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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

In Thanks for a Gratuitously Abundant Life

The Royal Wedding happened last week. I'm not sure you heard about it. ;-)

If you've read here in the last few weeks, you know that I was beside myself with irrational anticipation. My friends and I planned a viewing party complete with an array of fascinators for attendees to wear, mimosas, blueberry scones, tea, and good ol' American Starbucks coffee. We decorated with photos of the Royal Family and I laced tulle around the doorway. We woke up early and we crept down to my basement so as not to wake the dumb ol' boys and watched every second.

Sure, it was utter nonsense. Sure, we don't know the bride and groom at all. Sure, lots of marriages - especially those that are thrust into the spotlight 24/7 - end in divorce. Sure, the amount of money spent on the flowers and dresses and the cake and the whole entire thing could be considered shamefully excessive.

There is always talk when these events occur from a number of people about how silly it is that we might focus so much attention on frivolity and pomp and circumstance when all around us tragedy, pain, and suffering abound.

This admonishment that we should not find joy when others suffer so much could have, in my past, made me feel a measure of guilt and embarrassment for finding happiness in small things. I had and still do at times have a tendency to temper enthusiasm or even gratitude for daily blessings because others are suffering.

But, I've grown up a bit now and hey, guess what?

In the midst of reading all the fun tweets and all the Debbie Downer tweets over the weekend, I spotted this one from someone named Linda Holmes:

Please, please don't be that person who lectures that if you take a moment to enjoy anything, you've apparently forgotten all the pain in the world. All joy takes place at the same time as all tragedy. If you've ever had fun, you've done it while people suffer. It's not a contest.

Say it louder for the people in the back, Linda.

There is and has always been good and bad in the world. Hope and fear. Crushing defeat and exhilarating triumph. Every day, all at the same time. And it is true that the God I worship has never once told me that He promised us a world of ease and comfort, of crowns adorned with jewels and of googly-eyed romance. Not one time.

Jesus tells me in John 10:10 that the thief comes to steal and to kill and to destroy. Yes, he sure does. We've seen it and we've felt it . . . in school shootings, in broken marriages, in cancer diagnosis, and in shocking, untimely deaths of friends and family. And we are called to hold the broken close and to grieve with those who grieve.

But here's the second part of that verse about the thief which is as important as the first: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (ESV)

During the week of the royal wedding, we marked the anniversary of a dear friend's death. His wife and children still reel from the shocking loss of him as do his neighbors and friends. I have three close friends fighting cancer at this very moment. One of my friends buried her father this weekend. One of my friends is helping her husband navigate the fear and sorrow of caring for her mother-in-law who has dementia. One of my friends is basically holding her breath through the next few weeks of graduation festivities because cancer stole her son before he could get his diploma.

My people and me? We know pain and fear and heartache. We know that the thief lurks out there waiting for us. But, we also know the love and hope and comfort of a good God who wants us to have an abundant life. A life full of compassion and empathy and also of joy and dancing. He sees us in our pain and He sees how we are working to help each other through it. He sees how we are trudging into dark places and holding a hand and crying a tear.

Am I telling you that I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Here you go, loves. Here's a handsome and charming British prince and here's a stunningly beautiful American woman. They love each other and they're going to get married. Take a minute and enjoy."?

Nah. I didn't.

Maybe that's not what He said. But my girls and I believe in hope and love and beauty and fun and laughter in the midst of a broken and bleeding world. We set our alarms and we got together in the early hours of a Saturday morning to drink champagne and eat scones and gasp at a beautiful sparkling tiara trailed by perfect delicate veil. We giggled at the little pageboys and girls. We listened to the pastor flat out BRING THE WORD and speak of love overcoming all things.

The amount of time and effort and thought I put into that morning? It was quite abundant, if you will. And, I suppose it could have been considered straight-up nonsense and even embarrassingly gratuitous. Interestingly, I found two definitions of the word "gratuitous" today. One defines it as uncalled for or unwarranted. And another defines it as given freely, without charge.

Hmm. Well, isn't that the definition of this life the Savior gave to me? Free and without charge. I'll take that second definition, thank you very much.

The Lord gave my friends and me hands and hearts that are free to hold both sorrow and joy at the same time. We have the ability to love and grieve at the same time. We have the ability to laugh and cry at the same time. We're talented like that. ;-)

So, thank you darling Duke and Duchess of Sussex. You brought us some abundant, gratuitous joy and we opened our hands to take it when we could, knowing that we would soon after fold those same hands in prayer for the broken.

And, thank you sweet Jesus, that this is the essence of the life you came to give every one of us. It's beauty and brutality all at once. It's confusion and understanding all at once. It is a life bursting with abundance. I am so grateful for every last bit of it.

1 comment:

Jennifer Holcomb said...

THIS. Love. Love. Love.