of our interwoven ecosystem that the words “our culture” don’t comfortably flow from our mouths. The air is filled with preachings of tolerance, hate speech towards masses, and unsettling social media remarks saying ‘THIS IS NOT RIGHT THIS IS NOT MY AMERICA,’ in so few words… I certainly get an eery feeling when I am prompted to label the thing that I am apart of, the community in which I belong to but don’t represent? Do I represent? That’s the thing, we don’t know how to comfortably own a label that says Hi my name is “today’s culture” because we know once we slap that name tag on and print out that label that we are admitting to living in brokenness. We are saying “yeah, I know he’s a racist, I know she is hateful, I know that they kill, I know that that is unjust, I know that he completely contradicts everything that I stand for and believe in but WE are today’s society.” We lean, but not too much. “But… but… we are millennials!” We put down our phones for a second then stand up and let everyone know that it’s okay! “We have more education we have more power to change!” Don’t we?… We lean, but not too much. We do have the power to change. But, we can sit back down. We can breathe for a second. The beauty of it is that even though our culture is broken, it was never a masterpiece. We didn’t shatter the vase. We can sit back down. We can breathe for a second. And as we exhale we can prepare to inhale a greater truth. We didn’t break the vase. It’s called sin. It’s called human. It’s called we need a savior. It’s called we have a savior. That sounds like hope to me. I’m tired of leaning. I won’t lean on the culture that has shaped me and that has been shaped before me. But, I will lean on a heavenly hope and love that can be roughly translated by and for each other. I will lean on serving you, in His name. I’m tired of half way leaning on a broken culture. I want to choose to grab my neighbor and tell them to lean on me so WHEN I fall, we all can fall into His grace. So I will. I choose not to lean anymore, it doesn’t hold me. I choose to fall, better yet, to dive, sink, descend, drop… to plunge into a pool of grace driven love. I want to lean too much to where I’m no longer leaning and fall into Heavenly arms.
I really enjoyed this book, No Fear by Tony Perkins. In the era we live in, tolerance has been a widespread message but religious criticism has also become a more open conversation. Being able to defend your faith has always been but is becoming increasingly more important. Tony did a great job of combining real stories from the younger generation with biblical truths that solidify the stand. I have read the biblical stories of the unlikely individuals who stand firm and speak out under temptation and controversial religious circumstances. I know the word is alive and applicable but, reading these real life and tangible stories that occur in my active culture, I was truly inspired. It is a well written and encouraging book on action, movement, and empowerment as Christians. Great read.
One of the greatest things about life is that you get to do it with other people. I love people and I love reading about how much Jesus loved people. When it comes to loving on anyone and everyone, Jesus lead the way. Lately, I have felt God putting the word empathy on my heart. I have been reading and slowly learning how, for us to truly and deeply love people, we have to have this thing called empathy. Jesus had it mastered. When Jesus encountered people, people meaning the rich, the poor, the young, the broken, the loud, the meek, or the least, He had a way of looking straight into their hearts and loving them right where they were. Whether that be atop a pile of sin or at the beginning of a righteous pathway. His way of love involved something that is not easy for us, feeling them. We want to love people but from a distance. We don’t always want to hear about people’s baggage and their broken pieces. Jesus not only observed broken hearts, empty lives, and hurting souls, He felt them and He sought them. When people looked into Jesus’ eyes they saw a light of understanding and sharing that brought a deep comfort and healing. They felt loved because their pain was seen, heard, and yes, felt. There is a reason God sent Jesus to be human. God could have sent Jesus down to hover over us from a distance and teach us like a divine prophetic aura. But, God sent Jesus to be a human, and to experience pain, suffering, and loss. Jesus was able to feel first for Himself what others would also feel. And being the perfect Savior that He was, He felt perfectly and He loved perfectly through the understanding of what people would feel. He had no agenda, He listened and He saw. Then He felt. Then He prayed and healed and spoke life through that great love connection. I love reading about the man that Jesus was and thankfully still is. He shows me how to love with an empathetic heart. I want to love like that.
I recently had the opportunity to see the movie ‘The Shack’ in theatres. I learned a lot from the movie and decided to dig in to some of what the bible has to say about suffering. I just wanted to share a little about what I learned. This blog post is no movie review or spoiler but does reflect on some main points. So, if you haven’t seen the movie and want to save the whole experience, read at your own risk. 😉
The movie, overall, is a man’s journey through suffering. Mack, the main character, experiences tradegies in his life which harden his heart. He is far from giving or accepting any earthly love, let alone receiving any heavenly love. In brief, he is met by the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, all in human form because Mack cannot see God otherwise. God had to show up. He is so focused on his pain that his eyes cannot possibly look up to see a God that deeply loves him and wants to help him heal. He meets the Trinity face to face so that he can learn to understand suffering and learn to heal.
After watching the movie, which I loved, I was brought back to a quote by Tim Keller that I read last year. He says, “Suffering drives us like a nail deep into God’s love and into more spiritual power than we can imagine.” We have this negative connotation when we think of pain. We relate suffering with unfairness, especially when we consider ourselves or the people we see suffering as “good.” We want God to be all-omniscient for our good and protect us from that pain. “Why would a good God allow me to suffer? If God loved me, wouldn’t He protect me?” … “Suffering drives us like a nail deep into God’s love and into more spiritual power than we can imagine.” Suffering has a purpose and through it God works for our good.
