What are you starting over this week? As the weekends inch closer to Monday, brand new promises begin to cycle through our heads. Our diet begins today. Our workout plan starts now. Since the slip-ups of our weekend are past, we can start again with our early bedtimes, dedicated cleaning schedule, home-cooked meals; the list goes on and on. The fresh week pushes us to hope the habits we threw out over the weekend were just a fluke. This week we’ll get it right.
Fresh starts aren’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, the turning of each season and the New Year gives us needed time to reflect on the past and think of the future. Yet I wonder if we can take the desire for new starts a little too far. I’ve spent too many of my own weekends convincing myself Monday will be different, and I’ve been exhausted by the process. Who wants to live in a state of perpetual stop and go?
Not only do we throw our diets, health choices, and habits on this exhausting cycle, but Christians can likewise lump their spiritual life in the same manner. How many times have we promised ourselves this week we’ll conquer our Bible study? This week we’ll be more patient with our kids? This week we’ll not fall for that temptation? This week we’ll pray more consistently? It all starts today!
Every other Monday evening, I hastily move through our kids’ bedtime routine, and grab for my phone as the minutes tick closer to the hour. More often than not I’m late—when bedtime questions, stories, or melt-downs take over. Yet in that routine hour from 8 to 9 PM, I prop my phone to my ear and experience the kindness of the Lord through his church on the other end of the line.
It all began during the lockdowns of COVID-19. As the isolation from the Sunday gatherings wore on me that first spring, I reached out to a friend from church. I wanted to connect with someone. I wanted to pray with an arm, a leg, or maybe a foot of the body that lately felt severed. Yet doubts and insecurities swarmed my head before I texted the question. What if she says no? What if she won’t have time? What if she doesn’t want to get that close to me?
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We all know the spiel. We hear it on countless YouTube ads we’re desperately waiting to skip. The words scroll past our phone as we scan the internet. Lately these kinds of messages have found their footing in the world of social media. The magical elixir of our pains and aches seem more believable when it comes from a “normal” person on Instagram than a fancy actor in an advertisement.
MLM distributors, life coaches, and fitness gurus constantly attempt to form a connection to the problems we battle, because they have experienced it too!
I’ve dealt with my own share of chronic ailments through the years, and the hope of these offers remains so enticing. I’ve scrolled through Amazon reviews on another medicine, just hoping to see someone share the same symptoms I have. I dream there might be hope that this product could cure me.
It’s crazy what can change in a moment, isn’t it? An innocent stretch of my thirty-four year old arms can pinch a nerve and leave me flat on my back popping Ibuprofen all day. A slip of my fingers can void all the work I’ve done preparing a meal that now lays sprawled across the kitchen floor. We’ve all experienced these inconvenient moments, but far more threatening ones pepper our lives.
Maybe we’ve listened to the words of a doctor redirect the course of our life in a handful of syllables. Perhaps a moment of distraction while driving shattered a future we believed we were guaranteed. We scroll through our phone and go from peace and confidence to anxious fear in seconds as the news ticker reveals the ominous word: war. The future becomes less tenable. It all happens in a moment.
These moments punctuate our lives. Like gnarled roots they burst from the soil, altering our path forever. A beloved friend—no longer on this earth. A broken relationship. A job lost. A piercing word we wish desperately to take back. One day we live and move with ease, the next marks the beginning of chronic pain.
The sudden onset can leave us terrified. It’s easy to expect life to continue on as it has. If we’re honest, we take for granted the way the Lord sovereignly guides a million details throughout our bodies, relationships, and the entire world that enables our life to “go on like normal.” These climactic moments remind us of the fragility of it all. We are left to ask: If so much can change in a moment, how much more will change in the many moments of our lives?
All week our family has been talking about Holy Week. We’ve taken time at dinner to discuss the events of each day–leading up to the somber pinnacle of Good Friday, where we then wait expectantly for Resurrection Sunday. Yet what of Saturday? Saturday was always a day I didn’t quite know what to do with. I would consider it a day of quiet sorrow, impatient waiting and—to be honest—a little confusion.
