Friday, December 2, 2016

I Heard the Bells

Three weeks ago, I sat in my small group from church and cried and babbled, mostly incoherently, about my big feelings. I told my group that I knew, even as I talked, that what I was feeling was too much. I was so sad about how awful people have been during this election season and especially after. I was personally wounded by the attacks on people I didn't even know and there was a heaviness in my heart because of all this pain.  And, I was incredibly saddened by the rhetoric of so many believers who resorted to name-calling and inflammatory language.  It felt shocking and deeply sad. It still does. Afterwards, Loren and I talked about why it had me so captured.  I knew much of it had to do with social media, and with just the regular media. It's hard to navigate the pain that is just a click away on our computers, in the news, on Facebook , in the zillions of blogs that are out there, and still maintain a worldview that is positive. There is a lot of pain. And I felt compelled to keep clicking, to keep reading it all in an effort to be informed, but also in an effort to really understand. I had good intentions, but I was drowning in the sorrow.
Then,  add to this, a slew of things with the kids and with friends that were hard and emotional, and some ministry challenges that were exhausting and tedious. I felt emotionally spent, physically exhausted by the constant processing of it all. And again, I knew it was out of proportion. Were these big feelings a gift or a liability?  Well, probably both.
Then, I had the good sense to go off of social media and regular media for a while. And, though I didn't understand why at the time, I also gave myself permission to quit the gym for a while.  For some people, the gym is their jam. It is their escape.  It has never been that for me, though. I love my gym, but CrossFit is a punishing kind of workout. Usually, I kind of like that. It feels good to work hard and leave feeling spent.  But, because lately, there had been so much hard work in regular old life...a kind of mentally exhausting just felt like too much. And I didn't want to feel like I was punishing myself anymore.  I wanted to do something that felt like it gave me something instead of took something from me. I wanted to walk and listen to podcasts. I wanted to run and think only about breathing. I wanted to do yoga and feel my muscles loosen up and stretch. I didn't need to leave somewhere feeling beaten up and exhausted. I was getting enough of that in my everyday life.
I needed time to slow down and to turn down the volume on the world and the chaos in my own life. I needed to check and see if my perspective was accurate.  And when I did, I could hear the still, small voice of Jesus. There he was, still offering hope, offering peace, offering rest. He is still victorious. He still offers to fill us with the fullness of God.  What grace!
Just this morning I thought about how in the past couple of weeks my heaviness and despair has lifted, and my breath caught as I realized that this despair is what the world feels every day. I am reminded of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, turned Christmas carol, written during the dark days of the American Civil War:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
This is the reality of those who are without Christ. The end of it all. What a tragedy! With a grateful heart, as a child of God, I am able to sing the last verse with confidence.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
I am grateful that, today, the music of Christ is more loud and deep than the music of the world in my own head. He continues to remind me that he is still working, that he never tires of setting things right. I have no need to despair! And, my glimpse into the heart of those who are lost challenges me to share this Good News. I can't imagine living every day without the knowledge and understanding that what this world offers in not all there is.
During this season of Advent, as we enter into the stories of those saints long ago who were waiting for the coming Messiah, we are being made brave enough to continue to wait for his second coming. I pray that it makes you brave to know that he, very literally, prevails to bring peace on earth and his good will to men and that the music of his victory is loud and deep in your ears. And I am praying that we, as the church, understand that we can be instruments of that peace and good will to the larger world and to those in our own lives. That as he chooses, in his grace, to fill us with all the fullness of God, we are responsible to share this Good News with those who need to know it.
The good gift of Christmas is this chance to remember.
Peace and good will to you, friends.