I enjoyed watching the day begin from just outside our cabin. The air was crisp and promising, the sun slowly working its way up (I’m up… I’m up…) to the center of our regional expanse. I was sitting on the bench of a picnic table this morning and noticed two chipmunks running ’round. Thinking they’d bolt when they noticed me, I stilled to enjoy the moment. Suddenly Alvin ran under the picnic table I was sitting at, followed by Simon. To my surprise, Alvin and Simon ran across my shoe, as if my foot were just another exposed tree root. Then Simon stopped, stared at me for a shared moment, and hustled to catch up to Alvin. What a strange thing this was.
Later on in the day I was walking down a wooded trail and noticed a painted turtle making its way across. I stopped and greeted him with the customary “dude!” as directed by the TMNT glossary. He did not like that I noticed him and began — I am serious — to run. You know how we say that someone/thing is as slow as a turtle? We need to add an addendum: they are as slow as a turtle, unless of course that turtle is freaked out by a giant man who calls him “dude”.
Anyway, Donatello saw me and ran into the woods. I followed him for a few steps because, hey, turtles ain’t posta run. After a few feet I left him be. He never retreated into his shell. Brave, this ninja.
Things suddenly changed moments after my little jaunt when I got an email about another horrific shooting, this one only about 50 miles from where I live. A few checks online confirmed that yes, it was an active shooter situation and that lives had been lost. Thumbing through the various news sites brought more of the same, plus all the other news in the world which seems to fit into a broader and broader category we might call “bezerk” or “unglued”.
What in the world is going on?
I like what Kierkegaard says in “This Present Age” — that we tend to get really talkative when what we need to do is listen and speak only when the time is right. Our talkative nature is a subconscious cover for our absolute fear of terrifying silence. Indeed we need to speak the Truth, and certainly speak Love, and most certainly live these out daily. But I just wanted to say only one thing, even while running the risk of covering my own fear with talkativeness and, worse, just adding to the noise, which, like static, can’t possibly be helpful in a time where clarity is sorely needed.
I started thinking about life from the turtle’s point of view. Hang out in the woods, roam wherever — and if things get outta hand, just pull into the shell until it all blows over. I wanted to be that turtle when the news came to me today. So badly did I want to just tuck and roll, ignorant to what’s happening in our world right now. Sweet, blissful ignorance. No, it doesn’t make anything go away, but at least it makes it so that I don’t have to deal. Do you ever feel that way?
But then I thought about my son. It just so happens that he and I are hanging around this week together, just him and his dad. If I’m the turtle, he’s one of the chipmunks. Running, happy, hopping up trees and, I dunno, burying stuff — all as he’s having a blast at camp this week. The parental line of thinking right now is something like this: enjoy the world, little one, because the world you’ll soon discover is falling apart at the seams. Live now, for the future seems to not be meant for those who run freely but rather those who can take cover.
Of course, that’s no way to live. It would be tragic to infuse Mac with fear and cynicism about our world, especially at such a young and free age. What he needs to be infused with is a sense of hope in the midst of real.
Hope? In the midst of real? That’s exactly what the gospel is.
The gospel doesn’t pretend that everything is fine. Why does it come across this way? Because the church has often communicated a gospel that is meant to make us into really nice people who don’t do mean things.
Lord, help us.
The gospel pulls no punches. In a nutshell, it basically tells us that we are born lost, stuck in darkness, on a straight path to self-destruct, bent toward evil and against God. Jesus came (and comes today, even now) to rescue us from darkness and bring us into the Light. By stepping into the light, you leave the darkness behind and become a child of the light. The world is dark. Jesus came to bring illumination. Who’s the light for? The people in the dark. Who’s in the dark? Messy, broken people who need light — just like we once were and still are.
How in the world do I model this for my kid? I’m not an expert. Jesus is, though, and I can’t help but be inspired by His life practice in the face of fear, evil, destruction, and pure human gunk. He’s simple in always seeking the will of the Father. He’s clear in His mission and teaching. He’s not freaked out but faces darkness for what it is, even calling it by name. He knows His boundaries and leaves things behind that need to be left behind. Through it all, He is known for His compassion. He weeps over tragedy — and these are not crocodile tears. Fully God, fully Man: Jesus cannot contain the hurt that our brokenness causes Him. He hurts because He loves us. He loves us in word and in deed. And I think He’s more like the chipmunk than the turtle.
The gospel — like Jesus — is hope in the midst of real.
Paul prays this in Romans 15:13, and I think it’s a good way to go today:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.