Thursday, May 24, 2012

narrow gate, difficult road

"You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

I think Cambodia has taught me a lot about narrow gates and difficult roads. Maneuvering through tight spaces and navigating hazardous streets are mandatory for driving in Cambodia. I have developed a keen sense of spatial reasoning that I never before would have claimed. Daily I ask myself questions like this, "Can you fit through that tiny space between the trash truck and moto carrying the live chickens?" What is the reward for doing so? Well, partially the ability to breathe without gagging and partially because there is a certain satisfaction of weaving to the front of the line of traffic waiting for a green light. It is the joy of finding the opening, deeming that it is indeed possible to fit through, and seizing it before someone else robs you of the opportunity.

I think following Jesus is sometimes like that. There is a joy in finding the openings, realizing that beyond all rationality you can actually fit, and jumping in with both feet.

That is not to say that you may not get bumped in the process. Or, that you may not have to do some skillful bobbing and weaving. The road is difficult. Unpredictable things happen. Sometimes the sky opens up and pours on you without warning. People try to cut you off, and they often succeed. Sometimes you have to slam on the brakes. Other times you have to gun it. I think we are often surprised when we learn about the gate and actually realize that the road to get there is not as nicely paved as we would like. We are frustrated when the lane lines are missing...if the road is even wide enough for lanes. We are annoyed by the herd of cattle leisurely crossing the road in front of us. And, I think we forget that this life is about the journey, the journey we were already warned was difficult.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Expectations. High ones. Low ones. Somewhere in the middle ones.

I am realizing more and more that my expectations for myself are extremely high, probably unachievable. Most of the time I am not bothered by this. I prefer to work toward the impossible. I know I am a bit of an idealist sometimes, but the rest of the time I am a realist. I balance myself out. Most of the time I really like setting high goals. I like working hard, filling my days, being intentional and structured. I like dreaming at least six impossible things before breakfast (I guess, the Queen of Hearts did offer a bit of wisdom to poor Alice in the midst of Wonderland). But, sometimes these expectations become a bit much. This became quite obvious to me in the last couple weeks when I felt quite confident that there were not enough hours in the day, or days in the week, for me to be able to fulfill all of my commitments, to accomplish all of my plans. I had homework and work and meetings and obligations and spotty Internet and...other expectations I had placed on myself.

And, really, the problem with expectations is that we don't just have them for ourselves. We have them for everyone else, too. We have them for friends, teachers, co-workers, family, and even God. In this, I have realized that my expectations of others are often quite low. This is not because I have terrible people in my life. Quite the opposite. But still, I have low expectations. I think maybe it is because I used to have ridiculously high expectations of others and was disappointed so many times that in a lot of ways I simply gave up expecting. It is not fair, but it is true. I hope that one day it is not true anymore.

I hope especially that it is not true about God. I know that sometimes my expectations are low. I do not doubt for a moment whether or not God has the power, authority, and ability to cast a mountain into the ocean or remove a cancerous tumor instantly or heal my heat-induced mid-afternoon headache. I do not doubt that He can, but I sometimes doubt that He will. I do not expect it. My faith is not dependent upon that. Some may call that maturity, a deep-rooted belief in God's sovereignty even when it is not understood. I like this. Some may call it cowardly, yellow-bellied. I do not like this, but I fear that this may be more accurate. Maybe I expect more of my created being than I do of its Creator. Maybe the many distractions of this world crowd out the great expectations. Maybe I am too afraid of being disappointed to expect anything at all. Maybe, actually most assuredly, there is a loving God who will take my mess and teach me once again what it means to expect wonders that never cease. This is my prayer today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

thoughts on faith

I am unsure whether I am qualified to make a post about faith, but then, I am not sure that anyone is. Faith is a bit of a tricky thing, I guess. I am not sure what it is really supposed to look like. I have been trying to figure it out. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." But, sometimes I have had the faith that something I hoped for would work out. I hoped against hope that it would, but it didn't. And, instead of being crushed and disappointed, I was actually relieved and thankful. For many years I earnestly believed that when I graduated from college, an opportunity to go live in the bush of Africa would fall into my lap. It didn't. And, I am quite glad for that now. I suppose I could chalk that up to an immature faith, or a self-centered rather than God-centered hope. But, the truth is that I just don't know. It does not say that we have to have a mature faith in order to get what we hope for. What constitutes a mature faith in the first place? And, how do I explain the things that have come to pass as a result of my confident faith, even in its immature state?
The truth is that there are things in which it is easy for me to have faith. Gravity. I believe that a gravitational pull is keeping me from floating to the clouds. The moon. I believe that the moon and stars are still in their places even though I cannot see them when the sun is shining. The resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was not there. I did not see the empty tomb. I did not touch the scars in His hands, but I believe they are there.
2 Corinthians 5:7, "For we live by believing and not by seeing."
But, sometimes I want to know that one day I will see all these things I believe come to pass. Is that unreasonable? I am afraid that it might be. I am not going to cease believing because I don't see, but I cannot say that I blame others for doing so. I am not shocked when tragedies happen and people "lose" their faith in God. What happened to the assurance of those hopes? By all rights, it seems that they were buried with someone's baby or burned in a house fire or exploded in a landmine. It is at those points that I avoid making judgments and clap my hand over my mouth before I stick my foot in it. Who am I to swab over another's reality with my confident assurance? That probably sounds harsher than it is meant to. I believe in God's sovereignty. I do not doubt it for a moment, but I am also aware that not everyone has this same confidence. And, I am just saying that I don't hold it against you. I get where you are coming from because really, I don't know that I could give you the hows and whys of it.
Maybe that is because faith just is. No hows. No whys.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." Matthew 5:45

I am not a fan of the above verse. I know that it is true. I have seen it. I have experienced it. But, I don't particularly like it.
I am a lover of justice, and in my teeny tiny worldview, this cannot be just. How can the same sun shine on the abused and the abuser? How can the same rain fall on the adopted and the abandoned? How can this be? But, it is.
It just is, and it forces me back into the place I need to be. The place where I have to trust that far above and beyond what I see and feel and hear and experience, my God is good. His justice is right. He is justice, and it is my view that is skewed. There are things that I am confident break God's heart far more than they break mine. And, truthfully, there are days when I am overwhelmed with brokenness. There are days when my heart aches over single mothers who cannot afford to spend more than 80 percent of their income on childcare for one child, and so they tearfully consider leaving their precious babies on the doorstep of an orphanage. My heart aches for the mentally challenged woman who is repeatedly raped by men in her community because she is an "easy target." My heart aches for the lonely men who seek companionship in all the wrong places and the insecure women who accompany them. My heart aches for the families who just can't seem to catch a break or escape the devastating effects of cancer. My heart aches for the hurting teenagers no one wants to listen to. My heart aches for those who have to choose between necessary medications or having food in their cupboards. My heart aches for those who waste their lives on things that moths and rust will destroy.
But, the sun still shines and the rain still falls. Sometimes I just wish that it didn't...and maybe sometimes God feels that way, too...
"Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." Amos 5:24