"Difficulty is actually the atmosphere surrounding a miracle, or a miracle in its initial stage. Yet if it is to be a great miracle, the surrounding condition will be not simply a difficulty but an utter impossibility. And it is the clinging hand of His child that makes a desperate situation a delight to God." Streams in the Desert October 14th
I have been ruminating on these words for the past few days and finding them to be completely counterintuitive because when the situations in my life look like they are breaking down around me, my natural impulse is to freak out. When things look bad my spirit fills with dread. I feel myself losing control as I slide towards the edge of the cliff.
The words above remind me to see life's troubles as opportunities for transformation and renewal.
I think a large piece of this whole process has to do with being redirected. We make our way through life repeating our daily routines, when suddenly something unexpected happens that changes everything. This change in trajectory may happen with the loss of a job or in the death of a loved one. Perhaps it comes to us in the loss of a particular freedom and measure of independence. When I was ten years old my mother suddenly died in her sleep. It was completely unexpected and it changed my life forever. Two years later I would be living in a brand new house in a different neighborhood, riding in a brand new car sitting with three new siblings with a new mother sitting beside my Dad. It was a drastic redirection of my life that was both terrible and wonderful -- mysteriously woven together.
This whole notion of life difficulties setting the stage for miracles to happen is about us coming to the end of ourselves. When we find ourselves in situations were we are suddenly powerless, that is the place were God's power will manifest. These are the conditions for the supernatural to break through. This is where things get really interesting. Think of the story of David and Goliath. David, a boy with only a few stones and a sling coming into combat with an armored professional soldier who was also a giant. Seen from the perspective of common sense David's complete failure was eminent yet that's not what happened that day. Little David walked off with Goliath's sword and massive head. David stepped into the situation without fear, knowing God was with him. That's the way I choose to live my life... which is often pockmarked with trouble and impossibilities -that are also windows of opportunity, miracles waiting to happen.
Thomas Merton said, Art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. I love this because it reminds me of how conflicted real life is. Jesus told us we must lose our life in order to find it.
It seems to be the case that things in my life often seem to be falling apart and coming together all at the same time. There is this constant flickering of almost superhuman strength coupled together with an almost crippling sense of vulnerability, here today and gone tomorrow.
I was skimming through some of my past blog entries to give myself a sense of what my flow has been when I stumbled into the phrase; robust sanity. This was plucked from a Eugene Peterson essay in his beautiful Message translation of the Bible. I will quote again the proverb I shared in that blog back in December that is Peterson's translation.
Fear-of-God is a school in skilled living-
first you learn humility, then you experience glory.
This is a good reminder to me - that this constant back and forth of extremes that I feel in my life, is what real living has always been about, and will continue to be. It may be the back and forth of God's holy sand paper as he works away at my jagged corners and stubborn lumps.
Natural Disaster (listen to song here)
She's a natural disaster, ain't nothing faster
coming to your town, just to blow it down
waking you up in the middle of the night
she don't care a damn thing about treating you right
she's bringing destruction, it's her big production
so mister get your self ready for the reconstruction
I can't help but wonder who gave her all her thunder
what we did to deserve her wrath incurred
now she's swinging her censor a smoking fragrance of disaster
I wish she'd just calm down and skip over our town
but there's anger in her eyes that's hard to survive
knocking over the trees, gett'n us down to our knees
reconnecting our lives to some real live pain
here come the tears, mixed up with the rain
with a big gust of wind, she pushes her way in
it feels like the end of the world in a storm with the name of a girl
Photo by Rose Beerhorst
Don't panic, I'm with you.
There's no need to fear for I'm your God.
I'll give you strength. I'll help you.
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
There are times when the notion of God and his active involvement in every aspect of our life -- is more a hopeful idea, than a palpable reality. Then comes times when this idea crashes through the abstract and the invisible, to sit down in your lap -- making it almost impossible to breath.
I am convinced that in the times of our life, when we feel the most vulnerable -- the most on the edge of the cliff, are the times when the reality of God becomes a heartbeat you can hear, a warm breath on the back of your neck. The built-in irony to all of this is -- the way we build fortresses in our lives - to protect ourselves from calamity. This protecting ourselves may be effectively keeping God at a distance at the very same time.
Suppose hardships had the power to pull us in tighter to the reality of God? There is a sentence in Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians that says,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
At the Beerhorst house we are reminded of this on a regular basis for is seems that our weaknesses greet us around almost every corner. We have to see this for what it really is, a blessing. This is were it gets weird because we are conditioned to think of blessings (finding favor with God or the heavens) in terms of "nice things" happening to us. We do not associate hard patches of experience with blessing. Perhaps the deeper truth is that we are blessed no matter what we may be feeling at any given experience because it all is part of this mysterious dance we are doing with God.