What happened to Christ on Saturday? The Apostles’ Creed tells us Christ descended to the dead, but what does that even mean? Did he go to heaven? Did he just sleep and wait? Was he actually tormented in Hell for my sake and—if that’s true—how could Jesus claim “It is finished” on the cross if he still had more punishment to bear?
I recently finished reading Matthew Emerson’s book “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday and it has shifted my perspective on the day in-between. I’ve come to believe it’s not a day to hurry over, but as with Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, it’s a day that offers Christians great hope and encouragement.
I’ve googled a lot of medical symptoms throughout my life. I wish this time my guess was wrong.
Instead, last week, my husband drove through a winter storm in order to take our youngest son to the emergency room of our children’s hospital. Our suspicions were confirmed: our son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. In an instant our world changed.
As we sat through hours of instruction with hospital educators, practiced administering insulin, and learned how to take blood sugar tests I felt so overwhelmed. It was if I was being handed a newborn again… except even scarier. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Yet it’s here nonetheless. We may not feel capable, but we just have to.
Have you heard the latest inside scoop? You can’t go too far these days without hearing the breaking story behind your favorite actor, tv show, or historical figure. Headlines shout at us about how Tom Cruise really acts on set, the true dynamic of the cast of the latest Spiderman movie, or the tell-all book on the hidden secrets of the Laura Ingalls family. The headlines cast out their bait, making many, including myself, grab for the worm.
Yet even though these stories are clearly looking for clicks, they also often tell the truth. Our favorite All-American movie star is found to be a jerk behind the scenes. As much as we hate to admit it, the real stories behind beloved families like the Ingalls and even the VonTrapp family are more sad and troubled than we’d like to admit.
This disappointment spreads both in secular culture and within the church. A thriving church suffers under the hidden narcissism of its pastor. A well-known speaker reveals a hidden life of predatory behavior. The constant barrage of exposes might leave us petrified to put our trust in anyone. When will the next shoe crash to the ground?
Some teacups break
They shatter against the floor
The shards scatter into slivers
And their form is no more.
Glue will not mend
The damage is too far gone
Its once-beautiful pattern
Will never come to live on.
I closed my last book of 2021 just in time for the New Year. The Reading List, weaved its story around the lives of strangers connected through a mysterious list of books. The book was a touching display of the beauty of story and the effect fictional characters have in our own real-life worlds. Author, Sara Nisha Adams, displayed this by making the books come alive for her characters. They didn’t just read To Kill a Mockingbird, they heard Atticus Finch prodding them to speak boldly and rightly. They didn’t merely understand the story of Rebecca, they saw the grumpy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers popping up to interact with their thoughts.
As I was transported through these characters’ interactions, I couldn’t help but find myself saying, “Yes! That’s what it’s like to read.” The good books we take in are not merely stagnant stories, but they intertwine with our lives. We turn that first page, and we welcome the characters into our own world. My own favorite books tell this tale.
Last week our family camped at a nearby state park to drink in the final dregs of summer. We returned to find the warmth had gone the way of the corn stalks surrounding our home. The chill of fall had come to stay. Now my body shivers as I grab my puppy’s leash to take him outside. Each time I reluctantly walk him out, I tiptoe past the shadow cast by my house towards the strip of light illuminating the grass farther out. I just need to feel the sunshine.
While my feet perch in the frosted grass, my brain refocuses and concentrates on the rays I feel against my body. I feel its shine penetrating the back of my neck, slowly soaking into me. I feel it heat the fabric on my shirt, and imagine it enveloping my frame. Though the temperature around me doesn’t change, I can feel the warmth filling me.
This is a routine I’ve perfected through the years. My husband will readily admit I don’t like to be cold. During early morning hikes, colder-than-normal boating trips, and those few winters we took to the beach, I would try my best to soak in the rays of the sun when I could find them. And it would help. In the midst of my discomfort, I’d lean towards the rays, focusing on the sliver of heat to hold on to.
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