As I make the transition into the second half of my life, I am noticing a number of subtle changes that are working their way through my life. At times the changes go unnoticed until I encounter a snag in a particular area which applies the right kind of pressure in just the right place. For instance, my body generally feels good as I go about my day to day life, but I am noticing that something has changed as I find gravity playing cruel tricks on me, like when I get up from sitting. It never used to be this difficult, and I never seemed to need a couple of steps to loosen up. And the noise I make !!- well, they are the kind of noises my dad makes!
But some of the more profound changes are most noticed in more difficult situations, in the shadow of disappointment, failure, and grief. I sometimes struggle because in it, it strikes me as unfair, especially when I am in a season with a string of disappointments. As I reflect on the aspect of it being unfair, and indignant with it all, it occurs to me that perhaps what is causing the greatest frustration is my world-view and how I believe life to work.
While not completely consciously, I think I actually believed that if I worked hard, carefully planned, was honest and decent, life would be all good. But life has taught me that there are no guarantees and just because I work hard, etc. doesn’t guarantee an easy, problem free life. Elementary, I know! All of us at some level cognitively know this - that life happens. I have the privilege to walk with a diverse assortment of people.Some very wealthy, some middle class and some quite poor by western standards. These are good, decent hard working people for the most part. Many of them are incredibly generous financially, relationally and live lives of integrity, and yet many have struggled with cancer, depression, life-changing accidents, marriage difficulties, vocational and financial struggles. My point is that difficulties in life affect all people regardless of social status. The difficulties can be very different but none the less difficult.
Life is. Life is lived. As Kierkegaard writes life is best understood by looking back but is lived going forward. I think that by recognizing the reality that life can be a mixed bag of blessing and struggle allows us to step away from feelings of being ripped off and the tyranny of working the living out of life in an attempt to avoid the things we cannot control anyway.
By releasing our unrealistic expectation of what life should be, it frees us to approach life in such a way that we can be grateful for the good things and grateful in the not-so-great because contained in them are opportunities for greater growth and wholeness. Moreover, some things are a natural part of life that simply cannot be avoided, and the path to peace with life is the acceptance of these realities. However, we miss all of this - life itself - when we mistakenly believe it is about fairness and a problem-free life that can be neatly orchestrated by good performance. You don’t choose a life, you live one.
The Gospel doesn’t promise a life of ease, free of challenge and pain but promises a full life and an abundant life with all its joys and victories, and with its pain and defeats. The Gospel proclaims a living hope that inspires all of life with the promise that we do not journey through life alone. We walk each day with God, present and active through it all. And add to that an eternal hope on the other side of the resurrection:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:1-4 NIV