Lucado on Tough Times

It’s a rainy and gloomy day here in Washington. A day that seems appropriate in some way for a funeral, and in fact one is being held this morning at my church. The sweet girl who passed away, Amy, was only forty years old, and she was diagnosed with cancer just last spring. I knew her more as an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, but what an impression she made! Her contagious joy was evident, and her service to the God she loved well-known. She went on many mission trips, serving and caring for people around the globe. I find it utterly perplexing that it was not God’s will for Amy to have some last-minute healing. He is Sovereign. He has a plan and it is good. But it is still beyond my understanding. I can trust Him and find His plan perplexing at the same time, and I do.

Yesterday I had a child with a snot level that exceeded churchability, so we stayed home. I had a few pages left to read in Max Lucado’s For the Tough Times and it seemed the right time to finish it up. It is good. If you’ve ever read him, you know. His writing is simple and true. It’s uplifting and biblical. Clearly, Lucado is gifted with words. But the subject is a hard one. Writing about tough times is…well, it’s tough. Lucado talks about God’s love for us and God’s faithfulness. He makes many wonderful and eloquent points. But there is one thing I found to be missing, and that is the vital role of other people. I think Lucado should remind his readers, most of whom are likely in the midst of a tough time, that an important lifeline, a major means of grace is provided through other believers. Yes, the Spirit of God ministers to us directly, but He also expects us to be comforted, by His grace, through others.
It is an incredible blessing to have godly people who love you, who pray for you, who even show up unexpectedly in your driveway, just like a pair of angels, right when you need them (you know who are you my fabulous and faithful angels). And I firmly believe that those kind of relationships are divinely orchestrated, that the relationships themselves are a gift of God to be treasured, but I also believe that God expects us to seek biblical community (I highly recommend reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, which brilliantly outlines what biblical community looks like). But for starters we need to be intentional, and we need to stop pretending that we’ve got it all together, that the one man show thing is really working for us. I’m trying to better about this, but my natural inclination is to maintain the absurd facade that everything is positively peachy every minute of every day.
Natalie Grant has a beautiful song which speaks to this issue. I won’t tell you what it says. I’ll just tell you the title, Held, and it’s well worth $0.99, I assure you.
So my prayer this week is for Amy’s family and friends, that they will know the comfort of God Almighty and that they will be ministers of grace for one another. May all of us be increasingly faithful to recognize and fulfill one another’s needs.

Clean Legs

A couple of weeks ago I wore pajama shorts to bed. When I got up in the morning, my son Will was amazed. He was just staring at my legs in utter disbelief.

“I have never seen your legs so…clean,” he declared.
And all this time I thought my legs were tan! What a sad reality to learn that for seven years I’ve been sporting dirty legs. God has certainly blessed me with some funny boys, and I love it that even though in my mind I knew exactly what Will was going to say, he didn’t say at all what I expected. It’s fun when people surprise you. It’s very gratifying to learn something new about someone you know well.
After thirteen years of marriage, moments of enlightenment about your spouse are somewhat rare. Although this is offset by the sweetness of mutual understanding, it is still fun to get at something you didn’t know was there, some hope, some dream, some inner dialogue that is ongoing. And the way to get there is, of course, just time. Gobs and gobs of time, and not in front of the television. C.S. Lewis observed that you can’t get what you want if you want it too desperately. He quipped “‘Now! Let’s have a real good talk’ reduces everyone to silence.” And this is true. You can hardly sit down and decide to learn something new about someone. It’s an investment of time without a clear schedule for dividends.
Yesterday I went to a baby shower. It was a wonderful time for many reasons, not the least of which was oohing and ahhing over the glowing mother who indeed looks absolutely beautiful. It was also a rare treat for me to shop for a baby girl. But the thing that made the afternoon most special for me was to see so many friends from different parts of my life – friends I didn’t even realize the beautiful mama knew. One friend I know because ten years ago her husband’s office was down the hall from mine. One I know because our boys swim together in the summer. One I know from the C.S. Lewis Institute, one from my church, and one from a yoga class I went to. Others who were there I know through my boys’ school and a Bible study I used to be in. It’s very comforting to me, living in a big city where you can be totally anonymous, to see the paths of my life converge. It gives you a wonderful sense of belonging.
But just like searching for the unknown in the people closest to you, it takes an investment of time. When I first moved to D.C. almost twelve years ago, I didn’t know a single person. Many, many times I had to force myself to go to events where I knew I would feel like an outsider. But even though the schedule for dividends is a mystery, I have to say that all the investing pays off. Relationships of depth and true community are worth every second we put into them.
And the same is true for our most important relationship–our relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. Time spent with Him builds depth, builds community and yet He, by definition will always surprise us, there is always, always something new and different to learn. Don’t you love that?
Jeremiah 29:12 says: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
May we seek Him this week with all our hearts.