On Birthdays and Such
Yesterday I completed yet another trip around the sun. My life has undergone some rather profound changes in the past year -- things I didn't anticipate happening when the sun rose on my 45th birthday.
When you are young, life is mapped out before you in a sort of formula that is supposed to equal "happily ever after." Somewhere along the way things begin to go wrong. The road you set out on with such confidence, that appeared, from a distance, to have only a few gentle turns and smooth surfaces, appears upon closer inspection to be filled with potholes that could swallow transport trucks, u-turns, construction with long line -ups, and detour signs.
In the past year I've lost two more sons from home, lost my church, and lost my marriage. I think I am still reeling a bit from the drastic changes that have been taking place as a result of all that. It is with some surprise that I find myself still standing at the end of the day. God's mercies are there in that I have yet to spend a day in bed crying in my pillow in sheer self-pity or desperation. Some days putting one foot in front of the other in a rather robotic fashion is all that I can manage. Yet at least I am still moving.
It hasn't all been negative. I have a wonderful friend who lost his mobility 16 years ago due to an accident. He now spends his days in a wheelchair. One of the things he said to me recently was that the accident and resulting paralysis was an excellent filter for finding out who his real friends are. My recent excommunication and marriage breakdown are accomplishing the same for me. I am finding out who really loves me and who is really my friend. I have friends who call me almost daily or who write to me or check up on me to make sure that I am going to make it. Sometimes they deliver faithful wounds, but they are also quick to apply the salve and bandages and crutches necessary to get me up and hobbling again.
This is sort of like razing a house to the foundations and starting over again. I kind of figured that by the time I hit middle age I would have alot of stuff already figured out and would just spend the rest of my life touching up things here and there. Instead, I find myself going back to the basics yet again with regard to faith. Yeah, I know. At a time that I should be gobbling down and digesting meat, I find myself back on a diet of pablum and milk. But it is either that or just quit eating altogether. And some days anorexia is a real problem, figuratively speaking.
There are a lot of voices telling me one thing or telling me another. Do this, don't do that. God says this, God doesn't say that. And the information is conflicting but delivered with the strength of conviction and certainty that they hold the truth in righteousness. I want to put my fingers in my ears and shut them all out and run away. Tell me God -- directly -- what it is You want of me. And You better hurry, because I have all these kids I still have to raise with some semblance of having my act together and knowing what it is that I am doing.
Below are two of the musical offerings that offer a glimpse of the gritty reality of my life as a Christian. I don't know what the future holds for me or mine. I can only hope in the One who holds it for me.
Oh My God
by Jars of Clay
Oh my God, look around this place
Fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone
Flights of grace and future falls
in present pain
All fools say, "Oh my God."
Oh my God, why are we so afraid?
We make it worse when we don't bleed
There is no cure for our disease
Turn a phrase and rise again
Or fake your death and only tell your closest friends
Oh my God
Oh my God, can I complain?
You take away my firm belief
And graft my soul upon Your grief
Weddings, boats and alibis
All drift away and a mother cries
Liars and fools, sons and failures
Theives will always say
Lost and found, ailing wanderers
Healers always say
Whores and angels, men with problems
Orphans always say
War creators, racial haters
Preachers always say
Distant fathers, fallen warriors
Givers always say
Pilgrim saints, lonely widows
Users always say
Fearful mothers, watchful doubters
Saviours always say
Sometimes I cannot forgive
And these days mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be
Maybe I could get some sleep
While I lay, I dream we're better
Scales were gone and faces lighter
When we wake, we hate our brother
We still move to hurt each other
Sometimes I can close my eyes
And all the fear that keeps me silent
Falls below my heavy breathing
What makes me so badly bent?
We all have a chance to murder
We all feel the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded
That the pain is worth the thunder
Sometimes when I lose my grip
I wonder what to make of Heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give
Babies underneath their beds
Hospitals that cannot treat
All the wounds that money causes
All the comforts of cathedrals
All the cries of thirsty children
This is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers
This is our greatest offence
Oh my God
Oh my God
Oh my God...