Living with the Truth

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The riveting events of the past week have served to remind most of us that we live our lives in the middle of a ‘beautiful and terrible’* world. 

Yesterday, I sat in one of the loveliest, richest and most remarkable worship services, rippled with the laughter and music of children, filled with prayers of dedication for middlers and high schoolers headed off to summer camp. I heard scripture read well by an 8-year-old and smiled through tears because I could STAND and sing worship songs with the congregation.

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I live daily with the truth that my spot on this earth is beautiful, filled with the grandeur of mountain and ocean, agriculture and wide open spaces. This is a heaven-on-earth kind of place and I am grateful. 

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When I start asking the impossible ‘why?’ questions, I must begin with where I am. Why am I so blessed? Why is my life as lovely and full as it is? 

As with every ‘why?’ question, there is no easily accessible answer. What can I say? The luck of the draw? The will of God? The accident of birth and marriage? There is no answer that suffices, all I can do is breathe out thanksgiving and choose to live with a ready sense of wonder. My life is a gift, one that I did not earn and cannot control.

As I reflect on the atrocities happening in Iraq — and in many other places not nearly so well-publicized — I must also acknowledge that there is no easy answer to the ‘why?’ question there, either. 

It has always been so. Even a cursory reading of history forces us to accept the truth that human beings are capable of unimaginable terror and torture. And human beings are capable of creating art, architecture, literature, music, caring acts of compassion and astounding feats of derring-do and invention.

This is the truth. The reality in which we all must live. 

And though my life has been most assuredly blessed, even our family is not immune to the troubles and pain of this world. 

My maternal grandmother lived long past her expected demise, suffering a major coronary at the age of 54 and living with congestive heart disease until she died at the age of 101.

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She lived long enough to meet my two eldest grandsons. Why? I haven’t a clue.

On the other hand, my son-in-law, father to those two and one more, died at the age of 44. A hard death, long and difficult and marked by struggle, pain and suffering every single day for many years, especially the last three.

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I have no explanation for any of this, or for why my mother and my mother-in-law sank into dementia or why I was born with a crooked heel that would cause me such distress as I close out my seventh decade.

This is truth. This is life. This is what we live in and with, every day we breathe. But I am also coming to believe that this is also what we live for. ALL of this — the beautiful and the terrible — is what makes life life, what makes life true.

I did not say easy. Because it most decidedly is not easy. It’s complicated, troubling, fearful. Also? Amazing, astounding, remarkable and stunning. And over all of it, God is telling the story of redemption. 

And God is using us to help tell that story. God invites us right up on stage and says, “Partner with me. Tell my story in your vernacular, in your specific situation. Live it out, trust me, love me, love one another. I will be with you, no matter what comes.” 

The sermon we heard yesterday was a reminder of the size and scope of this story we are a part of. Pastor Jon worked from 1 John 5:6-12 and he talked about the One who comes. The One who comes from God, as one of us. The One who breathes life into everyone he meets. The One who dies for us, who never dismisses our pain and struggle, but who ultimately assumes full responsibility for all of it.  I loved this line: “God’s death on the cross is not a military victory but a glorious martyrdom. God straps on our humanity to kill death by dying. God takes on our life so that we can take on God’s Spirit.”

As horrific as the news out of Iraq is to our eyes and ears, not one bit of it surprises or shocks our God. It saddens and stirs that great Divine Heart, but in no way does it signal the end of the story.

Redemption is still at work. We cannot yet see it, but I am confident it is there. Not one drop of blood is shed in vain in that place.

As brothers and sisters, we are called to participate. First of all, we are called to pray. This is the primary work of the church and it is important and needful. We are also called to give what we can to help alleviate suffering in this hard place and everywhere on this earth where human beings are struggling.

And. We are called to lament. To grieve, even as God grieves. We are called to wrestle and ponder, to ask the hard questions and search for difficult answers, to hold governments and paramilitary groups responsible for unspeakable acts. 

And then? To come back round to praise. To sing a sad song – yes, yes, yes. But to sing it to the One who comes, to the One who knows our frame, who embraces our frame, who lives out love to the fullest, and who asks us to love for his sake.

