December 31st, 2011 I took an inventory of the “good life” in my journal. I made a list of all the things that I considered pretty awesome and evidence that my life was pretty darn good.
After that I made a list of all my hopes for 2012. I’m not into New Years resolutions. I prefer wish lists that I can look back on in the end of the next year to see how many came true.
I didn’t have much time, so that was the end of my nostalgic so-long to 2011. I then packed up a suitcase and headed to meet up with some girlfriends. We were planning to celebrate the New Year in Nashville.
I was excited to spend time with the girls. I love my friends so much that they all made it on my list for the “good life.” Next to being excited about partying on Broadway with some of my best friends and drinking Champaign in the hotel at midnight, I was excited about our New Years Day adventure. We’d be going to the same church that we went to the year before.
My memory of this church was this cool, super-hip church with all these musician type people. But my favorite memory was the pastor and how his sermon had spoken to us when we went at the beginning of 2011. You know a sermon is good when you think about it for days afterwards and it gives you something to talk about on your way home.
With 5 girls, all with different personalities, getting to church in the morning can be an adventure all by itself. The craziness didn’t stop from the moment we woke up until we reached the door of the church, this warehouse with a garage door and concrete flooring.
The church was full, but we were able to find 4 seats and then pull up a chair on the aisle so we could all sit together. I ended up on the aisle seat. As the service began, I noticed one thing that made me seriously uncomfortable:
There were kneelers at the front of the church and then communion plates behind the kneelers. The first thing that went through my head was “not cool.” It wasn’t because there was anything wrong with kneelers, or communion, or kneelers in the front of the church. It was that all of these things would be happening at the same time: kneeling, communion, front of the church. Not cool.
Instead of a sermon, the pastors from all three campuses got up in front of the church to recount ways God had worked in their personal lives and in the life of their congregation.
The first pastor was a younger man who talked about his younger years (which obviously wasn’t that long ago). He talked about how if God had given him a heads up about what was coming ahead when he was younger, he wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Some of the stuff that happened was pretty rotten and not all that fun. He talked about if you were going to give anything up for 2012, it might be good to consider giving up the commitment to only trust God if you understand Him and know what He’s doing. He said even if you can’t see Him working, He is.
I felt like he kept looking at me, because, after all, I was sort of sitting in the aisle and was an easy target. Why did I sit in the aisle seat?
The next pastor shared some similar things, but one of the things he said was that he always had a desire to arrive at a place spiritually where he would know what to do and always know the right way to handle every situation. But, he said, we would never arrive at that place, because at that place we no longer need to depend on Jesus. Jesus, in His mercy, will never allow us to be self-sufficient with our own understanding.
He totally looked at me when he said that. Again, easy target. The aisle seat felt like it was getting more and more conspicuous.
The final pastor talked about how everyone he had ever come in contact with was broken and messy and complicated. There was no uncomplicated story and no uncomplicated life and no life that didn’t need Jesus.
Why did I wear the red boots? It makes me stand out even more.
When the music began to play, I made myself get up and take communion, but all I could think about was how uncomfortable I was. Throughout the entire service, I realized one thing: I was way more spiritual the year before.
Something had happened in 2011 to make me hold out on spirituality and hold out on Christianity in general. I didn’t feel like I was holding out on God, I felt like I completely and utterly trusted Him. But who I didn’t trust was myself. And everybody else.
When we were on our way home, we all discussed the sermon. Every one of us admitted that our 2011 sucked. But I remarked that when it came to 2012, I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be any better.
I usually begin each year with high expectations. But it seems like each year gets harder and harder, with more and more pain. The complication of my life escalates every year. 2011 was the clincher. I realized as I sat in a service that worshiped Jesus, that I was on edge, on guard, defensive. I didn’t believe the “good life” really existed.
Life is pretty tough. And the fact that we are sinful in the midst of it makes it even tougher. We try to figure out what life is all about and try to figure out what God is up to, but the answer sometimes is that we just don’t know.
We don’t know what He’s up to when families are in conflict, when churches are splitting, or when love is non-existent or doesn’t work out. We don’t know what He’s up to when bad things are happening and you wake up one morning realizing that pretty much everything that could be going wrong is going wrong and you’re completely helpless to do anything about it. You don’t know what He’s up to when the trial you are in, the one you’ve been tired of your whole life, may never end. You used to hope that God would deliver you, now you realize, He may have a reason for not taking you out of the circumstance, and you don’t know what He’s up to.
During such situations, you realize that you will never ever arrive. You will never reach this height of spirituality or this level of Christianity where you no longer need the Holy Spirit to guide you. Because Jesus made a promise that He would never leave us, and that’s because we will always need Him.
I’ll end with the words from SM Coldridge’s “That’s My King” because these words always put fire back into your heart:
“You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King.”
That’s my King.