Archive of ‘hope’ category
If you see a graduate looking this disoriented, you might want to call a doctor!:)
With our eldest daughter just graduated from college and our youngest son graduating from high school in two weeks, I want to write some new thoughts about graduation, I really do. But the fact is, I have to figure out how to print return address labels for his invitations, go to the post office to get the “additional postage required” because I didn’t know the invitations we ordered were an “odd-size,” and buy more laundry detergent, because our household is again filled with kids who have laundry (and do it themselves). So, for today, I’m bringing back a post I wrote two years ago, when our youngest daughter graduated from high school. I think these things still pertain. But next time I want to write about the parents’ disorientation:-)!
“Human experience includes those dangerous and difficult times of dislocation and disorientation when the sky does fall and the world does come to an end.” Walter Brueggemann, on the Psalms
I was reading this great Brueggemann quote this morning, and it hit me. My daughter (and every other senior) is disoriented. Please don’t hear what I’m not saying — it’s not like she’s doing crazy things like wrapping the school up with caution tape or lying around the house all day watching old episodes of Make it or Break It. It’s just that she, and every other senior, has arrived at one of those times when a world has come to an end.
I’ve been focusing on how disorienting it is for me to have my third of four graduate from high school, but this morning I decided to turn the tables and think about what the seniors are wondering. Here are five questions of disorientation for graduates**:
1. Who am I now that I’m not…the class clown, the All-A student, the “most-likely-to-be-tardy,” the state wrestling champ…?
2. Will anyone here miss me? Will they remember me?
3. How will they get along without me? Who can fill my shoes in the part I played in this world?
4. Who will be my new friends along the next part of the journey?
5. Will I even make it on the next part of the journey?
** Caution — I don’t highly recommend sitting down with your graduate and saying, “Now, honey, I know you’re really struggling with some hard questions. Let’s talk about them.” (I read all about it on the Living Story blog.) (I write this only because it’s something I might do:).
I’m thinking — Reading the Psalms, which are all about disorientation and re-orientation, prayer, understanding and good conversation may be ways to walk well with a graduate (or anyone in transition). Letting someone know we’re listening to their hearts, remembering how those questions were answered for us or them in the past could be very helpful in these days. What do you think?
I have the great privilege of teaching on Galatians 2 this Sunday. It’s a convoluted chapter in some ways, and I admit, I had to read it about 5 times to break down what Paul was saying. (I also needed to read the background of what was going on, because Galatians, after all, is a letter written in response to the Galatians’ movement toward doing things that they thought would make them right, and the author, Paul, is answering certain accusations against him that they already know about.
After studying the passage, I reread part of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians, and came again to this. “Passive righteousness” is the heavy-duty term for the reality that Christ in his death and resurrection made us right with God, something we could never do for ourselves. I love the fact that Luther says it is a “mystery” that we cannot ever completely understand it — because I find myself teaching it sometimes and thinking, “but wait, how can this be…does this even make sense?” And I guess the answer is, that in our limited, fallen way of thinking, it really doesn’t. But enough from me, listen to how well Luther talks about our human tendency to want to be right, and the problems that raises:
“2. The need for Christian righteousness
This “passive” righteousness is a mystery that the world cannot understand. Indeed,
Christians never completely understand it themselves, and thus do not take advantage
of it when they are troubled and tempted. So we have to constantly teach it, repeat it,
and work it out in practice. Anyone who does not understand this righteousness or
cherish it in the heart and conscience will continually be buffeted by fears and
depression. Nothing gives peace like this passive righteousness.
For human beings by nature, when they get near either danger or death itself, will of
necessity examine their own worthiness. We defend ourselves before all threats by
recounting our good deeds and moral efforts. But then the remembrance of sins and
flaws inevitably comes to mind, and this tears us apart, and we think, “How many
errors and sins and wrongs I have done! Please God, let me live so I can fix and amend
them.” We become obsessed with our active righteousness and are terrified by its
imperfections. But the real evil is that we trust our own power to be righteous and will
not lift up our eyes to see what Christ has done for us… So the troubled conscience
has no cure for its desperation and feeling of unworthiness unless it takes hold of the
forgiveness of sins by grace, offered free of charge in Jesus Christ, which is this
passive or Christian righteousness… If I tried to fulfill the law myself, I could not trust in
what I had accomplished, neither could it stand up to the judgment of God. So…I rest
only upon the righteousness of Christ… which I do not produce but receive, God the
Father freely giving it to us through Jesus Christ.
