I have to pull myself away from the screen.
We go to bed with news of tragic loss in our community, we wake up with news of tragedy around the world.
I imagine the scene at school today as students grapple with understanding a teacher’s murder. I still myself and feel the pain of family and friends. This violence feels close on so many levels.
Really bad things happen to good people. We cannot explain that away. As much as we want to tell our children that everything will be ok, we know deep inside that another tragedy will come again one day. We cannot will these heavy burdens away. We tell our children it’s ok to be sad. We tell our children that they are loved. We tell our children that life doesn’t make sense sometimes. We tell our children we understand what it’s like to be confused about this. We tell our children that we are right there with them.
In this season of Advent we continue to make our way through a broken, painful world. We are watching and waiting for Jesus but we can’t make sense of the happenings around us. All the decorations and the signs that say we should be rejoicing seem pale in comparison to the news of the day. I drive by a colorful nativity scene on someone’s front lawn and it seems so irrelevant. I hear the music all is calm, all is bright and I cringe. One part of us longs to celebrate and the other part can only lament. Somehow, we are going to have to carry them both.
As I cleaned my house yesterday, I listened to this story, told on The Moth. It’s a love story between two very broken people who longed for hope. I saw their lament and their celebration. I was surprised at how alive I felt as I listened. Here is this expletive filled tale about a junkie and a prostitute. Here is a story of people on the fringe of society. Here is a story of life and death. Here is the story of AIDS and abandonment by friends. But yet! when he talks about Franny’s last ride and the wind on their faces- I could see God. As he explained the feeling of the hospice workers cheering them on and the last ride of freedom I could feel God. As he talked about two people who life didn’t know what to do with- I knew God. I have such a hard time finding God in church. I have such a struggle seeing God in all the “right” places. I can no longer experience a God while I sing a Christian song. But as he describes that last ride on the Harley together, I have a very real glimpse of God.
(If swearing offends you, go ahead and skip the video. But, you’ll miss a good story.)
We want to keep our ideas and beliefs pure and separate from the ugliness of life. But what if that is exactly where God is? What if He really is in the messiest places? I can hear my husband say I am stretching this. I know all the logical reasons why this doesn’t make sense. But I cannot deny that in those darkest hours, it is there that I finally reach God. Recently my sister and I watched the documentary, Blood Brother. There is a scene where Rocky, the guy the movie is focused on, is caring for a child who is suffering from AIDS. This little boy sits in his hospital bed, covered in raw spots and his eyes sealed shut by sores. Rocky touches him without fear, tending to his wounded little body. It’s the part of the documentary that brings me to my knees. It’s hard to watch. After we finished, I turned to my sister and said, “See, that’s when I wonder Is there really a God?” She looked at me and said, “I see the opposite. I look at someone like Rocky and his deep love for the kids. This is when I do see God.”
This morning was a complete disaster. It included the tragedy of life. It also included the total mess of our household. I sent one child off to school kicking and screaming-mad at the world. I watched another lay on the couch devoid of life and energy, the atmosphere of sickness heavy around her. I watched another child ignoring it all, doing his best to navigate the stress. I exploded with frustration and said all the wrong things. I cried as I snuck to a quiet corner to call Drew, venting and asking- “What do I do?”
Paula D’Arcy says, God comes to you, disguised as your life. I don’t think it matters if you are a junkie or a prostitute. I don’t think if it that you are mad at the world. I don’t think it matters that you are stuck in lament. I don’t think it matters if you lose your cool with the kids. I don’t think it matters if you can’t find God in church. I don’t think it matters how our life comes to us. I think God is in it, especially in those places we can barely see.
Where could God be today? Has He come to you, disguised as life? These are the questions we hold as we move forward in this holiday season. Holding joy and lament, holding loss and life.
Light a candle.
Tell someone you love them.
Find small glimpses of hope.
Make a new friend.
Carry the hard stuff together.
Take that ride on your Harley and feel the wind on your face.
God is here.
Find His disguise.