Now (Again)

I’m still in the process of figuring out how to deal with the rubber of my faith meeting the road of my life right now. It is weird to be a lifelong Christian and feel so at a loss. It’s good because all of the cliches that are failing me will hopefully be things I remember not to offer other people, but it is also disconcerting to face so many classic Christian truths with a blank stare and a HOW?

I couldn’t sleep the other night (thank you acid reflux) and started reading through old journal entries. I was re-struck by John 14:4-6a, which I copied into my journal back in April. It says,

“And you know the way to where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way…”

Back in April it struck me that being a Christian is so not about copying Jesus’ life – I wrote, “Jesus is not a tour guide who came to show us the way, but he is God who became a man so that we could see God. Crazy!”

This week I was so struck by being in the same place as Thomas, confounded by how the heck to follow Jesus without being able to see him and without knowing where he is headed. Jesus’ answer raises the practical question of what it means to abide in him, the how that keeps stumping me. How am I supposed to get anywhere if all I do is fit my life into his today, over and over again? I think I’ve been sabotaged by all my years of hearing the gospel in terms of inviting Jesus into my life, when it is also the opposite: inserting my life into Jesus, reframing everything in terms of… what? Sacrificially loving others? Praying and reading the Bible to be connected to God in such a way that he can speak guidance, affirmation and correction? What about when I’m tired and sick and pregnant and emotionally shattered and can’t do any of that?

This morning I copied Jeremiah 9:24 into my journal:

Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.

I am not there yet. It would be boast-worthy though, to understand the God who puts up with generations of BS, who weighs mercy against discipline, who allows the world to persist without taking time off from love, justice and righteousness – who is therefore making everything right even as it constantly goes wrong.

It is easy to see the wrong. Maybe that’s why Jesus gives Thomas such a frustrating answer to his HOW?, why he never lays out a 12-step program or a life plan that we just need to get on track with. He says, “Abide in me… Don’t worry about tomorrow… I am the way.”

My soul is like Nimoy on a walk, straining and pulling and choking myself hoarse just to get one crack in the sidewalk ahead. I won’t actually get there any faster for all my efforts, although I’m a lot more tired than I could have been if I would just stay in step with the Master. I still struggle with the practicalities of that, the HOW (underlined and boxed and bolded in my journal pages), but reading the Bible does help, and I am almost ready to pray about it. It’s like learning to dance, maybe, putting my feet in the wrong place, shifting my weight clumsily and moving off beat, but with a strong partner and a lifetime of patience… it doesn’t always have to be like this.

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