Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Wild Ride the Dark

Isn’t it funny how most of us really love a wild ride?  From movies to rollercoasters, all over the world people pay big money for wild ride experiences. 

My favorite wild ride is Space Mountain at Disneyland.  I love that it’s so dark you can’t even see your own hand in front of your face. As you strap in, sit back and begin rolling up the steep climb into “space unknown” you realize that you’ll be flying blind.  You won’t even know if the next second will leave you plunging toward the bottomless black depths, or darting sideways in a tummy-tossing corkscrew.  You are never sure how high is high or how low is low.  It’s pitch black and you are on the ride of your life.

Why is it though that when real life resembles my favorite roller coaster I never EVER think “This is AWESOME”?  When your world seems to plunge you into a blind free-fall, totally out of your control, have you ever once thought to raise your hands in the air and holler “Whoo Hoo!” like a crazy person having the time of your life? 

It’s in times like these that we find comfort in the idea that our lives are a story and, as we know, every good story has it’s share of nail biting twists and turns to make it a hair-raising adventure before arriving safely home at the happy ending.   But at the same time when life feels utterly sideways we can become so tempted to look at God and say, “Where ARE you?  This can’t be right!”  and then we dive in and try to "fix" and redirect onto a safer, more controllable course.  But we must be very watchful for this danger in ourselves: of seeing "me" or "you" as the main character of a story that needs to be rearranged, reworked, rewritten, ...around us.

CS Lewis, one of the greatest storywriters of all time, warns:

“Above all beware of excessive day dreaming, of seeing yourself in the center of a drama, of self pity, and as far as possible, of fears.”

Aha!  And here we must face the truth about the stories of our lives with eyes wide opened.  The cold hard truth is that:

Life. Does Not. Revolve. Around. Me. 

Uh Hum.  That’s never easy to say.

But like a band-aid, let’s rip it off all at once and find relief.  Because…
There’s more. 

WE are not the main character of our own lives.                

And our life stories are not the BIG story.                             

The greatest storywriter of all time is not CS Lewis, and the greatest story of all time does not star the Sons of Adam or the Daughters of Eve. 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Once upon a time in a land dark and void HE was there; …hovering over the deep.  And in a monumental moment His voice shook the emptiness, resounding forth with power, as it reverberated through an empty expanse.  And when He spoke, LIFE sprung from nothing; creation arose, and The Story began to unfold.  A story of a love so deep it had no end.  A story of betrayal and perfect friendship broken.  A story of a world groaning with the weight of loss; and a God reaching His heart to save it.  And so The Big God Story has rumbled through time with white-knuckle twists and turns until that dark day when the bottom completely dropped out… at the cross.  Death!  The END?  Silence.
But with an impossible twist the story wasn’t over!  The crescendo was building!  ALIVE!  The resurrection of our Hero thundered and shook the expanse, and the rumblings gained strength and power and momentum as the impartation of the rushing Breath and Consuming Fire of God’s Spirit invaded the narrative, multiplying into a million sparks, each one on it’s own divine course, igniting a wildfire to the ends of the earth.  

And, of course you see, GOD is the main character of this epic tale.

Not me.  Not you.

CS Lewis wanted to warn us about the danger of falling into the clever trap that WE are the main character of our own lives; that WE are the center of our own dramas. 
The sun doesn’t revolve around us; but rather we revolve around HIM.  

And maybe the most important part of being in those dark places of life, is that HE is there.  Because maybe we might realize He is all we need.  Not what He can give us, do for us or create for us.  But Him.  Just Him.  "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters"  Gen 1:2  

It is our destiny to be the sparks, not the Fire.  Our stories are the little stories within the larger narrative; the rays of light that burst forward on a million different courses, carrying the Holy Flame to ignite Faith in a darkened world.  He is doing something bigger than me… bigger than you.  He is rescuing His beloved from getting lost in the dark.  

We may have times that shake us to our inner core; when the bottom drops out of our life track and we feel we are in an unsettling free fall.  These can be heart breaking moments.  Sometimes they can lead us to be overwhelmingly tempted to do whatever we can to regain control.   We might even want to re-imagine ourselves bigger than we should, which has the unintentional side-effect of shrinking our God down to size, waiting on a chain to attack on our behalf, at a simple word from us.   

But our God is not in a tame lion.  He is the One True Living God, the Roaring Lion of Judah, the One who is writing His Story deep inside the hearts of this world. -HIS story.  Not ours.  He is in charge.  Not me.  There is always a larger story, much bigger than we can see, much bigger than we can fully understand, unfolding.   And in those murky moments, our primary part of that story is to trust in the One who is bigger than us.  It is much easier to trust our God to be bigger than our troubles, than to trust our God to be bigger than ourselves. 

God is doing something bigger than we can understand during those difficult twists in the dark.   And so we remember, we are not alone.  In the darkness His hand reaches out, so that we can grasp it and tightly hold on for dear life.  He is there.  He is enough.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  And in thanksgiving and desperation we hold, squeezing so hard we leave nail marks.  Remember those nail marks?  They are in His hands still.

When we surrender to God, we let go of our own course.  We don’t roll along the track of our own pursuits anymore. (That track always derails in the end anyway).  We understand that we don't actually know best.  But God does.  We step onto a wild ride that will often not feel safe, or predictable.  Like most wild rides it doesn’t avoid danger, but sometimes travels right through the middle of it.  This track we roll on is the scarlet ribbon of God’s mercy, grace and redemption.  It is His plan to redeem mankind and the track that will one day bring us Home.  It is the only way to navigate through this dark world and not crash blindly.  Because: we can’t see in the dark.  But our Big God can. 

So when the view ahead is pitch black and we can’t even see our own hands waving in front of our faces, let alone the path before us, we must remember that the darkness is as light to Him.  We can't always know the road ahead, but He does.    When we try to plan everything; see everything; know everything -to reach too far into the dark and invisible places, we will probably find ourselves getting off-track.   He is in control.  We were not created to be in control; to run the show.  We were created to trust, follow, and believe.  That is how we roll.

We Believe.   That our lives are part of an epic story of redemption.   Because our hearts can too easily be crushed, bruised, broken.   Bad things afflict.  Life can be mixed up and confusing.  But God REDEEMS.  Believe it.  He leaves nothing lost in the darkness that cries out for the light.  He will buy back all confusing, dark, painful, crushing free-falls.  Stay on track.  He is taking you somewhere.  Somewhere full of redemption.  And light.

Our Redeemer is working out a plan to rescue those who still haven't seen the light.   This rescue plan is much bigger than you or I.  Will you trust Him in the uncertainty and discomfort of living by faith rather than by sight?  Will you carry the spark of His fiery love to the darkest corners of your reach... and yet reach no further?  Will you trust HIm to be in charge?  Will you release your story to be about His Story?  Before the foundations of the earth, He laid a track to redeem our life stories and bring us safely home.  

And so, we hang on tightly to Him: we BELIEVE.   Because, as we all know, it’s the ride of our lives, and that's just how we roll.