Living Beyond our Fears, Into the Joyous Generosity of God

“When we live according to our fears and our hates, our lives become small and defensive, lacking the deep, joyous generosity of God . . . Life with God is much, much larger, shattering our little categories of control, permitting us to say that God’s purposes led us well beyond ourselves to give and to forgive, to create life we would not have imagined.” Writes Walter Brueggeman in his book, “The Threat of Life.”

To be trapped in a prison of fear and hate, is to cheat ourselves of the gift of life God has given us. God wants so much more for us than this. God wants us to find meaning and significance in our daily lives. We can never find that meaning when our hearts are filled with bitterness. The day may be beautiful on the outside . . . but inside we are a simmering stew, ready to spew our frustration and our anger on the unfortunate person who crosses our path. The day God has given us to enjoy . . . is wasted.

I’ve found through the years that much of what appears from the outside to be fear and hate, is really on the inside . . . pain this isn’t being dealt with honestly. We cannot hide our pain from ourselves or from others. We may think that we are succeeding quite well, but those who know us best see the telltale signs of hurt. Little things cause us to be upset easily. What we once would have let slide off us, we now internalize and become defensive about. The hurt inside us spews out in the way we speak and live with others. We hurt people we don’t intend to hurt. We say things that we did not intend to say. We find people trying to avoid us. Our cause may be just, but our approach to people may be very unjust. The apostle Paul wrote “Though I speak with the tongues of mortals and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . . If I give away all I have and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

But how hard to love, when you are hurting inside. How hard to love when you cannot or will not love yourself. How hard to love, when you are not wise enough to share your hurts and pain with your friends. God gave us each other so that we could share our journeys. There is nothing heroic about hiding the sad and painful things that are happening in our lives. We are meant to live in community with one another. Sharing our burdens is one of the ways we live with joy in the Christian life. When we choose to live according to our fears, our hates and yes . . hidden pain, our lives becomes small and defensive lacking the deep joyous generosity of God. God wants more for us than this. God wants each of us to know the powerful joy of Christ’s love. I’ve learned that when I share my journey, including life’s deepest hurts, fears and sorrows . . . I am most whole. Then, I can seize the moments of beauty and truly enjoy them.

Hitting the Home Button

IMG_2147A few years ago, my family gave me a Garmin GPS for my car. I wish I could say that my GPS was without flaw. Once in Nashville TN, instead of taking me to the Botanical Garden, it took me far into the countryside miles away from my destination. I think my Garmin was downright dizzy, when it told me to turn left into a lake in Canada, all the while rebelling when I refused. Still, I’ve been grateful for it on many occasions. Thousands of miles have been guided by its expertise. In spite of its occasional misses, I’ve come to rely on that GPS more and more when I travel.

What I have discovered is that whenever I get lost, whenever I don’t know how to get out of a situation – all I have to do is hit that button which says “Home” and I will be all right. My GPS knows the way home. It may take me in a roundabout manner. It may send me on the long way instead of the short one. There may be roads to travel that I would not have chosen. But it will always, but always find the way home.

I have learned in life that hitting the “Home” button, turning to God, works when I am out of sync with myself. God knows the course change I need to make and is aware of what in my heart and mind needs to change direction. God knows way before me what attitude needs some serious adjusting. God sends out an alarm, before I even figure out that I’ve gotten lost. When I turn back from where my heart and mind have wandered to, I get out of my rut. I discover new truths. I recognize my prejudices and can name them for what they are.

A recent poll indicated that seventy percent of us believe our country is going the wrong direction. I always wish that the poll takers would sort out why people feel the country is going the wrong way, but I suspect it has something to do with our national discourse. In this bizarre political season, when politicians have played to our fears, our skepticism, and our prejudices, we know there is something wrong.

The prophet Micah, in ancient Israel, was no stranger to a political system in trouble. In the midst of economic uncertainty, raiding bands of neighboring nations, political upheaval and a people who had lost their way, he spoke God truth. To a nation searching for direction, he reminded the people of Israel that God had already shown them the way to God’s favor. It was not to sacrifice their children for the good of the country, or to offer vast amounts of wealth. Instead God was waiting for a return to the deeper truths. “God,” he said, “has already shown you the way back” and “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NIVUK God draws us away from bitterness of spirit to compassion and faithful living. God still calls us back to these central truths away from our fears, to be people of justice, to live with compassionate hearts . . . to be people who show mercy . . . who recognize God’s great love for all of God’s people . . . to be people who truly walk humbly with God.