Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Nothing to Catch Us

March 30, 2020

This article caught my eye several months ago, before the current world-wide panic over COVID-19.  It caught my eye in January because of the memorable line early in the story – There was nothing to catch us.

The whole point of the story is decades and decades of failure in terms of public policy on homelessness.  The entire story is geared around the idea that homelessness is essentially a public policy issue best solved by all levels of government in a combined effort to save these people from their situations.  Yes, yes, the article will grudgingly concede, mental illness and addiction are often contributing factors.  But since those are different arenas, let’s essentially just focus on the economics of it and how government should pump more money into systems already proven to not work to fix the problem.

Here in California, where homelessness is often a matter of ‘enlightened’ live and let live, resulting in pervasive homeless camps both communal and solitary, lawmakers want to throw an additional $2 billion dollars per year at solutions for homelessness.  These solutions will undoubtedly emphasize state and local programs, social workers, case workers, low-rent housing options, and a variety of other factors.

Even should such massive appropriations be approved (raising taxes on other people and thereby putting more people at risk of homelessness, perhaps?), it won’t solve the problem.  Experts have already said as much.  But it’s better than nothing, right?  And to be fair, something is better than nothing.  But some things are better than other somethings.

And it fascinates me (but doesn’t surprise me) that so much emphasis is placed on state-provided solutions towards these issues and no attention is given to the importance of strong families as a means of protecting the most vulnerable in our society.  Of the people who approach me for help, it’s literally universal that they have no other support lines in terms of family, nuclear or extended.  There are undoubtedly myriad reasons for this, but it is a consistent factor.

I wonder what it would look like if our society finally admitted that families are actually more important than the State, in terms of providing stable environments for children to be born and raised and continuing to function as safety nets even into adulthood, both for the grown children as well as their aging parents?  I wonder what it would look like if the State invested in these directions rather than in trying to create alternative systems which repeatedly prove inadequate to the challenge despite good intentions?

The first and best line of defense against the unexpected and catastrophic in people’s lives is family.  We can’t prevent tragedies from happening, but families are naturally the first line of defense and solidarity when they do strike.  It’s a shame this sort of common sense eludes elected officials when they discuss strategies to help people, and journalists when they report on the disadvantaged.

 

On Considering Death

March 25, 2020

Thanks to Jo Anne for sharing the following C.S. Lewis quote:

“How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

As I began verifying the quote it was quickly apparent it has received a lot of Internet attention in the past several weeks.  Many people are rushing to caution against interpreting C.S. Lewis incorrectly and thinking he would encourage us to not take precautions against COVID-19.  How quickly we want to interpret things to support our point of view or discourage competing views!

Rather than go this direction, I’ll offer this observation.  Lewis lived in a time when mortality was a much more real thing.  Not that people have ceased dying since the mind-20th century, but certainly our familiarity with death has continued that drastic decrease already underway in Lewis’ day.  As he points out aptly from history, death has long been an all-too-familiar companion to vast majorities of people.  Glancing through history books where the sweep of empires roils back and forth through the pages should give ample evidence death was more common and more brutal than we are accustomed to thinking of it these days.  Lewis himself served in World War I and lived through World War II.  He understood firsthand what it looks like when millions of people suddenly encounter death.

Now, death is an anomaly in the West.  At least death before a certain age.  Now we presume death is something primarily for the unfortunate few with pre-existing conditions or for the elderly.  We hide death away in sanitized rooms with strict visiting hours and palliative care to mask the reality of death for those who would prefer not to face it head on.  The ever-increasing average life span in the last century has lulled many people into a false confidence that death may – for now – be an unfortunate eventuality, but  we need pay it little mind until we are of a certain age.

Frankly our secular culture demands this.  If there is nothing more to life and existence than a random assemblage of atoms for an infinitesimally small period of time and then nothing but a rather swift dissipation, then this life becomes extraordinarily important.  Ironic, as we insist life is random and without meaning that we should cling to it all the more tightly!  Yet this is who we are.  Enlightened materialists unable to cope with the cold reality of the meaninglessness we have clothed our lives in, yet scoffing at the foolish theists who insist on the nobility and meaning and purpose of our bare, unadorned nakedness.  It is not what we accomplish that gives our lives meaning, they dare to say, but simply that we are.  Silliness, of course.  And our culture returns to ignoring death as long as possible, studiously occupying ourselves with any number of equally unimportant and random details.

