Life doesn't go the way you plan it.
It seems like such a simple sentence. It's trite and cliche. It's something that we all know. Yet it's something that causes life's deepest pains. It's the thing that creates the heartwrenching questions of God's goodness and sovereignty. It's what causes a person to lose hope. It confuses us and shifts the paradigm of all we knew to be true until ______ happened.
Dr. Larry Crabb taught me something profound about a year ago. He taught me that we expect linearity in life. A+B=C. There are consequences to actions. It's sort of like the Buddhist idea of kharma - give good, get good. But life doesn't really work that way. I mean, I guess it does enough that we all learn to expect it. But inevitably, we get something that doesn't equal all the As+Bs we've done in life. Suddenly we realize that this isn't what we bargained for, isn't what we were promised. I have been struck by this over and over again in the few short months I've been seeing clients. But I can't talk about them. So I guess I have to talk about me.
I've experienced painful things in my life. I'm sure it's pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things. But recently, I had one of those rug out from under you experiences where it seems like everything is adding up to something beautiful, like you're being given a gift you didn't even ask for, and then the world is upside down and you realize the gift box is empty. And meanwhile, you're suspended in mid-air, still dizzy from the way everything changed so quickly. I say all this to say that this experience caused such dissonance in my head that you would have thought it was a much worse experience than what actually happened. And it was all because I couldn't make sense of it. I couldn't see the good being worked from the pain. I still don't, really. It would be so much easier for me to write this if I did. I've been through much more painful things with much more patience and faith, because I could see purpose for my pain in them. I was able to have a choice in the matter - between protecting myself and experiencing pain so that someone else might know the tiniest piece of the love of Christ. But this was different. I didn't see how God was working. I didn't have a choice. I felt tricked and exploited. And it didn't feel worth it.
I guess I'm writing this, feeling like I'm saying nothing, for precisely that reason. Although it's in the tiniest of situations for me, I can see how the bait-and-switch of life causes the most pain for those I sit with. I think that pain can be endured so gracefully and beautifully when we can see the poetry being written from it. But how do we live in the moments that seem completely nonsensical? What of the times when there is no beauty seen? When there seems to be no point? When the idea of hoping in a God who would play such cruel tricks is infuriating? When everything you knew about the world no longer adds up?
I've been learning lately that hope is intrinsicly painful. To hope means to acknowledge that the present is less than what it ought to be, less than what it is you hope for. Yet I think it is the only thing that brings any chance of joy. I pray that we can dare to hope tonight - embrace the longing that is a part of every soul in this world (for we were created for another world altogether) and know that there is reason and rhyme in every line of this lifesong, no matter how dissonant some of the notes may seem.
"Life is not what I thought it was 24 hours ago,
Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with you,
And I'm not who I thought I was 24 hours ago,
Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with you."
~ Switchfoot, Twenty-four