I love a good motorcycle ride, probably because it gives me a false sense of my own awesomeness. Every time Dan & I get on a Hog (that's right, I'm down with the lingo) I can't help but think, "Hey you nerdy Dodge drivers. I'm on a Harley. Be scared of me. Maybe I have a tattoo and belong to a biker gang, you just don't know. I might even throw ball bearings into your wood-veneered mini van." And so it goes until we hit a small bump and I cry for my mother.
One particular evening several years ago my husband and I rode over The Skyway Bridge (pictured here) on the Harley. The view from the top was spectacular - clear sky, deep blue water sparkling in the sunlight. On the Harley it was so much easier to take it all in - the wind on my face, the smell of the salt air, the rush of the 190 ft. ascent to the top of the bridge. The sense of freedom was unparalleled. Yet later that day, when it was time to return from our excursion, the bridge was not so welcoming. The heavy darkness of night, mingled with the raw, lashing wind and fatigue of the day, were hateful companions. As we started the bridge's ascent I was terrified.The gusts were so intense I literally huddled behind my husband to avoid their razored edge. Dan felt their lashing, too. When he yelled, "DO. NOT. MOVE." I instantly froze. We both knew the winds of the bridge were enough to lay down the bike and seriously injure us both.
It was a reality check. How could it be that something I loved so much had turned into something so dangerous? All the freedom was replaced with serious danger, that if ignored, could have killed us. The change of perspective was staggering.
Our walk with Christ can be like this. On some occasions He chooses to protect us from the harsh slaps of life. In His infinite wisdom He knows which battles we simply can't survive and so He provides a way of escape. We enjoy life unaware of the pain we've been spared. We live free.
But there are other times. Days, weeks, or months pocked by pain, disappointment, loss, loneliness, doubt, fatigue. It plays out many different ways...
The child you love walks a prodigal's path.
You were aiming for a promotion but got a pink slip instead.
There's a miscarriage.
You live in loneliness is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Test results come back from the doctor. It's worse than you imagined.
God is silent when the rest of the world is screaming.
None of us is a stranger to injury. In those times we lay in bed at night, tears soaking a pillow beneath us as we look up at the blank ceiling. Wishing He would usher us away from our reality our lips mouth the word, "Why?" The stabbing from the enemy is all too real, but for some reason He deems us strong enough to stand and fight. And we may never know why, which makes it even harder to swallow.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum of suffering - and trust me, I've had my share - there's something to be learned. In my life, when pain has reared it's ugly head I have so often prayed, "Jesus, just help me get through this." Over the years I must have prayed that countless times.
But then I stopped.
In a suffering moment, when I was dealing with a chronic pain diagnosis and some depression, truth zapped me like lightening from the sky. By praying, "God, just get me through this..." I was limiting Him. In essence I was saying, "All I want from you today Lord is just enough to get by."
I had to ask myself, "Is that really all I want from God?"
Or in times of suffering is it possible to take advantage of God's closeness and fall head-long into Him? Maybe when He wasn't giving me peace, He gives me Himself instead, thicker and richer and almost tangible. Maybe He isn't far away at all, even if the answers to my questions seemed unreachable.
Am I suggesting a change of perspective is a cure all? That all the loneliness or pain will disappear if we ignore it? No, not at all. What I am saying is, at least for me, I can throw myself into my pain and make it my god or I can run headlong into Jesus Christ and saturate myself in Him, banking on the fact that He'll teach me in my circumstance, even though He may not take it away.
The reality is, with Dan and I riding the Harley, we could have wrecked the bike for thousands of reasons when we rode that day. There didn't have to be a bridge involved, but there was and not ascending the bridge wasn't an option. To make it to the other side alive I had to swallow my fear, sit tight in spite of it, and ride it out. We had no choice but to throw ourselves into it. Would I do it again? Probably not. But I did it once and now I have a story to tell. I think that's worth something.
The circumstances I find myself in every day - my grandma's illness, dealing with physical pain or fatigue, my mom rejecting Christ - are painful, to varying degrees. But for now, those circumstances will not change, they are what they are. But if I can fall headlong into Him again and again, I can cry and know there's comfort. I can ache and know He's healing, though maybe not physically. I know that I know Him and rest in Him, even if it means ascending another dark, lashing hill.
And one more thing: I can write these words to you with a clear conscious and a firm resolve. And a heart full of praise.
But that's me. What about you? Can you throw yourself into Him today? Let's tell each other how we're going to do this.
OK, I'll go first. Today I'm going to read 27 out loud. And I'm going to serve Christ by serving my son, instead of myself. Whether I feel like it or not.
What are you going to do today to throw yourself into Him? Maybe this will give you some ideas as you prepare to leave your comment below...
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