Lewis holds a far more realistic point of view, which is that life is desperately unpredictable despite our attempts to make it predictable.  None of our advances have changed this reality but, given a broader range of alleged understanding we pretend our information is somehow power.  And it isn’t that we don’t have some power.  Anti-biotics and better understandings of hygiene have greatly improved both quality and length of life, as have advances in dentistry, surgery, and a host of other -ies.  But it only takes another global conflict of the micro-biological (COVID-19) or macro-biological sort (warfare) to remind us how easily our routines and control is upended.

Another important thing to bear in mind when reading Lewis’ quote is that he is speaking to Christians.  His words make no sense (or have no basis for making sense) to a non-theist.  Only the Christian can truly live this life in confidence and hope and joy, knowing that death is an unpleasant passage to something much grander and larger and better.  The Christian should not despise this life, but they should hold it in the proper relationship to the scope of eternity – if that is possible.  So we exhort the living continually and mourn the dead in Christ for a time.  We acknowledge our mortality with an even eye and a steady hand, neither rushing towards it prematurely nor fleeing from it inordinately.

This allows the Christian to be brave and courageous, and to take risks for the sake of loving our neighbor that may be admirable to non-theists but must ultimately  be (in their eyes) the height of folly.  So it is that Christians have always laid their lives down in service to those in need when nobody else was willing to take the risk.  Christians have died with the victims of plague and casualties of war they tended to, just as their patients died.  Their courage and love has been often noted, and hopefully will be emulated today and for as long as we wait for our Lord’s return.

So don’t be too quick to co-opt Lewis’ words to either disparage precautions against contagion or to summon Christians to adherence to social distancing.  Rather, in Christ may his followers live this day in joy, loving God and neighbor as we are given opportunity to do so and without too much over-calculating of the possible costs.  All of the costs have ultimately already been paid for us by Christ.  Let us love our neighbors who insist on safe distances between us and them, but let us be the first to show love and care for those who do not have that luxury.  We are all of us in the Father’s hands.  What more could we ask for?

 

 

You Can’t Outlaw Stupid

March 25, 2020

Though we seem determined to try.

Does a tactless and rude comment and action merit a felony rap sheet along with potentially seven years of prison time and over $25,000 in fines?  That’s what one man faces for acting like a jerk.  He intentionally coughed on another person at a grocery store and claimed to have COVID-19.

What he did was unkind, rude, and dumb, without a doubt.  But to charge him with terrorism?  This is one of the ugly side-effects of Homeland Security changes implemented nearly 20 years ago after the 9/11 attacks.  Now all  sorts of other crimes – with pre-existing definitions and sentencing structures – can also be deemed terroristic in nature.

Some people are scared, and they are making their fear very well-known as they venture out into public spaces to obtain the necessities of life.  Some of these folks are undoubtedly excessive and none-too-kind themselves in how they warn people to stay away from them.  And some people are going to respond equally unkindly.  Paranoia does strange things to people.  A certain modicum of grace seems wisest under these circumstances, a grace that hopefully people will pick up on and emulate.

But even if they don’t,  a charge of domestic terrorism seems grossly out of proportion in responding to this kind of behavior.

Good Advice

March 15, 2020

Thanks to Janelle for pointing me to this quote from Martin Luther regarding how Christians should behave in the face of the plague – literally.  I went to verify it and seek out the source, and it can be found in this publication at the very least.

Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.

I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.

If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

Moreover, he who has contracted the disease and recovered should keep away from others and not admit them into his presence unless it be necessary.

Though one should aid him in his time of need, as previously pointed out, he in turn should, after his recovery, so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account and so cause another’s death.

I love his balance of practicality and faith.  He will not  act in fear, but will act with prudence.  Love for neighbor overrides love of self.  Trust in God as well as the gifts of God in worldly wisdom, medicine, and best practices all find their proper place.

Timely words for today!

 

 

Thy Strong Word

March 11, 2020

She’s alone when I knock on the door.  The first time I met her, several years ago, it was she and her husband.  Recently relocated from further south where they had lived their lives as, among other things, active members of a Lutheran church.  But now they were older and beginning to falter a bit and to be closer to family they moved to a care facility here.  I took them Communion a few times before their daughter intervened, worrying it was more confusing for them than helpful.  A year or more passes, the daughter calls back.  Could I bring Communion to her mother now?  The confusion isn’t any better, so whatever stress entailed in me visiting seems no worse than the stress her mother normally lives with.

I’ve been making visits again for a few months now.  Her door is usually ajar and I knock.   I always tell her who I am and why I’m there.  It’s clear she’s confused, but she’s willing to receive Communion from a stranger-who-really-isn’t-a-stranger.  She often comments that she’s confused and doesn’t know what’s going on.  Today she sits on her couch with a blanket over her legs and her walker in front of her.  The television is on loud playing some black and white movie.

Since I just communed four other people in the same facility, I go to wash out one of the Communion cups.  As I finish I see a photo – clearly of she and her husband.  Many years ago.  The sun is shining on them and they look to be in their early 20’s at the oldest.  A beautiful reminder that the frail woman who looks at me hopefully but also with great trepidation was not always so.

I’ve learned that trying to make conversation with her is both uncomfortable and difficult, so I move to the brief order of service I use on Communion calls.  For the Bible reading I opt for the 23rd Psalm.  It’s the same reading I used with her last week and I know she enjoyed it and recited it from memory with me.  Since she likely doesn’t remember we used it last time, I use it again, changing the version on my app to the King James Version.  Sure enough, she joins right in for 70% of it.  She’s visibly calmer after we finish.

Now the Words of Institution, and it’s clear she remembers these as well, mouthing along in parts of it.  She recites the Lord’s Prayer with me and receives the bread and the wine.  She’s from the older tradition, and as well doesn’t trust her hands as much, so I place the wafer on her tongue and hold the small cup of wine to her lips.  I pack my things to go.

Sometimes, I open the Bible up.  And no matter where I open it to, it speaks to me.  This is the first time she’s offered much of anything conversationally since I’ve known her.  I smile and agree that God speaks to us when we’re reading his Word.  My Bible is in the other room.  Would you like me to get it?  She nods.  I find it easily on her nightstand and bring it to her.  Her whole face lights up when she takes it in her hands.  She flips through it, at a loss, looking for something but either not knowing what or where.  I notice a bookmarked page with highlighting on it.  I help her flip back to that.

Luke 12Just reading the title makes me feel better already, she says with a smile and I’m amazed at how present she is and how at peace she is.  Do Not Be Anxious.  I wonder if she highlighted that or her daughter did?  Would you read it to me, I ask her.  She hesitates a bit.  You don’t have to read all of it, just some of it I say.   She begins reading.  She loses her place a few times but corrects herself.  Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life….

The words of a man who claimed to be the very Son of God ring out in that small room with the  TV turned off.  Words she has heard over and over again across the span of a life from the young, confident girl in the photo to the frail,  confused woman on the couch.  Doing the best she can to keep from panicking.  Alone after so many years of being with a partner and a family.  His Word every bit as applicable and comforting and true as it was for the thousands who first heard him speak it 2000 years or so ago on a sunny hillside on the other side of the world.

As I take my leave and look back through the closing door, she’s still sitting with the Bible in her lap.  So much better than the blare of the television earlier.  A word not simply for waking up or going to sleep but for the uncertainties of a quiet afternoon by herself in a world  that has changed around her until she’s no longer certain who she is or where she is.  But those words are anchors, holding her fast to a truth she has clung to through all the changes of life, words that will lead her out of the confusion temporarily for now, but completely and permanently at last.

 

 

Some Things Never Change

March 7, 2020

The text was touching.  An invitation to a fellow pool league player’s birthday party.  I can count on one hand the number of invitations I get to social events, and I thought this will be fun!  I spent part of my afternoon putting together homemade ceviche.  This will be fun, I thought again as I packed things up and headed out.  I arrived and made my way through the crowd, putting the bowl of ceviche and a couple bags of my favorite tortilla chips with the other food on the table.  I saw a few other players from the league and greeted them.  I greeted the birthday girl.  I greeted her husband.  Things are going well.  I’ve been here five minutes already.  And then it sinks in.

I’ve made a horrible, horrible mistake.

Not in the ceviche, but in coming.  I milled around for another ten minutes or so.  I’ve greeted everyone I know and they’re in other conversations.  I don’t know anyone else here.  I manage to wait another five minutes.

And then I’m gone.

In the safety of my car, on the road, I flashback.  I’m 20-ish.  Excited for my company’s annual Christmas party.  Always a schwanky affair at a posh resort in North Scottsdale.  I’m dressed up, I have a date.  This will be fun!

And then we’re there and I’ve made the rounds of the people I know.  I’m young and more insecure than I am nowadays but that same sinking feeling, that realization of No, you’re an introvert and this isn’t fun.  It’s the level of hell that didn’t make the final cut in Dante’s Inferno.

I am better in groups than I used to be.  I am less introverted than I used to be.  But put me in a group of strangers I don’t absolutely have to be around?  I’ll look for the exit plenty quick.  Some things about us – or at least about me – don’t change with time.  I wished it could be different all those years ago.  I wished I could just laugh and have fun like everyone else seemed to be.  And those twinges were still there tonight.

Hopefully they enjoy the ceviche and she has a good celebration.  It was still thoughtful to invite me.  But I’m  even more grateful I could slip out unnoticed, breathing a sigh of relief as well as disappointment.

Wondering when the next invitation will come.  Because that will be fun.

 

 

 

 

Dances

March 4, 2020

I step out of my office to greet the person I’m told has stopped by to see me.  One of my eyes on the clock because I have a standing Communion call to leave for in just a few minutes, the other eye quickly sizing up the young man standing to meet me, all pimples and youth.  Nothing notable about him in any way, as he asks if I have a few minutes to talk with him about an issue he’s having with his family.  I don’t consciously think I have enough time for a counseling session, but I invite him into my office as the music starts.

We tap our respective toes as we get a feel for the tune being played, and then he steps out boldly onto the dance floor.  He spins and turns, his feet moving steadily and not without experience.  A car breakdown in Fresno a week or more ago.  A week’s delay getting it diagnosed to no avail.  Bussing his family down to San Diego to buy a car (flourish the keys, still with what looks to be a dealer label on them).  A pause, and then a new set of turns.  Traveling back now to Berkeley (which he had said was home when I first met him).  Now passing through Santa Barbara and out of funds.  The bridge of the tune arrives and he lists out all the various local organizations he’s already contacted in search of gas for the car and food for the family (who hasn’t eaten since yesterday), moving into the finale in that he could only hope that churches might be places where someone could get some help  in a situation like this.

A bit winded, he steps back as the musicians queue up the next song.  Not quite as spry and quick as the last one.  I assume the proper  stance and begin moving my feet in time with the music.  We don’t keep cash on hand for situations like this.  Lots of other places in town we normally refer people to.  But I have $20  on me I’ll give you.  I know it’s not very much but hopefully it will help.  Godspeed and safe travels.  Ending with a flourish as I give him directions to the nearest gas station.

We bow and he leaves and I prepare my Communion kit.

I don’t believe any of what he just told me.  None of it added up to anything approaching a coherent story.  I wonder at times why people aren’t just more honest.  Look, I screwed up my budgeting for the month and I don’t have enough to make ends meet until my next payday.  I blew my last paycheck on women and booze and rent’s due Friday.  Of course these are not the sorts of things that elicit sympathy.  But if he’s presuming on the church to be a place of sympathy by default, how much is that really needed?

Because he’s assuming I’ll allow him to be dishonest.   To not ask questions.  To not point out the logical inconsistencies in the elaborate tale of woe he’s just spun.  To not point out how his footwork was off and he couldn’t keep rhythm if his life depended on it.  He’s assuming that I’ll simply go through the moves of my dance, which are more than likely going to result in at least some small amount of money for him, since of course I need to preserve the dignity and reputation of the Church by not sending him away empty-handed.  After all, I’d hate to think I might have become a hurdle to the Gospel, whether he’s received it yet or it’s  on the way.

We know our parts and the steps that keep the dance moving along amicably, that avoids any unpleasant missteps or gaffes.  He goes on his way with a little money.  I’m happy to be done and on to my Communion call.  Later I prayed for him and his family and their situation, whichever or all or none of those elements might be real or imagined or exaggerated or invented.  For whatever he really needed and I couldn’t provide in the moment because we were both so focused on our feet and the music and the cues.

 

 

 

Vibrant Christian Homes

March 3, 2020

Our denomination has a series of different para-organizations and publications that go out on a regular basis.  One such organization is called Lutheran Hour Ministries.  LHM provides a variety of resources in a variety of formats on a variety of topics, all aimed at helping Christians live out their faith with an eye towards sharing the Gospel with those who do not yet know Jesus the Christ as their Lord and Savior.  I’ve used some of their materials over the years.  But their recent newspaper caught my eye with the caption Do You Have a Spiritually Vibrant Home?

I have to admit, it piqued my interest.  Based on cooperation with Barna Institute and drawing on some of their research, LHM has put together some materials to assist families in creating spiritually vibrant homes.  As much as that may sound like a bad motif from the Home Shopping Network, I am a firm believer that the majority of faith formation – or lack thereof – happens in the home, rather than in the pews at church.  A few takeaways from the article and materials:

They break households into three major categories based on three major behaviors.  The first is spiritual practices, meaning regular prayer and Bible reading as a family through the week.  The second key behavior is spiritual conversations, meaning the household talks about God and faith on a weekly basis together.  The final behavior is hospitality, meaning welcoming non-family guests over on a regular basis (at least a few times a month).  Based on these three key behaviors, households fall into one of three survey categories:

  • Spiritually vibrant – practice all three key behaviors.  Only 25% of households seem to fall into this category
  • Devotional – engage in spiritual practices and conversations but not so much hospitality
  • Dormant – don’t really engage in any of the three key behaviors

I haven’t investigated the materials yet, but I’m considering it.  You can look at them here.  The idea is that even if your household is not currently a spiritually vibrant place, with incremental changes over time it could be.  Obviously, this doesn’t allow a lot of room for personality types, which I think can be unfair.  But it’s a good way to think about the routines we establish and maintain in our households and how they impact our life of faith.

Why the Old Testament?

February 17, 2020

Why do we have the Old Testament in Scripture?  Or for that matter, why 2000 years of pre-history, 2000 years of history and narrative and genealogy?  Why didn’t God just send Jesus immediately?  Why is the Old Testament in sweeping grandeur and confusion necessary?

It  might sound like a silly question but it’s hardly intended as such, and it’s hardly a new question.  Since at least the early third century serious Christians like Marcion have suggested we could do without the Old Testament.  Many others have thought the same thing since, despite the Church’s insistence that we should keep those Scriptures firmly in place.

I read an article about this in a theological journal recently (starting on pages 24-25).  The author lists ten reasons why he thinks the Old Testament is crucial to Christians today:

  1. The Old Testament grounds us in the physicality of our existence in creation as creatures
  2. It reaffirms physicality, as opposed to the Greek demeaning of the physical in favor of the spiritual and non-material
  3. The Old Testament provides us with an understanding of who God is
  4. The Old Testament prepares for and fleshes  out the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  5. The Old Testament helps us to understand the Holy Spirit
  6. The Old Testament forces us to face the scandal of particularity – the reality that God does not have to operate by democratic principles but rather is free to work in very particular and specific ways, and through very particular and specific people
  7. The Old Testament helps contextualize us in terms of our role in God’s plan of salvation
  8. The Old Testament provides further evidence of God working in a sacramental  way – through physical means
  9. The Old Testament helps protect us from an understanding of the life of faith that is centered almost exclusively in the here and now, the present
  10. The Old Testament is able to treat certain sub-themes of the life of faith that might otherwise be lost

All good points.

I’ll humbly add my 11th to this list.

The Old Testament stands as solid evidence that Satan lies.  Just as he lied to Adam and Eve he lies to us and teaches us to lie to ourselves.  Specifically, he lies to us in leading us to believe sin really isn’t as big an issue as Scripture thinks it is, and that if we just had a bit of help, we could fix it ourselves.  That we might not actually need a savior.

I mean, really.  If we could just get rid of all the bad apples – start off with the very best of us, the most upstanding, the holiest, the godliest, the most righteous – we could be ok.  We could make a fresh start and everything would be just fine.  Oh wait, that was already tried, with Noah.  It didn’t work out so well after all.  Hmmm.

Well, if we just had God present in our midst.  Palpable.  Tangible.  Visible.  If He would just show himself and prove his reality through his presence, we’d straighten up and fly right, no doubt.  Certainly that would be enough to ensure we lived the way we should, in harmony with one another and in grateful obedience to our Creator.  Then everything would be just fine. Oh, wait, that was already tried, with the Israelites in the wilderness.  It didn’t work out so well after all, and not only that, we tend to try and blame God as being harsh and smite-y.  Hmmm.

Well, if God would just put all his people in one place, all the people who love him and know him, all together in one big place.  A country.  And not just any country, but a country with a government hand-picked by God.  A government based upon God’s Word and rule.  A government dedicated to making sure the people of God could live their lives out in faithfulness and obedience.  Then everything would be just fine.  Oh wait, that was tried with the monarchy and the nation of Israel. It didn’t work out so well.  Hmmmm.

Well, if God would just send Jesus back to us, so we could be with him.  Live with him.  Work with him.  Listen to him preach and teach.  Watch him heal the sick – maybe even have him heal some of our own sicknesses.  Watch him drive out demons and command the wind and the waves.  Well certainly then, that’s all we need.  Then  we would understand and not have to be so confused about everything.  Then everything would be just fine.  Oh wait, that was done also, and his disciples were confused throughout his entire ministry and up to and after his death.

Not until the resurrection of the incarnate Son of God did his disciples begin to understand.  Not until they had already been saved did they really begin to comprehend just how deeply and completely they needed a Savior.  Needed to be saved.  That no amount of right conditions could ever substitute for the God who would die to save his creation.  Who would die for us at our worst so that we could have the promise and hope of being our best.

Scripture – Old and New Testaments – gives us so many things, but one of the things I rarely hear discussed is that gift of experience.  A  reminder that we aren’t as smart as we think we are, let alone as good as we like to imagine.  A reminder that we need nothing less than a Savior, and God has provided nothing less than that in his Son, Jesus.

So keep reading the Old Testament.  There are at least eleven good reasons to do so.  What would you add as number 12?

 

 

Dreadfully Disappointed

February 8, 2020

My post the other day generated more than a few comments from people who know me personally.  Worry.  Potential offense.  I’m reminded that it’s impossible to control how someone else hears what you say, a lesson learned in homiletics and years in front of classrooms and now years in the pulpit.  Sometimes it works in your favor and sometimes it doesn’t.  Words are tricky things, as are ears and hearts.  I’m grateful for the concerned feedback, a reminder that as often as it feels as though I’m shouting into a void, these words are being heard in different places and different ears, some of them close at hand.

Dreadfully disappointed is a powerful phrase.  In a culture that demands a facile self-confidence, to express disappointment in oneself is less and less commonplace.  In our drive to replace genuine hope with vague, unmerited self-congratulatory honors, where everyone wins a prize even though every player knows darn well who actually won, our psychological radars go off when someone says something negative about themselves.

So while I have clarified my original post somewhat, the statement remains.  There are moments – not a continuity of existence but certainly moments – when I am dreadfully disappointed.  Dreadfully aware of how much more I could and should be.  Better son, better husband, better father, better pastor, better neighbor.  When I’m aware that such sentiments are probably what Martin Luther struggled with in some sense but I know I’m not a good enough linguist or theologian to employ the German word he used to describe it.

More shortcomings.

If only I had studied Latin.  And German.  And more Greek and Hebrew.  If only I read more non-stop, except for those non-stop moments of fulfilling all my other vocational hats.  To  be smarter, more eloquent, a better example…there are moments when the weight of those cumulative shortcomings hangs heavy and then passes.  I see that heaviness in others sometimes.  Something dull behind the eyes and in the tone of voice.  Sometimes we just need to acknowledge where we are and who we are.   Not necessarily so that others can talk us out of it, but so that others can stand with us.

There are moments when everything is just right – including myself.  When there is harmony and unity and things are easy.  There are moments of confidence.  But there are also moments of dreadful disappointment.  Of a desire to be more, and a wondering when such longings and disappointments will pass.

I know when they will.  A day of trumpets and clouds, a day of shouts and songs and cries.  A day when body and soul are reunited and when they are finally whole and one and perfect.  A day of deliverance, the final judgment and the final verdict before an eternity – finally – of peace I can’t even know how to desire properly now.  That’s what the Body of Christ encourages one another towards and with.  More than just slapping a smiley face sticker on someone, but simply acknowledging that this too shall one day pass.  By the grace of God and the Word that became flesh to understand my dreadful disappointment and bury it forever.