I love Michael Card’s music – his integrity, his lyrics, his musicality. And I appreciate how his work is always grounded in hope. Nothing sugar coated, just an honest darkness-broken-by-Light truth that he conveys in every single song. I’m thinking just now of his “Joy in the Journey.”
i’ve been listening to that song since I was a teenager. It was a blessing then, but I hadn’t yet experienced the depth of what that song captures. I had to traverse the journey a ways first before I could truly appreciate the joy that can only come from Christ while we’re in the middle of hardship.
I’m thankful that we don’t just have a some-day sort of hope for the day that Christ returns and we go home to live with Him forever. The joy and assurance that come from knowing we’re secure in our relationship with our Heavenly Father here and now is meant to be a “foretaste of glory divine,” a constant reminder that we have been ransomed by the King of the Universe from the clutches of sin and hell.
Life is hard, and I’m not about to paint a rainbows-and-roses picture of life on earth. For me, compared to starving children in Ethiopia, to little girls home and abroad who are swept away by the sea of sex trafficking, to men who have been wrongfully imprisoned for most of their adult lives, to women who have been raped or abused by their husbands, compared to MOST PEOPLE around the world, I have lived a sheltered, safe, comfortable life. Our struggles in life are unique to us; the level of pain and heartache is relative. While my life’s hurts don’t compare to those of, say, Sarajevo’s cellist, whose beloved city was pummeled to pieces in the mid-90s, I have never experienced a civil war within my own country’s borders.
On the flip-side of the coin, no one else has experienced my particular brand of depression or grief. Countless people are immersed in severe clinical depression and grief over the loss of a loved one, but no one has lived through the exact same circumstances that I have.
While I write, I’m not trying to say “Oh, woe is me. See I what I went through.” While the cellist’s specific circumstances and mine are different, we can dig through the rubble of both our tragedies to find common ground, underlying pieces of evidence that God is good and that He is in control.
My life, in the grand scheme of things, is not that special. We’re not little “snowflakes,” entitled to special attention from everyone and anyone. But I write because my God is special, my God is holy, and my God seeks to draw men unto Himself. In every trial and tribulation I’ve been through, I’ve seen the hand of God at work. You see, this piece of writing isn’t about ME, it’s about the God of the Universe who desires that “none should perish, but that all should have eternal life.” While no one has sinned precisely just like me, the reasons for sin and the consequences of our selfish choices are quite similar.
I’m a messed up guy in constant need of a Savior.
These anecdotes are not mine, but I’m merely a steward of them. They were especially coordinated, woven, and ordered by an all-powerful God who is, at the same time, loving, gracious, and good. I pray that as I share these episodes of my life, that I treat them with honesty, clarity, transparency, and humility. My hope is that you can see that through my life God’s love and work have been quite evident, and that in whatever it is you experience – now or down the road – this same God will be diligently at work. I want you to know that He loves you.
Thanks in advance for reading…
Winnie the Pooh galoshes. Hated ‘em. They were bright, colorful, hard to get on, and they prevented a boy from being, well, a boy. Mom insisted that my brother and I wear our galoshes any time we went out in the rain and mud. This day was no different.
In a small section of our expansive back yard, we had an area with a swing set that we called “the play yard.” Perfect place to play in the dirt, to defy the limits of the swings, to enjoy our Tonka Trucks (to clear away any misunderstanding – it was I who buried all those dump trucks and dozers deep in the soil, just for fun. My brother was not even an accomplice in the case.) It was a place to just get lost in!
Well, we were goofing around in the play yard, yes, in our galoshes. The rain was intermittent, and the soil was soggy. I don’t remember, but for some reason, my brother went in the house. I was addicted to the play yard, and I want to goof around some more. Typical elementary school behavior.
After sliding and swinging and climbing some more, I found myself near the ladder of the slide. I paused for a moment before looking down. I couldn’t move my feet, galoshes and all. As the rain began to pour, I began to sink into the soft mud. I was completely stuck. Those shoe-enveloping rain boots wouldn’t budge.
Instead of calling for help, I fought and I fought with with the elements. Yet, for what seemed like an hour, I could not win. Did I yell for Mom or Dad to help me out? No. I felt like I had what it took to get me out of my jam. Definitely a matter of pride and especially self-sufficiency.
Finally, someone randomly came out of the house looking for me. I don’t recall who it was, but they found me in my sad, soggy state and helped free me and my Winnie the Pooh Galoshes from the muck and mire.
When I was eight years old, I broke my femur on the first day of summer vacation, right after I was done with the 2nd grade. What an ordeal! Missed the Olympic Torch which was carried through my hometown, missed the yearly visiting carnival, missed hanging out with my friends and family. I was in traction for over a month, then a hideous body cast for over a month, and then in physical therapy for a few weeks before school started up again. However, one thing that I was thrilled about was the beginning of my nine-year soccer career at the end of that summer. I had gained a lot of weight, but I wanted to get some exercise and to be on a team, like my older brother.
At some point early in my soccer years, I recall asking one of my older sisters a very revealing question after a game. I know now that I was not a great player, but at that time I thought I was somethin’ else. After a game in which I thought I did particularly well, I asked my sister, “So, do you think I’m the best player out there?”
My ever-diplomatic and sensitive sister replied, “Well, I thought you did a very good job today.” Even after pressing her to clarify her stance, she didn’t seem to have arrived at the same conclusion I had. I thought I was better than all the kids on my team, and I wanted to be acknowledged for it. I wanted to be valuable.
Yes, I might appear to be hard on my younger self. I imagine most kids that age want to be affirmed and that they want to know they can do things on their own. I wasn’t at all unique in those ways. What I do want to draw out, though, is that I see these two issues – self-sufficiency and pride- as the common thread that was been a part of my whole life. They are a permanent part of my inner wiring, part of my earthsuit that I will wear until I go Home.
And, as I carefully dig through the story of mankind throughout the Bible, we have always leaned toward our default positions of pride and self-sufficiency. Look through the prophets of the Old Testament. Ezekiel passes on several rebuking message from God to the Israelites regarding these two ever-present issues. Not only do men and women of old demonstrate these glaring flaws, trace the trajectory of all of our lives and I bet you will find these two issues intertwined all throughout.
I know that all through my life I have thought higher of myself than I ought, and I have aimed to pull myself up by my own boot straps (or galoshes, take your pick).
While I can tell countless stories of how I have been prideful or self-sufficient all throughout my life, this isn’t the focus of this work. Paul the Apostle tells the church in Rome, “…but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The deepest part of my story isn’t my sin, but the deepest part of me is the grace that saved me from that sin.
While we talk about sin and call it what it is, our gaze mustn’t stop there. We must see that forgiveness of sins is available because of the death of Someone who didn’t have any sin in His life at all. He died on my behalf in order to give me that deep grace.