For those of you who follow me on social media you know I like to post about a certain hobby of mine. And it’s not meant to be braggadocio, but rather a measure of accountability for myself. In order for me to be the best me I can be I try to at least daily, or every other day, head out and go running. You see, for me running is self-care. And the more I post about it, the more I hold myself accountable to do it. The reasoning behind this is because I am also a father of four and a husband. So, in order to find space to be a good husband and father I have taken to running in the wee hours of the morning. Thus the need to stay accountable. That being said, in Nashville the sun doesn’t even wake up in the wee hours of the morning. So today I tried a new convention and ran with a headlamp for the first time…and it was quite the adventure.
I found out quickly that in order to run with a headlamp one has to concentrate on the immediate. There were moments where I wanted to look ahead and try to anticipate the next bend or the path up ahead and the minute I would do this is the exact moment I would stumble. I found out pretty quickly, that although I moved slowly, it was so key to keep the light on my next step. There was a verse from scripture that kept coming to my mind that comes from Psalm 119, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” And I know most of us are familiar with this passage of scripture, but we often don’t really know what it means to apply “the word” to our immediacy. We struggle with the future and the next steps versus the now and the immediate. But believe it or not, scripture itself can help us to understand how to avoid this trap of confusion that often overwhelms us with anxiety for the future.
In the prelude to his gospel, John writes to us that in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. We can often become overwhelmed in trying to apply the word to our lives, but there is actually a really simple place to start; Jesus. He is the word incarnate and He draws us into what it means to live into the present. In fact, his own words to us are, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34. I think the headlamp for us in the immediate is to realize what it means to live as Jesus lived. Someone who was fully present at each and every moment. He would see the hurting, touch the leper, feast with sinners and love the unlovable at every step of the way. This is our roadmap. This is our light. And this is the way we learn not to stumble but to trust the next step.
Once upon a time this morning…
At least that’s how I would like for it to begin. As is sometimes the case my daughter and I began the breaking of the day with the viewing of a Disney Princess movie. However today was unlike any other because she had made up her mind that she wanted to watch it differently. She did not want to watch all of the adversity and drama, but rather skip to the very end when the bad guy is beat (Mother Gothel) and Rapunzel and Eugene get to live happily ever after. She said the bad person would give her nightmares (although this has never happened) and she just wanted to see her “get beat”. And of course I found an excellent opportunity to argue with my 3-yr-old about the reward of seeing adversity overcome and the persistence to chase after your dreams whatever hardships come your way, but I got the feeling it was falling on deft ears. Yet I think we all kind of share my daughter’s sentiments. We all want a happy ending and if it’s all the same we would like a happy beginning and middle as well. The problem is this isn’t really life.
One of my favorite versus of scripture to see quoted is Jeremiah 29:11. And a lot of people quote it, “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And this is great. It speaks of hope, “a future”…in essence a happy ending. But if you’ve ever read the rest of the book of Jeremiah you realize that this verse is the exception rather than the rule. You see, Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah was of destruction. Babylon is coming and they are going to destroy you. Life for you will literally become hell on earth. And yet in the midst of all of this there is this silver lining. God promises that even though all of this tragedy is coming there way that he will never forsake them. So it kind of looks weird when we live off of the promise alone and don’t understand the circumstances out of which it was spoken.
Life is hard. Look around you. There are people dying from cancer, war, disease, hunger, etc. every day. There is poverty, violence, oppression, slavery, injustice like there has never been before. And yet, God has not abandoned us. He is actually with us in the midst of all of this. I read a quote today from Dr. King’s sermon A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart , “God is neither hardhearted nor soft-minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.” That is the God in the midst with us. Powerful enough to give us a hope and a future and compassionate enough to walk through the tragic with us.
I hope for a happy ending. I hope for a happy beginning and middle as well. But I take comfort in the fact that even if the beginning and middle are rife with life’s difficulties that I have a God who walks with me in order to bring me into His glorious future.