Last summer at this time, I was fairly pregnant. We were due September 29th. Because of this, my normal Williamsburg-esque summer felt less so since it was not wise to board the Griffon or Apollo’s Chariot or Verbolten and so trips to Busch Gardens were filled with sitting down a lot and eating a lot. And if you are going to do this in an amusement park, it is the best place to do it in. I admired the scenery and the beautiful grounds which consistently earn the most beautiful amusement park awards, even over that other park that you may have heard of that starts with a D and ends with a mouse.
I missed rollercoasters. Though I haven’t had much of a chance to get on any this year, funny how that happens, it occurs to me that my life in the past few weeks, well, months really, has been rollercoaster enough. This past week, just as an example, was a doozy. Up and down and all around, twisting and turning my guts into a bobbling mess. Waiting on God. Waiting on His people. Both are quite like corkscrew turns at times. Other times it’s like freefalling except your seatbelt broke and you’re not even in the car any more.
I think I know better than God. If I’m honest, I think this more often than not. I would say I’m of reasonable intelligence, not genius, but I can do some stuff. I can solve medium-to-hard level word problems. And when it comes to life, I know how to think ahead and plan. It’s happened.
But when I find myself at a dead end, with no hint of an exit strategy, it’s hard to not fling myself down on the ground and use some bad words. It’s too easy to alternate between anger and utter despair. Like my 10-month-old who anguishes over an empty bottle, only to be coerced back to joy when her favorite cartoon miraculously comes on TV. I am undone at times just as easily.
It isn’t just that a good time is over, like a bottle that runs dry. Or that I want something that isn’t good for me, like when the baby really thinks it’s so fun to chew on an extension cord. What I want is a good thing. I want life. I want abundant life. I want my husband to be using the gifts that are so clearly his. I want us to be serving together to help others, to know Jesus. I want to not worry about where we are going to live next month any more. I want to see a dead end turn into an open door. Or a freefall turn into a delightful spray of water and a quick entrance back into the safety of the exit ramp.
We can’t help but be confronted by thoughts of what kind of God is like this? What kind of God puts His people through the ringer, jumping hoops, running in circles? It’s hard not to wonder, like David in the Psalms, Job in his suffering, even Jesus begging to go another way. It is human nature to question and to hypothesize. Well maybe it’s my sin that is keeping God’s blessing from me. Maybe all the things I did wrong disqualifies me from what I think I should be doing. Or maybe God is trying to teach me something that I haven’t quite learned yet and I keep getting held back from the next grade until I get it right.
But it occurs to me that these thoughts are unfounded at best, and at worst, heresy. Because it dilutes the saving and proclamation of grace that is given for all those who believe – that there is no condemnation, that Jesus paid it ALL for all time, that we are not worthy of any gift given but that He freely bestows His grace and mercy on us. We have to be careful to not question whether that grace was really enough. We have to be careful to not fall into the thinking that we are still paying a debt that has been paid.
This isn’t about consequences of sin. Make no mistake, we do often pay those. You steal money from someone, you must pay it back. You cheat on your spouse, you must deal with the long lasting strife on your family. You break a trust and it is yours to rebuild that trust or at the very least live in peace as far as you can, and not hope for that person’s trust too soon. These are very real consequences that must be borne.
But the consequences of sin in this life are not to be confused with God’s withholding of blessing. David’s son with Bathsheba was taken as consequence of David’s sin. Was David still king and after God’s heart? Wasn’t he then blessed with Solomon through Bathsheba? In the book of Job, reading through the arguments his companions made, we are given evidence of the theology that clearly shows God does not allow suffering only to the sinful and blessing only to the “righteous.” It is clear that God rains on the just and the unjust alike. It is clear that God asks us to stay the course, come what may, and ride the ride until the bitter end. He doesn’t say not to scream and cry. In fact, He knows we will. He doesn’t delight in it, but He does delight when, in the middle of the darkest, scariest turns, we cry out to Him and still bless His name.
So we buckle up. We hope in those moments of clarity. We smile at all the thrills and joys we do get along the way. And we know the twists are coming. We know the dark tunnel is ahead and we don’t know how long it will last. But we know how it all ends and we cling. To each other and to the Rock, the one thing that holds us in place and does not move.
The metaphor breaks down there because lots of people let go of the bar because it’s more fun 🙂 But you get what I mean. I like to let go too. Just not on the Griffon.