Friday, September 26, 2014

In Spite of It All

I think there's a lot of misunderstanding out there about how we Christians are supposed to do life. About how we're supposed to believe in spite of whatever's going on around us. Or heaven forbid, whatever's going on inside us. No matter what life forces us to deal with, we're supposed to plaster on a smile, profess a firm faith, loudly believe and only quietly question, and keep "pressing on toward the goal." 

In spite of it all. 

And we praise each other for doing this. We praise people for battling cancer well, which we say when we mean that we don't have to see them battle cancer at all. Which we say when they don't ever talk about it. Which we say when they pretend it's not affecting them. We praise people when they quietly divorce and we don't hear them talking about how hard it is to suddenly be alone. We praise people when they quietly grieve, when we see them picking up and moving on with their lives after great loss and we don't have to sit through the stories of what that loss is really like. We praise each other when we "keep the faith" in spite of it all. 

That's sad. We were never meant to live this life in spite of anything. And in fact, doing so is not a Christian discipline.

When you live your life in spite of whatever's happening in it, you set yourself up for a fight. All of a sudden, you're at odds with your very existence. If you've ever tried to live in spite of anything, you know what I'm talking about. Every day is you against life. Every day is life against you. You feel like you're running up against a wall over and over and over again until you figure out how to walk around it. You're shuffling your feet, just trying to keep moving but the forces that come against you make it hard to go anywhere at all and one day, you find that you're actually just shuffling your feet. You haven't moved at all. 

You can't be a believer because you're too busy being a warrior. You can't trust in God because you're too busy relying on yourself. You can't cry out because your voice is consumed with the war cry. You can't fold your hands because your hands hold your weapons. Your entire existence is a fight.

It was never meant to be this way.

There's a certain curse to living this side of Eden, but it never was that life would be lesser; it was only that life would be harder. And it is. Right? Life is hard sometimes. Life is really hard sometimes. But it's never been our call to look past all that is and forsake this life for the next one. No, we are called to live this life for the next one. We are called to engage our day-to-day, not defeat it.

It's the difference between living in spite of life and living in the face of life. Living in the face of life is daring to stand toe-to-toe with whatever this world throws at you, look it right in the eye, engage this world face-to-face. As Christians, we don't avert our eyes. We don't look away. We don't try to go around. We take one faithful step forward and another faithful step forward and fix our eyes on the God beyond the circumstances, but the circumstances don't know that's what we're looking at; they think we're staring squarely at them.

It's being willing to be a part of what's going on in this life and to live it to the fullest extent. Even when that's hard. It's seeing the face of our circumstances, yes, but it's also letting our circumstances see our face. It's a willingness to look up and lock eyes and show who we are - a people full of faith, maybe, but tinged with fear and doubt and exhaustion and grief and trouble and worry and a healthy dose of reality. It's not a fight to live in the face of our circumstances; we aren't put at odds with ourselves. It's a grace; we get to see things as they really are, including ourselves. Including our God.

In spite of it all, this life becomes one more thing we have to do. One more fight we have to win. In the face of it all, this life is simply the thing that we do. One more day to live loving the Lord. We were made for this. 

So look up. Stop living your life in spite of yourself. Stop fighting the friend in the mirror. And start living in the face of it all, daring to see and be seen. Engage your life wherever it is. 

For when you dare to stand toe-to-toe with your life, you find yourself standing face-to-face with your God.

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