real life conversations.
Rewind a month or two, on a Saturday evening I stopped for a cup of coffee: 2$ for a large cup with free refills is not a bad deal, and even better at 3:45am when I would have paid 4$ to not fall asleep on my way home. The ambiance of light filtering through spoon-and-fork or wine-bottle chandeliers onto dark and light blue striped walls with random bits of art and creations, large chairs and couches strewn into small group mingling places, or comfortable conversation starters: the place was empty save for a group in lively conversation in Hindi, a few students poking at laptops, and odds and ends wandering around or talking on the phone: a scene of escape. Yet two blocks and ten minutes before, I had to make a detour as police had the main road shut down – a hit and run apparently, and the pedestrian in a heap beside the curb, thrown away.
Our story has become broken, or better like a skipping record that plays the same bits over and over – hopeful change that sparks into disappointing results. The desire galvanized in our heart for meaning and belonging is so often frustrated and our ambition so easily discouraged. We have been taken captive by complacency: dulcet living and Xbox 360’s, crass jokes and mindless Friday nights, drama and confusion to point away from the truth. Turned away, what was hopeful begins to darken and what was vibrant begins to fade; the will becomes manipulated into a jaded half life that half accepts everything and fully seeks nothing; yet real life is all around us, the beauty and brokenness, that we have ceased to behold. We have fallen asleep.
I cannot deny it in my own life, that for so long the appearance of being busy has been more important than being busy – or appearing well somehow trumps being well. It creates such a strong conflict in my own heart because my natural tendency to look to my own ends and desires and the draw that compels me to fall before the feet of His holiness in humility. The call feels so loud and the need so great and yet so often I am content with what is mediocre – with what is just okay. Alister Begg once asked the question: “Where are the young men and their passion? Where are the young men and their one thing?” But often what inhibits me the most isn’t anything from without, but me.
Comfortable to accept a conventional concept of God, Job’s friends are quick to point out that it must be because of some wrong or hidden sin that he is suffering so much grief; even at the advice that he should ‘curse God and die’, Job neither yields to this by admitting faults he has not committed to satisfy their pious self-righteousness, nor does he turn and bring accusation against the justice of God. The end result of the story is the humbling of the arrogant and the new revelation to Job of God’s holiness from the whirlwind of thunder and lightning. The words of the last chapter are not of a man who has only suffered, but one who understands when he says: “until now I have heard of You with my ears but now I see You with my eyes…” (Job 42:5).
In contrast Luke 15 tells the story of the prodigal son; it is not uncommon to assume a correlation between ourselves and the younger son who is forgiven by his father: the idea that we will always be accepted and always be forgiven is appealing, but honesty provokes us to look deeper into the story. The older son protests his father’s acceptance for his younger brother by refusing to enter into the feast of thanksgiving, and like Job, he has done nothing wrong, but like Job’s friends, the story ends with his alienation from the father/God. Both the older brother and Job’s friends were separated from the father/God not because of their sin, but perceived goodness (Luke 15:29-30, Job 2:10).
Immersed in the concept of the perfect life, the American Dream has integrated itself into ideals and opinions. We want friends that support us, jobs that pay lots of money, and cars that don’t break down. We want things that never fail. In fact, the more we focus on this the more we distance ourselves from the world – we are good and everything else is what is broken, because we don’t want to see that need, that fault in ourselves. But life isn’t ideal. It falls apart and comes undone, often the greatest growth comes at the heels of the deepest storms. If suffering is normal than to something that we cannot yet understand because we must learn to perceive: the truth that the king of the universe came as a little baby, and God chooses to show Himself to people who are often hiding. “As the heavens are higher than the Earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than yours” (Isaiah 55:9).
A friend posted on facebook: Humility is not found in the pursuit of being humble. Rather, it’s a by-product of pursuing God’s heart and conforming to it. This is not to a culture or a standard, but to cling tightly to the heart of God is to cling to the heart of humility: it isn’t lowliness, but life itself. If the conflict in me to pull me away from this center must be moving to something else, or back to something else if it is to His worship I have been called. It pulls me back to a doctrine of arrogance and bitterness, my rights, ceasing to behold His plans and His blessings because they don’t look like I think they ought. The blessings of God come to me the most when I’m simply serving Him, and the best things in life, as Thomas Edison said about opportunity: ‘show up in overalls and look like hard work’.
I found a seat in the corner of the bakery that night and listened. So many times I found myself wandering through these doors in the middle of the night. I would try and act busy, but I really didn’t want to be. I wanted someone to stop and notice me, acknowledge me, to see the art in me – something being fashioned when everything felt so wrong. This is the same look in the eyes of so many. The perfection is the beauty in the brokenness. What love is this that changes our hearts that we are drawn to care for those we don’t know? To see them the way He sees them, because honestly I may not appear to be much to many but I want the same care myself. To love as He loves and see what He sees.
Come now, it’s time to wake up.