Friday, March 18, 2011

Distracted by Jesus

There are, broadly, two different ways to deal with our mortality: we can either deny it or we can fight it.

Denial itself can either be the hope that we may escape death or our eyes-shut-tight refusal to acknowledge it. Practically speaking, I think we most often fall into this category. I say practically because, though we may profess differently, we generally live our lives as if we believe that we are not going to die.

We live fully in the moment, absorbed in our immediate surroundings.


These distractions can include seemingly trivial hobbies but they could also be a career, family, or philanthropy. It could be art or self-expression. Sometimes the pursuit of meaning or understanding itself is our distraction; or maybe it is love, both giving and receiving it. These are often the most powerful, we may even build an entire life upon them.

If we are not refusing to acknowledge our mortality, then we are likely fighting against it. For some people, this does mean trying to live forever physically (isn't Walt Disney still frozen?). For more people, however, it means leaving an eternal legacy or a "mark." The desire to leave a part of "you" behind after your are gone is simultaneously noble and fundamental. It gives us comfort to know that, after we are gone, a piece of us will continue; it doesn't so much matter if that piece is a scholarship foundation or a child.

From a practical perspective, these two responses both still end in eventual death and decay. The best we can hope for is to prolong our life, be it 100 or 1,000,000 years. The only thing that can transform our fate, rather than distract us from it or delay it, is Jesus Christ.

This is the heart and flesh of the "Good News."


The trouble is that such transformation does not necesarily guarantee a happy, satisfying, or pain-free life. After all, there are plenty of people who do not follow Christ living fulfilling lives out there. By the same token, there are plenty of followers of Jesus Christ leading unfulfilling, empty lives. Devoid of hope.

I realized this as I was listening to a lovely song about grace, that there are so many hurting people out there that are hiding their pain. As I thought about this, I realized that there are likely as many wounded and desperate Christians out there as there are wounded and desperate non-Christians.

How can this be? How can we all be experiencing the same levels of fear, doubt, and loss when some of us claim to have exclusive access to grace, peace and hope?

Make no mistake, dubious Christian, we are, all of us, lost and hurting. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I praise God on your behalf. But I can think of 15 people in my personal life who deeply love Jesus, love His word, and follow Him who experience fear, doubt, pain, and some deep darkness in their present, one of them being me.

Just like we wrongly assume anorexics are skinny, we wrongly assume that hurting people are sad. We're not, not all the time anyway. Sometimes we laugh and make jokes. Sometimes we feel good and even experience joy.

Joy doesn't preclude hurt.

Why then? Why do we have hope and yet not feel hopeful? There is no simple answer for this Problem of Pain lies at the core of who we are as humans, yet I think I might understand a small piece of it.
Sometimes, we make the mistake of making a hobby out of Jesus.

Sometimes, we turn Him into an activity, something we do on the weekends, an activity to promote our spiritual health, like Yoga. But it doesn't change the substance of our lives. Like many of our other distractions it buoys up our spirits temporarily and fills some of those late-night hours that would otherwise be spent in pondering the meaning of our lives.

We believe in God. Still, we live fully in the moment, absorbed in our immediate surroundings. Serving. Doing. Loving. Praying.

Distracted by Jesus.

A good friend of mine said recently, I don't want 'to be' a pastor, it's not my job or even my calling, it's me. I can't stop it, I would lose myself.

I am not a Christian because I adopt a philosophy or subscribe to a pattern of living. I am Christian because it is me. If I limit my faith to what I do or what I believe, there is a painful emptiness in the center of my being. I lose myself.

This is a bear of a distinction to make because so much of what we do and believe does, indeed define us. I cannot make a better explanation than Acts 17:28
" Him we live and move and have our being...'"
Like blood in veins, air lungs. He breathes through us: living, moving, being.

How can you tell if you've made a hobby of Jesus?

Props to Coffee Shop Dharma for the photo!
The Light Meets The Dark
"You Are More" by Tenth Avenue North

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