I have a feeling it’s going to take me a few posts to really cut down to the heart of things. It is extremely important to me that you who read this series understand that I am not writing about mourning, or about surviving, because I think You! Too! Should! Be! Happy! I am not pushing my way through this single topic for 31 Days because I think There! Is! A! Formula! and that if you follow it You! Will! Be! Whole!
Pardon the exclamation points. But this really matters to my heart.
I don’t believe there are 21 steps you can take to be all better, or 3 tips you can follow for a happy life, or that happiness can come in a series of ten checked boxes. There is no way in hell I’m going to tell you that to get over sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, the stolen childhood, or anything else that has utterly broken your heart, all you need to DO is X, Y and Z.
I’m not even going to say that all you need is Jesus.
Even though it’s true. Because, Jesus.
But the reason I’m not going to come at you directly with “all you need is Jesus” is because most of the time when we say “all you need is Jesus” we attach to this truth a whole list of how-tos.
“All you need is Jesus, so pray.”
“All you need is Jesus so stop taking those anti-depressants.”
“All you need is Jesus so if you are still having panic attacks then I guess you don’t have enough faith.”
“All you need is Jesus so read this, do this, say this, and join a small group if you’re actually committed. Then you’ll see!”
I’m not going to tell you how the Lion of War intends to show up in your battles, or how the Prince of Peace will choose to establish his reign in your hurting mind, or how this Father to the Fatherless and Husband to the Husbandless will quiet you with his love. I honestly don’t know how. I only know he can. And that he promises he will. And that sometimes we don’t feel it the way we want to feel. And that sometimes it just doesn’t feel real. And sometimes it is very hard to believe.
My son and I are reading a book in which the author stresses over and over the difference between synthetic and analytical thinking. There is a difference between the question “how” and the question “why.” If you say you are going outside today and I ask you why, you will not say “because I am opening the door.” No. That would be silly. Opening the door is HOW you get outside, but it isn’t why.
We Christians love our experiences with God and so in our attempt to convey the hope we’ve derived from the kindness he’s shown, in our desire to see the people we love be similarly swept away, we are apt to reduce our experience with Divinity to a set of how-tos. Stick with me a minute; I’m going to use the analogy from the children’s book to show what I mean, okay?
“God took me outside! He took me to this incredible vista and I saw so clearly and I heard distinctly and I FELT that am loved!”
We clamor around. The intuitive among us (who haven’t quite forsaken the childlike heart) ask, “why?” But the rest of us common-sense adults respond practically, “how?”
(We know that to get B, one must do A. Easy-peasy.)
“Oh, first I put on shoes, then I turned the door knob, then I opened the door, then I stepped outside! Try it!”
So we do. We all put on shoes, turn knobs, open doors, and take steps. And, because it’s a natural law, some of us see something lovely. And other of us…don’t.
And then when those for whom the formula “worked” see that the others have come up short, we want to figure out why.
“Well, maybe your shoes aren’t tied properly. Maybe you stepped outside with your left foot first. Maybe you went through the door but your heart wasn’t in the right place. It must be something you did wrong, because I did it and found God, so you ought to be able to, too.”
You see where this is going. How and Why are two very different questions, and we have to learn which to ask, and when.
What if instead the conversation went like this?
“…and he took me outside and I saw this beautiful vista…”
“Why? Well, now, well, I don’t know. I think because…he loves me. I think he loves me.”
I don’t know about you, but if I was the one asking why in this situation, my heart would burn within me at an answer such as this.
I would want to MEET this Jesus.
Are you following me?
It’s never going to be steps or formulas or checklists or perfectly filled boxes that heal our souls. It’s going to be a Person. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Persons – even God-Persons – can be very surprising in the methods they employ.
There are true things about God. And these true things about God can meet our true experiences and transform them according to His kindness and purpose for our lives. But I ardently believe that our way forward is one of interacting with God as a Person, not one of interacting with the Christian Life as thing to be attained.
We grow in our understanding of WHO he is, and we take steps (bold or tentative) toward him in the context of who he reveals himself to be. It’s not about doing All The Things. It never has been. He’s just way bigger than that, you guys.
So tomorrow I’m going to continue to break down “blessed is the one who mourns for he shall be comforted.“ I’m going to dig through the Greek and come back up for air waving jewels excitedly in your face – but please, please, come with me knowing we’re not excavating a formula. We’re in this for far more than that.
We’re in this thing for a God, a wild and glorious God, a safe and protective God, a gentle and strong and good and holy and an Everlasting Almighty God. A God worthy of all of our praise and all of our honor and all of our worship and all of our hearts and worthy even of all the risks entailed in a dangerous, liberating journey into the scary depths of mourning.
So stay with me, please. I need you.
This post is part of Survivor Songs, a 31-Day series. A full list of posts is found here.