Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Mercy in the Struggle

It's been hard lately.
Life and ministry.
There have been some days recently, that had I known they were coming,
I would have boarded that boat to Tarshish and been long gone, like the prophet of old.

But God has a way of catching up to us.
Now matter how we might try to run
or hide
or avoid.

And struggles force you out of hiding.
Hardship pushes you out of complacency.
Trials have a way of helping you regroup and reevaluate priorities.

That's what Jonah's three-day stay in a deluxe fish resort did for him.
It was a strategic management course.
And forward movement required choices and action.
And it was mercy, albeit smelly, but mercy nonetheless.

And these days of late, full of the hard edges of life,
have been my own kind big, stinky fish belly.
It has refused me rest and refused me retreat.
It has demanded a constant sorting of thoughts and emotions.
A barage of choices and actions to be rationally-based and not emotionally-driven.
And I wouldn't have chosen this. Not one single moment.
But they have been mercy.

These days of merciful struggle have brought certain priorities into focus.
These days have crystallized important relationships.
These moments have insisted on choices.
Choices that determine what I really believe about people, the church, my calling, my God.
The rubber meets the road kinds of faith choices that will demonstrate if I practice what I preach.
Will I forgive even if my hurt is never spoken to those who have injured me?
Will I trust God to tend to my heart and the hearts of others especially when that means I do nothing?
Will I embody grace in the midst of unjust words or broken systems that let you down?
Will I choose to see another's point of view even if no one ever tries to see mine?

This is brass tacks kind of Jesus living.
It's the hard stuff of the kingdom that is easy to talk about...until it's your reputation and your hurt.
And I don't like it. Not one little bit.

And people have tried to soothe with talk of the enemy that works against our good God-future.
And people say struggles like these pave the way for better days ahead.
And I suppose those sentiments could be accurate,
but honestly, I am too submerged to see the coming daylight over the horizon.
My hurt is too fresh to look for the brighter day.
Right now, I just don't know.

And yet, I can't escape God.
He keeps pursuing me,
relentless Hound of Heaven.
Even situational darkness can't keep Him away.

I can't make sense of my circumstances right now
but God, He still does make sense to me.
His goodness. His truth. His strength. His love.

Mercy stares me down right in the middle of the mess.
And maybe one of the greatest mercies of His is that
this present storm beckons me to grasp a truer faith;
that these current winds can lead to deeper roots.
Maybe mercy takes the shape of struggle that reminds me I haven't arrived
and there's plenty about His kingdom I don't understand
and I haven't really learned to live.

And that's enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
The promise of fuller kingdom living.
Even at the cost of my pride or need for being heard.
If this struggle channels my faith to flow more freely,
and helps me enter more fully into kingdom living,
then I will walk it.

Just like Jonah, any forward movement will require choice and action.
So I choose to let these difficulties spur me to tenacious trust
so I might move toward the One who knows me best and loves me most.

I may not always like it.
I probably won't ever ask for it.
But God is who He is.
And that is always enough.

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