“The early American Indians had a specific last rite of passage before a boy would become a man. On the night of his 13th birthday, after his testing though trials of hunting, fishing and scouting; he would be placed in the center of dense forest to spend the entire night alone. In the woods, thick enough to block the moonlight, he would be left to the terrors of the darkness. Every twig that snapped, and every wind gust rustling through the night had the fear of a wild animal ready to attack. Through the dark night of his trial, which seemed ages long, he is left to wait and prove his manhood against whatever came his way. Full of anxiousness and the truth of his powerlessness as a 13 year old boy, he would wait with hope for the dawn. As the sunlight begins to break through he is faced with the fulfillment of his manhood; the daybreak clearly illuminates the surrounding trees and bushes, the flowers and the path back to the tribe.” – tales of American Indian traditions
There is a rhythm to life. There is a swaying in the seas. Season’s change, feelings grow and popularity wanes. We all know highs and lows, nearness and distance, darkness and light, emotional ebb and flow and moments of clarity and distraction. Situations come where we cannot systematically deconstruct to find a path to success. Times of unfettered lightness fill passing days with joy. Life carries on with the cadence of a melancholy roller coaster where we just along for the ride. In this journey we have devised a number of mechanisms to focus on the good, forget the bad and look for the possibilities and potentials leading to avenues of success. We study philosophies of fulfillment, we pursue acquisition of friends, things and status, we attach ourselves to important endeavors, significant causes and powerful missions; yet, we change very little about our roller coaster experience. Those who societies have thought to have succeeded beyond normality have echoed the same storms as those who haven’t. Billionaires declare discontentment within their wealth. Pop icons struggle for real connection in a sea of celebrity attention. Heroes detach from their action and get lost in the mass media of exaggerated praise, building them into people they are not. Leaders become paranoid about loss of power and isolate themselves from their followers. The apparently powerful and glorious and those with “elevated” lifestyles, know the same weary echo of discontentment as those who look from afar, thinking about the greener grass of possibility. They traverse up and down on the roller coaster; it can even be worse for those who anchor their self worth in the deep of societal accolade. The variance of today can change us from victor to victim in a moment. A song by U2 puts it into concise words:
Some days are dry
Some days are leaky
Some days come clean
Other days are sneaky
Some days take less but most days take more
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor
Some days your quick but most days you’re speedy
Some days you use more force than is necessary
Some days just drop in on us
Some days are better than others
Some days it all adds up and what you’ve got is enough
Some days are better than others
The truth embraced by all of us is that life is volatile. Life has an ebb and flow. We experience ecstasy and misery; we know calm and chaos. In a moment we can go from safety to disaster. Earthquakes, floods, greed, selfishness, terror, hopelessness, fear and disease; when our securities are in the temporal experiences of our world, we are vulnerable to the volatile powerlessness of living in a world we have no control over. In a lifetime of searching for enough good to overcome the bad we can become weary. When the hope of an opportunity coming through is destroyed over a technicality, an unforeseen reason or insider politics; we are left to throw up our hands and cry out in the darkness. Fortunately for us, there is a way to find peace in the storm. There is a refuge to protect and provide for us through the valleys and give us direction and hope climbing mountains. The way is open to us. The truth reaches into the depth of our core and gives us confidence and hope. In the rhythm of life, ebbing and flowing, swaying in the seas; transcendence in the momentary and temporal exists in only one place – Jesus Christ, the provision and promise of the Lord God Almighty. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; the only remedy for the inconsistency and melancholy ride that we face in our lives.
The ups and downs of life are difficult for everyone. Knowing that life fluctuates day to day, week to week, and year to year has the ominous possibility of burying us in a state of inconsistent insecurity, disorder and discontentment and confusion and commotion. The illumination we find in Jesus Christ is not an exemption from the roller coaster, but rather peace defined in his power and control in the universe over the chaos in our lives. We find that our searching for hope is found in the one who has command of all things, amidst all circumstances; we find the faithful Lord calling us to seek Him and place our hope in Him alone. Unlike the secret disciplines, spiritual mantras and self-centered motivational psycho babble of other finite humans caught in the struggle of ebb and flow; the calling of Christ does not fool us into thinking that we are masters of our own circumstances, that we have a super-ability to achieve what we put our minds to or if we follow specific steps we will be unfettered in our transcendence beyond our needs, struggles and fears to achieve lives of ease, distinction, success and harmony. He is more real than to dupe us into the false tenet of self-empowered salvation. There is no true hope in relying on ourselves to manufacture power and control amidst chaos. Hope must be sourced in truth and understanding which supersedes our finite human ability. The rich and powerful are still people constrained by the boundaries of humankind. The influential and popular are still limited by their humanity. The philanthropists, the insightful, the respected, the experienced, the educated; from elected officials to the champions of awareness in dilemmas and injustice facing our world – they are all still finite humans. The only source of hope that is not volatile is found in the infinite. The only source of hope we can call on understands the depths of our experience, knows the true needs of our situations and has the power to fulfill the promise of preservation, provision and protection as we know the days of our lives. The only source of hope we have is Jesus Christ.
