Monday, January 24, 2011

A Study in Contrast

So I have this theory (that I'm sure is not original to me) that you can only understand and appreciate any given extreme to the extent that you've experienced its opposite. (Ummm. . . . Say whaaaaat?) Yeah I know. That's a weird sentence. Let me see if I can explain.

Let's start with a simple basic. Hot vs. cold. Ok. Y'all! It's cold in Vermont. It's about negative 18 right now as I type. (I KNOW, right?!?) And--I'm pretty sure just about anyone in the world would agree that that's cold. I'm not arguing against that. BUT I'm also pretty sure that I feel the intensity of that cold quite a bit more sharply than say someone who has lived here since birth. Or someone from Canada. Or Finland. Why? Because y'all! It's HOT in Texas! And I lived there. I know how HOT hot can be. And this is indeed the opposite of it. Just sayin'. BUT--bring on the negative 25 we keep hearing about! 'Cause the colder it is outside, the warmer my house feels on the inside. :-D Funny how contrast works that way.

Ok, moving on. How 'bout now we talk about lifestyle? The busy vs. simple spectrum. Have you lived at both extremes? If so, you probably already understand what I'm talking about because of your experience way better than I will ever be able to explain it, but I'll give it a shot anyway. (I apologize in advance if this ends up making very little sense.) I think there are lots of people who are crazy busy and don't even fully realize it because it's just "normal" for them. They've never known any different. My oldest sister comes to mind. I love her with all my heart, and I think she is absolutely amazing for all that she does, but honestly--her schedule gives me headaches and panic attacks if I think about it for too long. For real. (Love you, Vick!) And then I think there are those who live very simply, and for them, THAT is normal, and they just assume most people live the same way and don't really think about it that much. Nothing wrong with either extreme. They're just different. HOW different is a matter of perspective that I think is only clear when you've seen both ends of the spectrum. For instance, to me--my life seems amazingly simple right now in the most refreshing way I can possibly imagine. Which is funny, because I just had a conversation a few days ago with a friend about how crazy busy my schedule seems. But that is compared to others around me here in Vermont. When I compare my here and now to life before we moved, OH MY. A typical month there was something like this: Me working Monday through Friday 8 or 9 hours a day plus usually a 30-45 minute commute each way while Jared was on kids/errands/household duties plus leading a volunteer ministry and working on his writing. 3 Saturdays a month (at least) plus every Sunday and Monday night were devoted to Element (the ministry that we helped launch there), and then sprinkle in piano lessons, various meetings at the girls' school, other Element meetings, etc.--well, let's just say the calendar got pretty packed very quickly. (I'm honestly not sure how we ever got laundry done or prepared meals.) So NOW--even though I still might be "busier" than the typical Vermonter, life seems beautifully simple to me compared to before. It's just a matter of perspective.

Now on to the really important stuff. Jared talks a lot about this idea of Gospel Wakefulness. (He even wrote a book about it! Go figure! :-D) The overarching concept submits that until someone has experienced profound brokenness, it isn't possible to fully "get" gospel wakefulness. This doesn't mean you can't be fully "saved", fully devoted to your church, or fully in love with Christ. It certainly doesn't mean you can't be a Christian without having experienced this. But what it does mean is that the human soul with all its sinful "bents" and all of the distractions that are thrown at it each day is basically incapable of seeing Christ and the Gospel as its only hope UNTIL Christ and the Gospel are its only hope. That is when Gospel Wakefulness occurs. When there is no other option. When the hope you have had in other things or other people has failed you. When you have tried everything to pull yourself out of whatever pit you're in--whether it be depression, financial devastation, a failed marriage, abuse, addiction, etc., and NOTHING works except the Gospel. An awakening happens. The scales fall off. And suddenly you see the Gospel so much more clearly and recognize it so much more easily than ever before. Why? Because you know the opposite of being awake to the gospel. Subtlety is out the window. There are no shades of gray. You've seen the blackest black in existence. The depths of despair. The complete opposite of hope. You've been to the "end of yourself" just like the prodigal son, and there is nowhere to turn except into the arms of your Father. And once you have thrown yourself into His arms, and you KNOW what it feels like to be pulled securely into His impossibly strong yet so sweetly tender embrace, you DON'T want to ever be out of His arms again. Ever. EVER EVER EVER. I promise.

I would never ever wish heartbreak on anyone. But we live in a broken world whether I like it or not. So, as Jared says, "Brokenness will find you. Be holding hands with Christ when it does." Or better yet, be in His arms. On the spectrum of life, that is the farthest extreme you will find from your brokenness. And I promise you will recognize it as such.

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