Monday, March 22, 2010

Finding What Was Lost

It is Easter and I have been thinking about resurrection and finding life where there has been death. I have been thinking about heaven and what it might be like when we pass from this world to the next.

I remember reading once that heaven was the place where things that are lost would be found. I like that thought because throughout my life I have lost a lot of things. Some of those things were able to be replaced, keys and books, for instance, articles of clothing, pieces of jewelry, poems or photographs. Others were not. I may have bought something new to take the place of the thing that is missing, but somehow it never fully satisfied me in the way the first thing, the lost thing, had done. Other things could never be replaced. Friends, for example, people I cared about who wandered in and then one day out of my life, leaving without a forwarding address. Moments of unfettered grace in which I can’t exactly call up the circumstances any more but I still know they happened. My innocence that fell away in pieces and my naïveté about the intentions and motivations of some people that seemed to have been lost in one fell swoop. I have lost, and regret having done so, the way loved ones, dead now, looked when they were content and what it was that used to make me laugh so hard that my face hurt.

I lost my fearlessness when I fell off the back of a motorcycle and I lost my need to be the best or win first place when I discovered that not everything in life is about winning. I lost the knowledge and anticipation that my plans will turn out as I expect and the notion that bad things won’t happen to good people. Not all of the things I lost, therefore, are missed or necessary or important. But sometimes I would just like to see them again just to remember what it was that I used to think was so wonderful about them. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that chance, of course because even though I believe in heaven, I don’t really know what it will be like. And if I’m honest, even in this season of Easter, I don’t know if Jesus physically rose from the dead either. I guess somewhere along the way I lost the need for that kind of certainty too. If pushed I would say I like the thought of heaven as a grand place of love and sweet reunions and I like the thought of Jesus, up from the grave, skipping down the street holding hands with a friend who didn’t go anywhere and laughing about what he had missed in the three days he was gone.

Truthfully, part of the reason I’m a pastor, a bearer of good news, is because I’d like to be the one to tell him, “don’t worry, one day soon, you’ll get it all back.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Calm Waters

One of the rules for whitewater rafting reads, “Rest when you get to a calm place because there is going to be more whitewater.” I have found this rule to be relevant not just for rafting but also in life. I have not, however, always paid attention to this bit of wisdom. In my younger days, I misused the calm places by worrying about what I assumed was likely downstream. I spent my calm and uneventful days waiting for the other shoe to drop, anxious about what failure or trouble was around the bend. I never fully enjoyed the calm places because I could only think about the next spot of whirling waters and how easily it would be to drown.

The older I get, however, the easier I have found resting to be. Maybe it’s just because I’m old and I find I have less energy for being anxious about tomorrow or about what may or may not be coming my way. Sometimes yesterday’s paddling wears me out so much, I need today just to recuperate. Maybe I am just old and tired but at least I finally know how to enjoy a good rest when I’m given one.

The truth is, I have never really loved the whitewaters of life. Even though I know there are times when I have made my own turbulence, created my own undertows and dangerous currents, I have always preferred an easier ride downstream. I’m not one of those people who always seem to swim against the tide or who doesn’t feel alive unless they’re paddling against crashing waves and dodging rocks or maneuvering long drops. I know folks like that but their lifestyle and their dramas always make me weary.

Yet and still, there’s no way to avoid the swirling torrents. Life is after all, full of whitewater. There is always a crisis we had not expected, trouble we hadn’t planned for, waves of grief and disappointment that seem to emerge from nowhere. Whitewater is ahead but that doesn’t mean we need to be afraid or worried, although, it certainly helps if we are prepared. Wearing a life vest is wise. Having faith can keep a person from becoming lost to the trouble. Learning a few skills, correct paddling, how to hold and set the oars, can keep the raft from flipping. Understanding how to navigate trouble, knowing healthy responses, where to go for help, will keep you afloat. And how we look at whitewater can make a difference too. Trouble can actually be a time of great learning, an opportunity to grow. Whitewater can make us strong.

I’m able to rest in calm waters because I don’t fight what I know is coming anymore. I accept the whitewater and am confident that what I have on the raft, what I have learned over the years, all my resources and experience is enough, and the fact that I trust the direction of the river, keeps me from too much anxiety. The calm places are a blessing, a gift, and I am glad that I know how to rest in them. It has taken a long time but at least I finally recognize a good thing when I see it. I lay back, let the current carry me, close my eyes and let the sun warm me, and I don’t worry too much. Whitewater is coming but for the first time in my life I trust that I’ll be ready.