Do you hear it? Have you felt it? This time of year can churn within us and around us a holy imagination as well as a holy aggravation.
Christmas songs for example, great…..until about the 15th one in a row! Take “Mary Did you Know”. Beautiful song, biblically inaccurate. NO! She didn’t know! I just lost all credibility with some you, but you get it. Plan and execute memorable holiday gatherings, attend all the parties, buy the right presents, host people, navigate grief. Holy imagination and holy aggravation.
Wherever you are this day or this year, as you scan your own year-end review, take comfort in the Heidelberg confession when asked Q “what is your only comfort in life and in death?”
“That I am not my own, but I belong – body and soul, in life and death – to my faithful savior Jesus Christ. And, because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
Isn’t that a soaring piece of historical theology? And still, if we are sincere and sober on how the last two years have been, this quote might not land so neatly in the soil of our souls.
The Psalms give us an opening to cry, complain, and lament in real and raw ways. They capture the explosive joy as well as the sorrow, confusion, and existential dread of the human experience. Bono, famous singer of U2, explains the Psalms show us something recognizable, something accessible to the stuff we feel but rarely voice.
You’ve felt it. Many of us know what it’s like to show up and sing songs about how good and great God is, but what do I say when I’m struggling? It is in those moments of unhindered honesty that true transformation comes. Check out Psalm 13.
Question – have you ever written your own Psalm? In Seminary we were invited to scan the Psalms, be unhinderedly honest before God, or as the pastor/theologian Eugene Peterson says we must find a way to cuss, without cussing. Write out what wants to come out. The results, clarity, and confidence in God, through the inner tumult, was astonishing.
Challenge – would you write your own Psalm as you close 2022?
Reading Psalm 13 reminds of the recently published “The Word According to Gen-Z: using a made-up language for a real generation.” They say of Micah 7:8
“Don’t flex on me, sus dudes. If I slip, I won’t dip. When life goes
on dark mode, God keeps it lit.”
Did any of that make sense to you? This is a little taste of what being a student pastor is like! For those unfamiliar with a made up language, if you look at Psalm 13, the Gen-z version is very close to v.3. That is all to say, in a season that churns both imagination and aggravation, God is teaching us to trust him when the lights are on and especially when they are off.
Queue that ancient hymn when darkness sees to hide his fast, I rest on his unchanging grace. Or as Corrie Ten Boom the holocaust survivor turned spiritual writer says:
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw
away your ticket and jump off. You still and trust the driver.”
This helps us join in with the ‘love-addict’ turned saint, St. Augustine when he says our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you. So, when you look at your life you can call to mind that God never wastes a hurt. His delays are not his denials. That He is more concerned about building your character than your comfort.
But, what’s love got to do, got to do with it? Love, like the Scripture, is both confrontation and encouragement? God’s love both confronts and encourages.
Example – A few weeks ago I was driving and lamenting to God about the lack of godly men in the world. The reception of me, from God, was kind. Then, there was an exchange. Q (God to me) ‘so you want to be a safe/godly man in this world?’ A (me to Him) ‘yes!’. A (God to me) ‘that’s a great desire, so in what ways are you not allowing me to Father you?’
Offfff…..and, I needed to repent of an unbiblically low view of God’s love. God loves you and I too much to leave us to the smallness of what we know.
That’s what Advent is: a celebration of about the sending love of Jesus, the crushing of Satan’s schemes, and the gift of life that is truly life. Last song reference, I promise. WHAM made it popular, “Last Christmas”. How do the lyrics go, “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away. This year to save me some tears, I’ll give it to someone special.”
Isn’t that song so frustrating and so sad?! Did “Last Christmas” teach you nothing?! Last year you thought that other person was special! How about this year let’s give our hearts to someone who is truly special. The one who leaped down the cosmos for you. The one who came to destroy the works of the devil. The one who gave his life for your life. The one who hung on the tree, so that you could be made lovely. Jesus, the one who meets us in our celebration and lamentation. His life and love are the firmest foundation.
While growing up in Arlington Heights, IL, it wasn’t until the start of my senior year did I start to wonder if Jesus was worth considering. For me, it took the intellectual, communal, and personal components to come together to say – yes – to Him. I like to say He captured the restlessness of my soul and like a guitar restrung my heart with the cords of eternity and it hasn’t gone back since.
Shortly after coming to know Jesus as my greatest hope and reality, my father died. Since then, I’ve taken great comfort in Corrie Ten Boom’s words, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”
Then, not long after that, a family member came out to me. For the first time this dimension of life – spirituality and sexuality – wasn’t an abstract concept, this was and is a person. After attending to them with grace and truth, an odd phenomenon kept happening to me, or has it been for something? Individuals would continually trust me with their questions, wounds, and curiosities about their sexuality. At this point, it’s climbed to 15+. From there, I’ve invested the better part of eight years being engaged with individuals and immersed in the dizzying array of literature on these areas of our personhood.
I’ve found Elizabeth Elliot’s words to have great bearing on our cultural moment: “Faith doesn’t eliminate questions, but faith knows where to take them.” Two prayers that have grounded and guided my life are: “I long to have faith and obedience like those I see in the Scriptures, and I long to preach the gospel to the nations.”
Those are my life’s aims. Among my love of books, reflection, and nurturing meaningful relationships, I enjoy good coffee, jazz music, golf, snowboarding, the movies, pizza (pepperoni), cooking, the mountains, and the beach as well as traveling.
I hold an MDiv from Denver Seminary, and I hope to gain more clarity on pursuing a PhD in the coming years.
I’m humbled and honored to join the WGA staff and contribute to the on-going space they are curating for every person, every story, and every beautiful and broken aspect of our human experience.
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