I can’t wait for things to get back to normal. I have said it, and I have heard it said dozens of times over the last six months. What is normal anyway?
I went grocery shopping the other day. Boring. Routine.
A depressing way to spend money. A check off the to do list. As usual, I purchased more than my good intentioned list of coffee grounds, off brand laundry detergent, and completely unnecessary half gallon of ice cream. I piled my bags onto the very-much-in-need-of-a-scrubbing seats of my truck, and rounded the corner to the driver’s side muttering something to myself about children who leave skittles on car seats to bake into a glue that will last for all eternity. I glanced at the car beside me. Both the front windows were rolled down leaving the front wide open, and a man sat in the front seat looking at his phone. As I stepped up into my truck, and turned to shut the door, I was immediately seared with the view to my left. The man was staring at whatever images were on his phone, openly exposing his body as indecently as possible, and I won’t describe the rest. Point made. I thought I was getting groceries at two o’clock on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Instead I pealed out of the parking lot flustered, angry, and oddly heartbroken over what I had unintentionally seen. An unemotional, factual response is to say that from the beginning of time, everyone at some point will probably find themselves assaulted with an upsetting sight over which they had no control, and that’s part of living in a world with other humans. Facts being what they are, let me say this. The phone in that man’s hand is what I found most disturbing. I couldn’t swear in court as to what was on that screen, but I cannot imagine he was catching up on his Bible reading, and that compelled him to act inappropriately. We are a people in a global pandemic of a far more devastating nature than a physical one, our disease is a moral one. And I say “we” on purpose. I’m including me, and my go-to-church-on-Sunday friends. It’s “we” because we have settled to speak and live a watered down version of the gospel, but the world in which I find myself living is anything but watered down. The world I know is screaming contradictory messages, swirling with turmoil, and is littered with shattered lives of people I love, there really is absolutely nothing watered down about reality.
Society has long preached the doctrine of “What I do is my business”. Almost over night we have seen that belief challenged as we have gone from a nation who does not believe in right and wrong, to one willing to go to extreme lengths to protect ourselves from the “wrong” of a virus. We did a complete turn around and suddenly, what I do actually does affect someone else. There very much is a right way to do things, to go into a store, to address people, and there is a wrong way. Society’s hard core religion of “I am my own god” tells me, “there is no objective truth so therefore truth is what you believe it be, and your actions only should reflect what you believe.” That is a self destructive lie. Truth does not depend on belief. Truth is that which is consistent with reality. Most of us regularly utilize the break pedal in our vehicles, because we do, in fact, believe in objective truth. The law of inertia doesn’t care if I believe it or not. Our entire lives are dominated by absolutes. The mortgage is due absolutely, I must show up to work to keep my job absolutely, I must pay my taxes absolutely… The truth doesn’t care what I believe or how it makes me feel, it just is.
Last week I stopped to fill up my truck with gas. A motorcycle rolled up to the pump beside me with music turned to a truly impressive level of blow-your-eardrums-to-bits volume. For the five minutes it took to fill up my gas tank, I was treated to the most appalling language I have ever heard in my adult life in the form of what seemed to be, a song writer’s unique talent to string obscenities into single phrases and chant them in a redundant fashion as angrily as possible. In five minutes, God was blasphemed, minorities were insulted, women were spoken of as animals, and I got a headache. But don’t worry, we were all wearing our masks at the gas station. You know, because we need to keep our bodies healthy while our minds and our souls rot. We are not telling the truth to ourselves. A diseased soul will kill a person for eternity. Does that concern me at all? If I am concerned enough about my health and the health of those around me to sanitize my hands and wear a mask, should I not also be concerned for their minds and hearts? For mine?
This week marks three years since my two year old boy, Jedediah, died. The night before Jed died, I went to see him at the hospital. I held him and rocked him and told him I would see him the next day. He blinked his big blue eyes at me, sucked his two fingers contentedly, and listened with all the attention of a bored little boy. The night nurse came on shift and asked me if I wanted to give Jed his bath. It was late. I had a two and a half hour drive to get home still ahead of me, so I said no. I kissed his fat cheek, told him goodnight, and walked out. You just don’t know when it is your last chance to do something do you? The last bath I gave Jed was the next night, after he had passed away. All the tubes had been removed, the monitors were finally quiet, and this was our last few moments together on earth. I remember his nurse putting her phone down on his bed with music playing. As we washed each little finger, and rubbed dry his fluffy blond hair, we started to hum with the music, and then we started to sing with it…“My chains are gone I’ve been set free My God, my Savior has ransomed me And like a flood His mercy rains Unending love, Amazing grace. The Lord has promised good to me His word my hope secures He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures. The Earth shall soon dissolve like snow The sun forbear to shine But God, Who called me here below Will be forever mine… My chains are gone I’ve been set free My God, my Savior has ransomed me And like a flood His mercy rains Unending love, Amazing grace.”
I don’t need to be persuaded that sin is real, I see it in myself and others on a daily basis. I don’t need to be persuaded that death is real, I watched it suck the life out of my child. Sin is reality. Sin caused death. If the world were perfect without sin, there would be no death, but we all die. We know that fact is consistent with reality. In the stillness of a late October night, death and I sat together in a cold hospital room, but fear did not come. Death bites, it scars, it wounds, it dodges one’s footsteps like an haunting shadow, it chuckles at heartbreak in lonely moments, and it seems as if it will strangle all that is good in life, but it will not have the final win over the child of God.
Truth is that which is consistent with reality. The gospel speaks the truth about myself and about the world around me. The gospel tells me I am more than just a body, I am a soul, an outside person and an inside person. Truth is the science of my soul. The God of truth is the physician of all my diseases. The truth of the gospel is the mask that protects my heart, the sanitizer for the temptations that would destroy me, and the guidelines that protect me and others. Reality proves there is right and wrong outside me, inside me, past, present, and future. Reality proves I am unable to control the wrong. A filtered religion of routine, generic beliefs is just not going to work for the unfiltered reality in which I live. God did the inspection of my heart and offered me a “as is” forgiveness, contingent upon no repairs prior to taking ownership, and a personal relationship with Him. I have found a resting place for my inabilities, my heavy questions, and my hard sorrows in the simple truth of Jesus. I have not found a weak, ambiguous, feel good religion. I have found a hard truth that is brave enough to tell me what is wrong with me, what is wrong with my world and exactly what to do with it. What a relief it is to hand the responsibility of being God to God, to simply follow, to rest in His amazing grace. If this is normal, if this is my every day state of mind, than normal never will change.
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (song by Chris Tomlin.)