Who needs pain to survive?
I need pain to change my life.
(Billy Corgan, Camera's Eye)
Life is ridiculous. It just is. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, it's just a fact. It's one of those things you've got to accept sometimes. And if you're wondering what I'm talking about when I say 'life', I suppose all I mean is existence, and the span of time that we've created to chart that existence -- from birth to death.
I won't pretend that my life is overly hard or that I've had an extremely rough time of it. God's always been faithful, and I know that I've had a relatively easy life in light of some of the other scenarios I see people trudging through. But I've had my share of challenges, as everyone has.
But life can seem really ridiculous when the cards you're holding in your hand look like they belong in a completely different game. Life is Texas Hold 'Em, and you've got a handful of Jokers.
"Um, God. Weren't we supposed to take the Jokers out of the deck before we started playing?" And God's like, "Are you kidding? It's more fun this way."
And then I'm like, "Uh, God. I've heard you're all-knowing and all that jazz, but...do you even know how to play this?"
And then He's like, "I invented the game, pal."
And then I'm like, "...."
And then He's like, "Yeah, that's right. Sucka."
(Alright, so maybe a conversation with God doesn't sound exactly like that.)
My parents told the family last week that they're moving to Edmonton end of August. It was pretty sudden -- I don't think any of us saw it coming, though they'd obviously been thinking about it for some time. Still, anouncements like that are losing their shock value. I figured it out the other day that in my 22 years on planet Earth, I've averaged a residency of 4 years or so. Actually, that's based on my family moves and only to different cities. It doesn't take into account moves within the same city/town, or my personal relocations. If it did, the average would be even lower. It's actually funny, the more I think about it. I'd make a good fugitive.
One thing I've always craved, though, is security -- safety. I've always wanted a place I could go to that was home. Somewhere I knew I could always go back to if there was no where else to turn. Somewhere safe, somewhere I had roots, somewhere non-threatening. But it takes time for me to build that sort of safety, that feeling of security, that comfort. And the ironic thing is that every time I reach that feeling, that sense of being at peace with my surroundings, God takes it away. Just like that. One way or another, He takes it away.
I couldn't for the life of me figure it out. I couldn't understand why it seems that all of these other people I know don't have to deal with this crap -- this constant churning, repetitive changing. I suppose that's a very 'inverted' outlook on life, and a pretty selfish worldview -- always comparing what I imagine I see to what I experience in my own life. It's ridiculous.
I've designed my dreams around something that has never and will never exist. I'm very much like the man who built his house on the sand. I can fantasize about living a fairy tale life where everything is safe and unpainful, unchanging even, all I want. But that life doesn't exist. It never has. Yet for some reason we human beings want to believe it can. And we spend our lives trying to make it a reality. We work our whole lives trying to make our lives secure, to fill it with things that make us comfortable (reminds me of the best line in Fight Club: "We work jobs we hate to buy sh** we don't need."). We want stability. We want equilibrium.
But we're looking in the wrong direction. We're trying to make it happen by micro-managing everything that comes into our life. We want to be our own gods. We want to pretend we see all, know all, can do all -- and yet when reality throws a stick in our spokes, our wheels seize up and our life goes flying over the handle bars. Then we're stuck picking gravel out of our faces.
At work the other day I was scraping down some random wall that needed to be painted, because I had to get all the old flakes off first. It was very monotonous. But it was good 'space-out' time, where I could let my mind wander and not have to worry about falling into a machine and being eaten alive. And it came into my head that although it was a boring job, at least it was secure. I knew I could do it, I knew I was doing a good job and my bosses were happy, and I knew that I wasn't going to get fired. And then I thought about how terrible it would be to be stuck doing that for the rest of my life. And then I thought about how God gives us things to do for certain times, and then brings change into our lives to take us to even better things -- maybe not "better" in the way the world thinks, but better because they are what we were made to do. And then I thought about how wrong my focus has been in life. I've been craving security, when what I am supposed to be craving is trust.
I know that I'm not alone in all this. The story of Exodus popped into my head while I was thinking about it, about how Israel had the very same problem I do (though obviously on a much bigger and more drastic scale). They wanted security. And yet God has never and will never be a "safe" God. That was never His plan for Israel. Or me. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, they were happy. They were being rescued from a very crappy situation. Working like animals, no union, no coffee breaks (gasp!). So when they had the chance to move out, they took it. And then God does all this crazy stuff. Like open up a sea. Drown an Egyptian army. Lead them by way of a pillar of fire. Feed them with weird something-or-rathers. Defeat massive enemy after massive enemy. And yet they still became afraid. They missed their security, the routine of everyday life. Want to talk about ridiculous? The Israelites begged Moses to let them go back to slavery! At least there they had job security! At least there they knew what to expect every morning!
They didn't trust God. And yet that's what God ultimately demands of every single person. Israel, me, you. Billy Bob Joe. Trust is one of the uno importanto themes in the Bible -- every story in it has something to do with God asking people to trust Him.
"Adam & Eve -- don't eat from that tree. Trust me."
"Noah, build a big boat in the middle of nowhere. Trust me."
"Moses, stick it to Pharaoh. Trust me."
"Saul, you're now Royalty. Trust me."
"David, kill that guy who is a bajillion times your height with a rock to the head. Trust me."
"Hosea, marry a whore. Trust me."
"Israel, you screw around on me and you're going to experience some pretty crappy consequences. Trust me."
"Paul, I'm taking away your eyes. Go see Ananias. Get your act together. Trust me."
For that matter, "Ananias, I'm sending the guy who kills people like you to you. Heal him. Trust me."
And yet I doubt. I don't trust that God will look after me, will care for my needs (or maybe I'm more concerned about my wants?), will stick with me even when I screw up. Yet all He wants is for me to trust Him. It's funny, you know, when Jesus was talking to Jairus, the guy who's daughter was sick and wanted Jesus to come heal her. And on the way some people came and told them that his daughter had died and that there was no point bothering Jesus anymore. And then the story goes, "Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, 'Don't be afraid; just believe
' (Mark 5:36)." As if it is just that simple. "Just believe, pal. Just trust me." No formula, no ten-year plan, no paperwork to get through. No deposit needed. No waiting in line. No trying to prove to God that you are 'worthy' of His help. Just trust. Just believe, man. How over-simple does God make the most complicated things sometimes? I can't believe! I need to know
! I need to understand in perfect clarity what my next five steps are going to be before I can move from where I'm at. And yet God's trying to gradually lead me to "the Promised Land" -- as cliche as that may sound. He just wants me to trust Him. The Israelites lost a generation of people in the desert because they didn't trust God at His word. There are consequences for our lack of belief.
But I want to be like that guy who said, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).
The funny thing about trusting, though, is that it's all about action. Anyone remember that old school DC Talk song, "Love is a Verb"? Well, I think trust is also a verb. If you trust, you've gotta act, you've gotta do something about it. You can't just say, "I trust you" and then sit down and do nothing. If God's saying to trust Him, trust Him -- go where He's asking you to go, do what He wants you to do. No matter how scary or painful or ridiculous it can seem. It is simple and unbelievably hard all at the same time. But ultimately, it's your life. You've gotta make your own decisions, make your own calls, because when you're face to face with Yahweh, He's not going to give a rip about excuses. This is your
life; this is my
life. All of my wanting to live in someone else's shoes will mean a whole lot of doggy doo in the end. God doesn't give us anyone else's shoes to wear. He gives us our own pair, custom made. Trust that He's the ultimate shoe-maker (as it were). The shoes you've got are the ones He wants you to have.
: That was for metaphorical purposes only. The author makes no claims that people should stop buying literal shoes. Thank you.)