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Do you see this magnificent fresco? It is painted in the rear of the Chora Church in Istanbul, Turkey. Take a close look at it. The One who came, the One who died, is risen in glory and in each hand, he grabs hold of Adam and Eve, pulling them into life right next to him. This is why Jesus came, you see. THIS. Jesus came to bring life to our messed up, broken, imperfect, inglorious humanity. 

Why? Because we are valuable to God, loved, seen, understood, accepted and esteemed. Every single life that is lost in Iraq — every single one — is seen, loved, accepted, esteemed. 

And so is every single crazy person moving through town with a weapon and a heart full of hate. That’s the piece that is toughest for us to pray our way through, isn’t it?

But that’s the piece that makes God GOD. That’s the piece that makes redemption the point of the story. That’s the piece that fits the gospel to a tee. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Oh, may the worldwide church prove to be worthy of the blood of these martyred ones. May we be faithful to pray and to give and to act. May we live lives worthy of the One who came.

May we live well with the truth.


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* quote from Frederick Buechner in “Wishful Thinking.” This is the whole thing: 

“Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”

 

 

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Comments

  1. Diana, I am consumed with a similar thought process these days. Our pastor just started a series on Heaven and Hell. It is so good but always brings up many questions. Like what about those who live so remote they don’t get missionaries for hundreds of years. What happened to all those people up until that time? While here in America, we have a church on every corner. The gospel hits us in the face. Just Wondering is the name of your site so I hope it’s OK for me to express my questions too. Thankful for all I’ve been blessed with but often wonder why? #faith

    • I think, as with so many things, Traci. We have to trust the God we know to deal with each situation according to the mercy and grace with which the world has been showered because of Jesus. I am very glad that it’s not up to me. But I like the picture that C.S. Lewis drew (I think it was he!) when he said that there is a lock on the door to hell and it can only be opened by us. We are given the power to choose, according to whatever light/knowledge we possess. God does not send us there, we opt for it. That’s all I got!

  2. What you wrote put into words the jumbled up emotions in my heart as I read the news.

  3. Dear Diana,
    Thank you for this tonight. It was a real blessing to read. I appreciate your honesty and yet graciousness – what a beautiful example of Ephsians 4:15 New International Version (NIV)

    15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

    I find that the more I seek to grow in Christ, the more questions that I have not less, and that is a good thing. And that God is not afraid of my hard questions and that conflict, even with God is an opportunity for intimacy and growth. Thank you for being used of God to speak these words tonight
    bless you,
    Susan

    • Thank you for that high compliment, Susan! And yes, there will always be more questions. And that IS a good thing. For it is in the asking that we become increasingly real and honest. And God, after all ,is surely big enough to withstand (and maybe even enjoy?) our wrestling!! (I do love Jacob.)

  4. Diana, I am grateful you shared this truth and grace with us. Thank you.

  5. LW Lindquust says:

    Thanks, Diana. So appreciate you.

  6. Thank you Diana. I am so over all the discussions of whether these are the end-times and how far into the end-times we are, and what that might mean and having incredibly gruesome photos unexpectedly popping up on my Facebook newsfeed. I agree with you, that our duty is to pray, give and lament. The one question I haven’t heard anyone asking in all this, is ‘How then, should we live?’ Instead of focusing on all the ghastly details, doesn’t it make more sense to be asking God what He wants of us, in light of all this? I don’t want to live my life in fear and dread of what might happen, I want to do my best to please God in how I live my life right now. Today. And I don’t see allowing fear and dread into my soul as part of that.
    I think I feel a blog post coming on… 😉

    • I’ve been over end-times fears and rumors for decades! We are not called to wonder when; we are called to live faithfully in the meantime. Period. Please give me a link to your post – for some reason, I don’t have a subscription to your blog – which much be new, right??

  7. Gwen Acres says:

    Called to lament and called to praise…the circle of life. Thank you Diana for sharing it all.

