A Brave, New Year Ahead!
Are you familiar with the game Jenga? The game begins with a tower constructed with 54 blocks. The object is to remove individual blocks without the tower collapsing. Every time a piece is removed by a player, the structure becomes more unsteady. I find Jenga to be an apt metaphor for the experience of being human, especially over this last year. We are marvelous strongholds, but inevitably the realities of life: terrific loss, physical and mental fragility, natural disasters, challenging relationships, and financial insecurity test our grounding, what we believe and hold to be true and trustworthy.
2020 swung the pendulum too far in the province of loss. Many times over this last year I have found myself wondering, “Where are you God?” “Things are not as they should be, God.” “Creator God, your beautiful world is coming undone. Please do something.”
I sat recently by the bedside of a young mother losing her battle against breast cancer. I crawled into the bed with her three young children to help them say goodbye. When I left I felt a Jenga block in my heart loosen and shake my spiritual foundation. Then another block slipped with the death of my friend Daniel. He was forty-two, again with such young children, stricken with complications from Covid. Eighteen years ago, Daniel saved the day for us when our son Charlie was diagnosed with cancer. He gave my husband a consulting job at his company which allowed him the flexibility to be at the hospital during Charlie’s treatments. But what I remember the most about Daniel was his infectious joie de vie. His jolly presence made you feel like all was right and good in the world. Next my shaky tower received a knock-out blow with the devastating news that my dear friend Tallu has terminal brain cancer.
Questions abound. Is my determination to believe and hold on to hope a deceit? Does the joy really return in the morning as promised in Psalm 30? Does every story find its redemption? The internal tug-o-war between belief and unbelief is real. And yet, something still, small, and not of this world—deep inside of me— refuses to give in to despair. I just have this sense that God and God’s benevolent, redemptive plan cannot be toppled—which means you and I cannot be toppled.
Herbert McCabe, a theologian and a prolific Christian writer I admire avows the most fundamental truth of our mortal existence—we are loved by God. He said if we know in our depths that we are loved by God, then nothing—not our darkest night, not our greatest loss or most frightening doubt, not our pain, not our suffering, not even our deaths can topple our tower. God will somehow step in for us. Maybe it doesn’t happen when we think logical or imperative. Maybe we will never be given tangible proof, or even experience it on this side of heaven, but when you love something, you step in! In Jesus’s moment of utter despair, when it appeared all the lights had gone out, God stepped in. God declared that Love would always have the last word.
2020 has left us all wondering who and what can be trusted. The reality is our health, the news, temporal institutions, and human relationships are all flawed, and will inevitably let us down. God promises in 1 Corinthians 13 that Love can be trusted. Sometimes I wonder if we have forgotten God’s definition of love.
1.Love is patient, love is kind. 2. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 3. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 4. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 5. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 6.Love never fails.
As we brave this new year, I lean into the prophetic words of Martin Luther King, Jr: “We must rediscover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”
In 2021, let us write a new story, redemption, our plot—Love, our protagonist.
Live in Hope,