Last Year Changed Everything
I’m a 1 on the Enneagram. I like to be accurate, thorough, fair and objective. On good days I’m rational, orderly, principled. I have a strong internal critic that reminds me of what I should and shouldn’t do because I need to know what is expected of me so I can act accordingly and excel. Oh, and maybe I’m a tad perfectionistic.
Also as a 1, I have an almost compulsory habit of telling other people what I think is right — helping them avoid mistakes, right? (Not exactly how my husband sees that . . .)
Then I read in John 11, “But oddly, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days after He heard that Lazarus was sick . . .”
But oddly . . .
I don’t like that. I’m not a fan of things being odd. I don’t want Jesus doing odd things. I like orderly. I like rational. I like clear expectations. I like avoiding mistakes. I like people showing up on time.
Unfortunately, there’s been lots of oddness in my life lately.
But I was reminded the other night —
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.”
The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
The assurance that the good good Father is working in ways we can’t imagine because what we see with our optic nerve is unbelievable, scary, odd.
Faith is hopeful, convicted, assured that God is on the move, working behind the scenes, orchestrating and conducting, telling the flutes to come in and the trumpets to be quiet and the drums to slow down. And clarinets and oboes . . . get ready. That small white baton is always on the move.
Jesus waits for two more days to go to Lazarus after hearing he was sick?
What? Who does that? Waiting for no obvious (emphasis on obvious) reason to go immediately to your friend who’s sick. Really sick. Dying sick. It makes no sense, right? These three siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were His friends. He’d been in their home, hung out at their table, shared a bottle of wine.
And we do know what happened that day. We’ve heard the sermons about why Jesus waited and the good that came from His delay. And the happy ending. Cue the party.
We’re Jesus’ friends too. Might He wait to come to us? In our times of distress? For reasons we can’t see or fathom?
However, what if it’s too late? What if our ending isn’t a happy one, at least not how we define “happy ending” — no Alzheimers, no unemployment, no dreams dying would qualify. We’ve all lived through not happy endings.
But oddly . . .
As I get older, I’m having a harder and harder time sorting some of this stuff out. The “oddly” circumstances are punching holes in what I’ve taken at face value for a very long time. I have questions and doubts. I read the hard parts of the bible and I’m just not so sure anymore.
Sarah Bessey says:
“We want the Right Answer, once and for all. I think those things happen sometimes, absolutely, but my catalog of Right Answers grows smaller every year.”*
The angst and the struggle. The disorderly and irrational. The shrinking catalog of right answers for someone who loves right answers. Being open to the conflicts and the questions in the bible is not a pretty picture for someone with a strong internal critic that reminds me of what I should and shouldn’t do, what I should and shouldn’t believe.
And yet, for me, it’s becoming more and more okay.
With all the chaos and confusion, the grief and anger of last year and the better half of this year too, there’s an unexplainable freedom I’m feeling as I wrestle with the paradox of my faith. And the bible. And the Church.
For a 1 who’s pretty sure she knows most things most of the time, I’m strangely savoring the questions and the uncertainty.
Because this is what I’m sure of — God’s heart is for me and His love for me will. never. fail. ever. ever. ever. ever.
Even as I feel “out of sorts”.
Even as I stay out of church.
Even as I think out of the mainstream.
This is what I understood that night at bible study as my sweet, wise friend prayed over the broken hearted mom:
“I’ve learned that faith isn’t pretending the mountain isn’t there.
It isn’t denial of the truth or the facts or the grief or the anger.
It’s not the lie of speaking “peace, peace” where there is no peace.
It’s faith because it is hope declared, it is living into those things that are not yet as they will be.”*
I can do that.
*Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith