Friday, March 28, 2008

What Are You Looking For?

God is in the business of redeeming people’s stories. That’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it? I mean, it’s comforting to know that I am incapable of making a mistake that God can’t redeem. That’s true for all of us. You can’t out “fool” God.

But what are we really looking for out of life?

I tend to think that most of us have learned that our stories are fragile, just as we learn that glass is fragile—when it shatters. And while we try to protect ourselves from danger, we learn very quickly that we can’t, that we’re not in control. That truth scares us at times and invigorates us at others, but most of the time, we have to admit that we’re not sure what we’re supposed to think about all of it. We want to trust that God is the one who is in control, but then we turn on CNN and our theories tend to go out the window. You know what I mean? I don’t believe anything messes with a person’s ability to trust in God like watching the media’s coverage of war.

As we get older and experience more of our story, we also become fully aware of our own personal humanity. In other words, we know what’s really going on inside of us. While our families and friends may not know what we battle, we do. And we think to ourselves, if God can’t get his hands around our fears, our addictions, or our sins, then how in the world can we believe that he’s capable of taking care of our stories? That’s a valid question, I believe—a question that can make faith difficult, make the Christian life difficult to live.

A lot of us have divided hearts—we fight a war between faith and logic, God and culture. The culture most of us live in teaches us that our stories aren’t important. Usually, the stories that are told by the media are those of the wealthy, the intelligent, the sexy, the talented, and the revered. But if those are the only “successful” story lines, what does that mean for the majority of us? What if we can’t find a job? What if we’re homely or fat? What if our only “talent” is playing video games? I mean, is there a successful story line for the jobless fat guy who kicks butt at Halo?

It’s really no wonder so many of us are investing our time and effort into “making it.” Instead of living the stories that God designed us for, we settle for the generic ones—the ones advertised on TV, the Internet, and in the education systems. We buy into the “generic” stories but end up realizing—often, when we hit middle age—that the life we’re living isn’t the one that was advertised. We don’t realize where exactly things went wrong; we just assume that the truth was somewhere in the fine print. And we didn’t read it.

Since we were kids, we’ve been told that “normal”—whatever that means—will make us happy. Most of us, at some point in our lives, have fallen for the lie that says: The “good life” comes when we have a high-paying job, a house we can call our own, a decent 401k plan, stock options, a car that doesn’t embarrass us in front of our friends, a couple of kids, and a spouse who doesn’t hate us. And what if we are fortunate to get everything on that list? Is there any one of us who could keep something like cancer or a drunk driver or a found-out secret from taking it all away?

(From Matthew Paul Turner's great new book Hokey Pokey)


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