  8. Yes and amen. Thank you for this, Diana. Much love, Patricia

  9. ro elliott says:

    “Redemption is still at work. We cannot yet see it, but I am confident it is there. Not one drop of blood is shed in vain in that place.” Yes yes… I think we have to hold this for the world around us… God has called me right in the middle of painful 5 marriages… a family dealing with mental illness… darkness all around… I have to grab hold of Him… the One who redeems all… and quietly speak and pray redemption for these situations… God is either who He says He is… or He is the worst fraud in the world… these are the times we wrestle out truth and lies about God!!! Thanks Diana!!

    • That’s a heavy load, Ro. Praying for you as you meet each need, in the strength of the Spirit. Always grateful for your comments here and everywhere.

  10. It’s been a hard work in this world; atrocities abound and yes, we’re shaking our heads. But Diana, you captured the why’s and the how’s so well here.
    These lines in particular, “Because we are valuable to God, loved, seen, understood, accepted and esteemed. Every single life that is lost in Iraq — every single one — is seen, loved, accepted, esteemed.
    And so is every single crazy person moving through town with a weapon and a heart full of hate. That’s the piece that is toughest for us to pray our way through, isn’t it?”
    Beauty and redemption in all our brokenness.

    A powerful call here, friend. And so well written. Thank you.

  11. Jennifer Taylor says:

    When I read this piece, I felt like I was reading my own story in a number of places.* Thank you for naming the conundrum of living with “the beautiful and the terrible.” Also the reminder that “Redemption is at work and we are called to participate” . . . such a helpful reminder to look at it ALL squarely and remember that God is God.
    *Your words gave it the kind of eloquence I have come to expect and appreciate from you.

    • Sometimes I think that’s the hardest part of all, remembering that God is God. Thanks for reading, Jennifer, and for your encouraging words.

  12. Diana, so grateful for the wise & godly way you put this into perspective. May we remember every day that God is God and all that He does will turn out for good. May we also remember He is a just God and one day He will balance all the scales. Blessings!

  13. Amen to all, Diana. I am flooded with peace reading your words. I’m also fairly certain I’ll only have time to read one blog today. Right now I am just so grateful that it was yours.

    • Ah, Christie. I hear your words as very high praise, indeed. May your busy day be blessed. And thank you for your kindness.

  14. Sandy Hay says:

    Beautiful Diana. Your words help me pull the words in my head back where the need to be.

    • Thank you, Sandy. I’m grateful that these words are finding home and recognition in some hearts today. It’s been a rough week.

  15. We can’t answer most of the “why” questions, but there is plenty we CAN do, which you summarized so succinctly, Diana: Live worthy of the blood of the martyred ones, be faithful to pray and to give and to act, and live worthy of the One who came. Thank you also for hope and consolation. 1) Over all of life, God is telling the story of redemption, perhaps through US. 2) Not one drop of martyr blood is shed in vain. 3) We are valuable to God — every single one of us. “May we live well with the truth,” you conclude. AMEN! And thank you for a timely, poignant, highly meaningful post.

  16. This comes like a balm, Diana. Thank you for looking through His eyes at all this wild, chaotic mess and seeing love and grace. It’s been difficult to process such evil.

  17. Amber @ Beautiful Rubbish says:

    Diana, I haven’t been here for awhile, but each time I come, I regret I don’t come more often. Your words, breathed out of a life deeply lived, comfort and still my heart even as they stir in it a hunger for more. Thank you for this gift.

  18. Diana, as my tears flowed in reading this, I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit resounding in your words. You are God’s beloved messenger, telling His truth in love, sincerity, and compassion. Reminding us that God still loves the lost and the dead, and that our prayers matter even when we think hope has run out, is something all of us need to hear and know. I’ve taken heart and inspiration from your words today. Blessings to you and yours!

  19. Yes, Diana, yes and yes and yes. Unspeakable sorrow, unanswerable questions and unimaginable good news. Thank you!

  20. Your words are so beautiful. A reminder that we are indeed called to action and that prayer is never the “last resort” or to be dismissed as some how “less” than if we physically went out to these hurting areas. It is our ready defense.
    And yes…we are called to do whatever we can monetarily and physically. Thank you for this post. Very nicely done.
    <3

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