The American Indian story above did not end where I left it. It continues this way; “As he rises to return to the tribe, he is amazed to see the morning light showing his father a few feet away behind a tree, armed with bow and arrow, watching for danger, protecting his vulnerable son. He feels the sun shining on him, knowing his manhood did not come from his strength through isolation, but through the provision of his father. He sees that unity is the path to survival and he feels the connection to others in being a man” Think of the 13 year old Indian brave (or not so brave). Had he known his father was there the entire night, he would have had unshaken confidence in the one who had been through many nights in the forest, had faced the terrors of wild animals and had the reliability of steady hands to defend those he loves from the danger and what looms in the darkness. He wouldn’t be overtaken in the darkness of the night or by the terrors of the forest; his peace would have been set firm in the one who had protected and provided for him his entire life. This is the power of our Lord amidst our circumstances. He protects and provides through our lives as we are anxiously unaware of his nearness, as we rejoice and forget our need for Him and as we battle through the highs and lows of our perspective over the consistency of his all encompassing power, existence and understanding.
The God of the universe subjected himself to the constrains of finite humanity; facing temptation, joy, hunger, grief, friendship, hatred, love, betrayal, loneliness, scheming, distrust, respect, triumph and brokenness in the person of Jesus Christ. This is why the Bible says that we have a Sovereign Lord who truly understands what we go through. In his experiences of the highs and lows of life Christ was not exempted from these things; He was not distant or shallow in joy and sadness. The roller coaster of Christ wept for his dead friend Lazarus, He offered tension filled prayers with sweating in response to his distress like drops of blood, He rejoiced in praise to the Father for the shared experience in pleasing the Father; He experienced the real swaying of the seas of life, yet He understood the nearness of the Father and sought Him whether high or low. In crisis and victory, He relied on the power of the Father in obedience to his will. We see in Christ, One who went through the ebb and flow of life anchored in the reality of the nearness of the Father. He understood that all of our experiences are designed not to promote ourselves, but to bring us into unity with the Father and his will. His gifts of triumph lead us to praise Him, giving thanks for his grace and his provision. In our trials we seek Him for direction and peace through the turmoil, knowing that He has promised to be with us and in us through all that we experience in life.
His desire is not to give us easy lives, known in the fullness of our personal achievement, bathed in the significance of accomplishments and liberated from human consequences in a broken world. His desire is for us to know unity with Him; to see our temporal existence in light of the eternal salvation and the restoration of our hearts unto his. His desire is for us to know that He is with us through the dark night protecting us from what we do not see. He knows that when we are weak, He is powerful; when we are chaotic, He is consistent; when we feel distant, his Spirit is near; when we see our impotence, his providence overshadows our lacking and when we are in need, He sends salvation. Our broken relationship with him is why God sent his Son to restore unity. He sent connection to survival. He sent preservation through the terrors of the world. He calls us to no longer conform to the patterns of the world; being transformed by the renewing of our minds. In this, we will be able to see the Father by our side, protecting and providing. In this we will be able to see his will for our nearness to Him. In this we will know the infinite unity and dependence which is the only hope for finite humans. The dawn is coming, and our seeking Him will find the Almighty by our side. Some days will continue to be better than others; yet in Christ all days lead us to the opportunity to experience unity with God in ways which provide peace, hope and transcendent significance amidst a temporal and trivial world. He is our only hope for survival and fortunately for us; his measure of restoration did not even spare his only Son on our behalf. He is calling us to know this life defined in Him. He is calling us to know his control through the melancholy roller coaster of life. He is faithful, He is powerful and He loves us; infinitely beyond our finite human ability.