How do we find the beauty in stories that feel like they’ve uprooted us from what we thought we knew?
I love our Sarah Sisterhood, because I am surrounded by brave-hearted women willing to struggle together to understand the hope of the gospel in every story, especially the broken ones. Today’s gathering sent me back this post on broken stories.
What do we do with the pain of a broken story? For the pain in my shoulder, most days I just want relief. I want it to go away. But when I’m in my “best desperation,” I want God — “in healing or not-healing” as I once prayed. Yesterday, I read a story Larry Crabb shared in SoulTalk. He draws me to pray that I won’t settle for anything less than God’s heart.
Dear friends called him for counsel regarding their sixteen-year-old daughter. She had just told them that she had had an abortion a month ago. For them, as it would be for many of us, it was the death of a story they had written about their family and for their daughter. As Crabb points out, there are lots of good Christian ways of responding to such a tragedy – praying, having long talks, calling a counselor. The danger, he points out, is missing the crucial question that we should really all be asking all the time. [This is my translation of his point]: What are we trying to do in the midst of this broken story? Are we just trying to find all the pieces in the shredder and glue them back together again? Or – a far more gospel response – are we desperate to know God’s heart more deeply through this event? Are we willing to confess things like, “I’ve wanted my daughter to live the story I scripted for her, and I’m not really interested in what you have in mind, God”? Or, will we dive into the mess with humility, praying something like this, as Crabb writes,
“God, we plead with you to restore our daughter to wholeness in Christ. But if that never happens, we declare today that the deepest longing of our hearts is to know and enjoy and reveal you to others. Free us in our brokenness to celebrate your receiving grace as we approach you, to depend on the Son’s redeeming grace as we face our sin and move forward, and to become sensitive to the Spirit’s rhythmic grace as we enter the battle for our daughter’s soul.”
On Monday, I mentioned that in church we had sung, “It is well with my soul,” and I didn’t have time to tell the story behind that song for me. Here is a brief version:
Peggy and I became friends in a small group couples’ Bible study. Since her husband often travelled, and my husband, a resident, worked many Sundays, we often sat together in church. I loved standing next to Peggy, tall, lovely songbird, listening to her strong high voice. She told me, “It is well” was her favorite hymn, though I can’t remember why.
Then, one day, Peggy was murdered. In her driveway, one night after coming home from work. It made no sense. Everyone loved Peggy. Her murderers didn’t even know her. Our pastor preached a powerful sermon that has helped me through other inexplicably bizarre stories. He said, “The question is not ‘why’ but ‘who’.”
Back to the hymn. In that season, I listened to this song over and over. I could hear Peggy singing it in my head. I never came to understand Peggy’s death. But I did come slowly, slowly to be able to say, “Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well with my soul.’”
Sunday began a week of praying and waiting for stories of major trials in three people whom I dearly love. When we sang, “It is well,” I knew it was God’s way of reminding me of his steadfast goodness. When we sang the chorus, the men led out, “It is well,” and the women sweetly echoed, “it is well….” In that lovely chorus of women’s voices, I thought I could just hear Peggy’s, singing from heaven, telling me, “It is truly well with my soul.”
I’ve copied the words below for you to read and consider. May you know God’s love in the midst of difficult circumstances today.
- When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
- Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
- My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
- For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
- But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
- And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer always challenges my preconceptions and misconceptions. Read this devotional from I Want to Live These Days with You and tell me what you think:
“Not everyone can wait: neither the sated nor the satisfied nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them and people who look up with reverence to the greatest in the world. Thus Advent can be celebrated only by those whose souls give them no peace, who know that they are poor and incomplete, and who sense something of the greatness that is supposed to come, before which they can only bow in humble timidity, waiting until he inclines himself toward us — the Holy One himself, God in the child in the manger.
God is coming; the Lord Jesus is coming: Christmas is coming. Rejoice, O Christendom!….When the old Christendom spoke of the coming again of the Lord Jesus, it always thought first of all of a great day of judgment. And as un-Christmas-like as this idea may appear to us, it comes from early Christianity and must be taken with utter seriousness…The coming of God is truly not only a joyous message, but is, first, frightful news for anyone with a conscience.
And only when we have felt the frightfulness of the matter can we know the incomparable favor. God comes in the midst of evil, in the midst of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And in judging it, he loves us, he purifies us, he sanctifies us, he comes to us with his grace and love. He makes us happy as only children can be happy.”