You know, I feel really sorry for unhappy people. And I don’t mean those who are down on their luck, unemployed, childless, alone, sick or facing unimaginable challenges. I mean those people who seem to have it all, who have the great house, kids, marriage, club membership, education, substantial income, car, maybe a boat… and they still cannot find something (or things) to be grateful for. They take it all for granted. It’s never enough. They find things wrong with everything and most other people. Nothing’s ever right. These people are soul vampires, I’m telling you. Stay around them too long and the life will drain right out of your blood.
I have worked with people like this. I have met people like this at parties, while traveling, or just even in the grocery store. They are neighbors, they can be anywhere. And you can’t tell them anything. There is no amount of positive news, or sensible advice or future hope that will affect them in any way. Not sure what to do about them, almost as if they try to put you down in that abysmal pit with them. Maybe they think if they can do that they will have something to use to climb out themselves. Then what?? There you are, down in all that muck. But you know what? The muck wasn’t yours to begin with so, *poof*! It disappears. You have your life back. Or rather, you never lost it, you just put it out on loan for a while, but since it wasn’t used you get it back. Or even if it was used, it’s still yours.
You know, it’s just so much easier to say “Thank you.”
This word immediately evokes thoughts brinking on magic, something superhuman, supernatural, beyond understanding. Probably because they are but for me they are also protection, heroic, something God will do just at the point I think the darkness is going to overcome the light of that tiny candle and snuff it out. I cannot imagine a darkness so impenetrable that even the slightest glimmer (hope) cannot penetrate it. Today we need miracles, I think, more than ever. But can we be instruments to encourage the actual happening of a miracle? I think we can.
Look at how many times doctors have given a patient over to beyond help and the patient has miraculously healed. It wasn’t necessarily an anomaly of science or nature. Or something simple yet incredibly inexplicable as the refraction of light through a drop of water or a prism. The brilliant magnification of clear and pure color sprayed across a moistened sky or the wall of your home.
There are those times when, despite all our meager efforts, the human spirit has sunk to a place where it appears hopeless and devoid of rescue or enlightenment. Just at that point Someone smiles, our dim darkness is lifted and we soar beyond the boundaries of our captivity. Oh, our circumstances may not have changed, but our spirit is renewed and light has returned to our souls.
A light that can not, will not be extinguished.
I occasionally visit a church with 3-4,000 members. A mega-church some would call it. Yesterday a guest pastor gave a sermon based on 1st Timothy 1:12-16. Let me first qualify my subsequent comments to say this: Christianity is lifelong learning for me. Some days I “get it”. Some days I probably should just pull the covers up and wait till the light shines again. Yesterday I got something that made me wonder about not just me, but people in general. The pastor was a heavily-accented Puerto Rican, so he said, but I found no problem understanding every word he spoke. Did he make that claim to apologize for those of us who would not get his message? Give us a scapegoat? That’s not fair. I understood his words clearly, and think I also even understood the basis of what he explained those words to mean: namely, no matter how anti-Christian, ill- or well-intentioned or insufferable we are, God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness are available to each one of us in accepting what Jesus did by his crucifixion, death and resurrection for us. As Paul says in this passage, ” … He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.” (v v. 12a, 13) (1) God’s love extends to each one of us. Every human on the planet. Every day. You do realize what that means, don’t you? Not just you, or me, but every jail-incarcerated prisoner, every prisoner to addiction or habit, every individual with pre-meditated malice or evil, even every terrorist. Every person.
So I looked over those seated in this vast congregation. I’m thinking to myself, How many of these people who are hearing this sermon, including me, are actually listening? How many of us will leave this place reassured knowing God’s love is for us? For me? For you? And will know the absolute, pure joy of that forgiveness, grace and love that we accept in what Jesus did for each of us? Or do we just get back in our cars, drive to the restaurant to meet other church-goers, or drive ourselves or our families home maybe arguing on the way what chores need to be done or how some offhand comment made us feel? Will we remember what we heard in that sermon by the Puerto Rican-accented pastor?
Will we live it?
(1)Holy Bible, New American Standard version