Suffering has a purpose and can propel us into a greater relationship with a merciful Savior. When we experience heart break, we are able to enter a new level of prayer – brokenness. Our hearts are sunken into a humility that can only come from suffering. This is where we experience a true dependence and understanding that we don’t have control. Our reign ends there. Through that prayer, a deeper connection with Christ arises and we are driven into God’s love. “Suffering drives us like a nail…”
When we suffer, God is there. My favorite scene in the movie is when Mack is face to face with God and desperately questions God’s goodness. Mack asks that golden question, “If You loved me how could you let this happen?”… “If You loved Your son how could You let Him die on that cross?”… The character playing God then turns over their hands and their eyes fill with tears. Then you see the two scars from nail broken hands. God was right there suffering alongside of Jesus when He was crucified. That is the kind of Father that He is. When we experience suffering, we are met by not just a heavenly Father, to share in our pain, but by a holy spirit that comes into the middle of our brokenness and softens the broken edges of our hearts, bringing peace, even if in small doses. “…deep into God’s love…”
With that, we then get to see God’s heart in a way that only can be felt through a personal confrontation with hurt. Biblically, we know that divine love is purely unconditional. But even more so, God’s love is empathetic. God has experienced the hurt of His son and all of His people. This is what makes divine love deeper than any love we can comprehend. Because God hurts along side of us, He loves us more than we can love ourselves. So, when we hurt, when we suffer, we not only get to see God’s heart, we get to learn to see other’s hearts. God uses suffering to open our hearts to love harder, deeper, and wider than we could before. Through our own hurt, especially when we are able to heal with Christ, we can grow to share in one another’s suffering, allowing us to truly love deeper. “…and into more spiritual power than we can imagine.”
God is good, all the time, and even though it may seem as if He disappears in the midst of hard times, it is quite the opposite. Pain and hurt are a result of evil and although God is good, there will always be evil in the world. But, instead of covering us with a holy shelter from the human experience, God uses suffering to help us grow. Not only did He send His son, He is present in our sufferings too. When we can truly understand God’s purpose for suffering in our lives we can experience a future glory that comes only from being in broken prayer, experiencing God beside us, and knowing His heart. Healing can come with great reward and we can learn to be loved and to give a love that we would never find living under a holy shelter.
Recently I have been praying for something specific in my life that involves a do or a not do answer. I am asking God for a yes or a no. The more I think about the situation and the decision the more that I yearn for the yes. I find myself going before God with my words saying “guide my steps where You want me to go” but my heart saying “but could You make that a yes?… and with no tomato.” I have realized that I can’t pray for an answer with a yes in mind. That isn’t trust and that is me telling God that I know what I need. We all know that’s just not the case. Jesus shows us how to pray in John 17. He shows us how to come before the Savior with a humble and submitted heart. His prayer was not out of frustration or urgency, when it seemed He had the right. I mean, the man was about to be arrested, questioned, betrayed, and crucified. Yet, He prayed selflessly for His followers and He prayed in surrender. So, when I come to God looking for direction and I’m already inching down the path to yes I can’t hear the no. Surrender is trusting that the divine alternative is better. I want to pray like that.
Architecture is defined as both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing structures. We try and shape our lives like a good piece of architecture. We try to plan, design, or construct what we believe is artwork. This involves the two perspectives, in the cave and then the open view. Inside of the cave we entertain the present and we meet needs. We meet our own needs, we meet others needs, and we attempt to balance what we want to do and what we ought to do. But if it’s good architecture, if it’s a solid life, then it should feel open with a view of the future looking out to the horizon. Here we look out to possibility and we entertain vision. The horizon is outside of the cave and it can’t be seen or touched. But it’s so visible. It inspires us to be hopeful for where we can go and it inspires us to do what we are called to do. It beckons. But we find ourselves in this fight of balancing what we want to do, what we ought to do, and what we are called to do. How can you design a right life? The beauty of architecture is that there is not one way to do it. The beauty of architecting your life is that you don’t have to design it, plan it, or construct it alone. There is a greater architect who can sculpt a life where all three of those things can be in harmony. God does not make good architecture, he designs great architecture. So I am going to provide a new image. I believe that great architecture should make you feel as if you are wearing the perfect pair of shoes. When we walk in poorly made shoes, our feet hurt, our bodies ache. We don’t want to run in those shoes, it’s not enjoyable. We ought not run, because we will do damage to ourselves. But when we give God the blueprint and let him be the architect, we will feel called to run- a divine laser focused motivation. We will not grow weary or become damaged in the shoes that God designs. He will call us to run a beautiful faithful race where we will feel the security and comfort of a perfect pair of shoes. The only way that those three things can be in harmony is for us to hand over the pencil and paper. Living in a way that is lead by what we are called to do will then change our hearts and guide our feet. Christ will seek and find our old desires and make them into an aligning desire for righteousness. Then we will be equipped to run alongside the greatest architect and shoes designer that there is. We will want to run, we ought to run, and we will be called to run.