If There Is Any Other Way

cup

“As we gradually come to befriend our own reality, to look with compassion at our own sorrows and joys, and as we are able to discover the unique potential of our way of being in the world, we can move beyond our protest, put the cup of our life to our lips and drink it, slowly carefully, but fully.” Henri J.M. Nouwen

Suffering is one of the only things that is guaranteed in this life. Some say that Christianity is a spiritual crutch that makes life more bearable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christianity is not about making life easier. Christianity is about an eternal, unconditionally loving, intimate relationship between a Creator/Savior/Father and the created/saved/child. The price of this relationship is costly, for both sides of the relationship. In fact, the Christian life could by almost all accounts be considered unbearable (outside of God’s grace), especially when we look at the boundaries God has put in place for us with which modern society views as backwards-thinking and intolerant.

Many people feel free to warm themselves by the fires of all their desires. By contrast, Christians are called to acknowledge and see the good, God-given longings in these very real and sometimes desperate desires and then to be willing to lay them down if necessary in order to pursue a greater love, a higher truth, a more fulfilling calling. We are asked to do this daily, not to save us from eternal damnation, but to have the honor of walking the same road as Jesus did, so though we also share in His sufferings, we too can share in His inexpressible joy.

On the surface, especially from an outside perspective, a Christian’s life may look like self-inflicted torture.

On the contrary, a Christian is called to choose to live in God-inflicted grace.

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:36-39

Jesus pleaded not just once but three times in this one desperate evening for His Father to take away the suffering He had been asked to endure. Like Jesus, we beg of God to take the cup of suffering from us. If there is any other way to obey You . . . please, Daddy, let me have what I want, what I think I need . . . please, Daddy, don’t make me carry a grief I don’t understand . . . please, Daddy, there must be a different, less painful way . . . 

Like Jesus, we weep and try to say, but You know what’s best. You have my ultimate good in mind for me. Help me to trust You. Help me to follow through with what you want me to do. Jesus fully embraced this truth, and the reward was this grace: untold millions destined to enjoy an eternal intimate relationship with God and with those who love Him. 

Who knows what grace will come if I, if we, choose to follow the paths God has laid out for us, heartbreaking and confusing though they may be?

The cup of suffering I have been asked to drink has stifled my joy with nauseous disappointment. I have been holding this cup for nine months, tears dropping into what looks and smells like liquid death. This is not what I thought I signed up for . . . but this is what I have been given . . . cycles of grief and anger and death and acceptance and surrender . . . how can this possibly be worth it? Oh, God . . . if there is any other way . . . 

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1b-2

 

Be Kind to Yourself

Humanity, individually and collectively, has countless sorrows in this life. A few particular griefs that stand out for me are the waste of loss, the weight of loneliness, and the intensity of pain. These things live side by side with our joy, love, and connectedness. Do you feel the tension? Our hope peers down into our cavernous longings and shudders. Our love does not know how to live with loss. We are in the midst of a lifelong tug-of-war between joy and despair. If either dropped their end of the rope, we would be living a lie.

To fight against being overcome with despair, we shout into the ravenous discourse of social media to feel some kind of connection. We fall into the arms of friends to feel known. We look for affection and romantic love-even sacrificial love-to throw themselves into our voids. We sedate ourselves binge-watching sitcoms or scrolling through pornography. We bury ourselves in work to feel some semblance of purpose. We starve ourselves to feel beautiful and drown ourselves in alcohol to escape the hurt. We look for sub-par saviors to supplement the Savior of our souls.

This is not a guilt trip.

This is an acknowledgment: life is hard.

I want you to know, because I am right in the thick of it myself: your own unique, personal methods of self-medicating deserve compassion. Your deepest desires for love, connection, intimacy, peace, affirmation, etc. echo of heavenly realities and a fulfillment yet to come. You’re not alone. You are loved. Don’t give up.

Stare into your sorrow for a while and you’ll find the terrified shell of a human being that is you at your most vulnerable, your most honest state. Eight months ago in coming face-to-face with the most hidden parts of me, this is the journey I began . . . it was the worst and best decision of my life so far.

We must learn to be kind to the parts of ourselves we do not like. It is time to take our darkness gently by the hand and walk with it into the light. I’ve seen glimpses of the goodness to be found. Will you press on with me, in courage and kindness?

Lullaby (God With Us)

Here’s a song I wrote.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

A lullaby to a crying world
to help it sleep at night
was sent in form of a tiny babe
to pierce the dark with light

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
God with us

A lullaby to a war-torn world
to help it think of peace
a man upending the status quo
prayed for his enemies

A lullaby to a dying world
to birth eternal life
entered oppression, sorrow, and death
to vanquish all our strife

A lullaby to a hopeless world
Where guns and injustice reign
you showed us how to cheat death’s sting
by rising again

God with us in the cancer
with us in the fear
with us in our doubting
with us in the clear
God with us in the minefields
with us in the hate
with us in the shootings
God’s love does not discriminate

Hallelujah
You’re always with us