godly husband + passionate wife = great marriage great marriage + good parenting = well-behaved child well-behaved child + strong youth group = wise-choice making teen wise-choice making teen + strong college = successful adult successful adult + other successful adult = godly husband + passionate wife And the formula goes round and round. ______________________________________________________________
ME: I love this formula.It's perfect. Just do it all right and make all the right choices and life goes the way it should. I've heard it my whole life from preachers and family and professors and authors and friends and repeated over and over to myself. It must be true. Tom Sawyer says it. "We proved to ourselves that when you do things right, good things happen." It must be true. I repeat: Just do it all right and make all the right choices and life goes the way it should. ALSO ME: EXCEPT. WHEN. IT. DOESN'T. What happens then? What's true? Actually and for real true? Life's "formula" often looks more like the crazy scenarios below. Mine and lots of people around me.
godly husband + passionate wife = messy divorce great marriage + good parenting = child with Oppositional Defiance Disorder well-behaved child + strong youth group = teen substance abuser wise-choice making teens + strong college = struggling-to-find-or-keep-a-job adult successful adult + other successful adult = distant husband + depressed wife
ME: I should try harder. It must be something I'm doing wrong. Maybe I don't have the equation right? There's got to be a way to guarantee a great marriage, well-behaved kids, wise-choice-making teens and successful adults, right? I have that book I can read. I can make long prayer lists on color-coded index cards. I will sign up for that seminar. In fact, I can lead one. It must be true. Even the Bible says it. "Blessed is the man who does not walk in step with the wicked...whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1) ALSO ME: It's not working. My family is struggling. So am I. My friends are a wreck. So am I. All my formulas around me are unraveling. So am I. My carefully-built-rubber-band-ball-of-how-life-works is snapping. There are pieces all over the place. If it's not true, then what? What do I do now? How do I live? I'm UNRAVELING. HOW I HEAR GOD: You are going to be okay. You can re-ravel when the time is right and you are ready. There's a very different way of looking at people and relationships and what matters. There's a deeper truth and with that truth comes slow steps toward freedom. Your formulas can and are allowed to be stripped away. ME:
This uncertain place sounds like a curse. I'm freaking out a little on the inside. ALSO ME: Sounds like a lot of work. Lots more time. Lots more complexity. Lots of mess. HOW I HEAR GOD: But it will be good. Life is messy and no amount of doing the right thing ensures complete safety and success. It sounds harsh and hopeless at first glance, but it can be helpful and freeing. You don't have to tackle life as a problem to be solved. It can be a mysterious adventure to be enjoyed. (I know, it's like action-thriller enjoyment, which is scary and fun all at the same time, but you will do well. Plus, I will be with you.) ME: Gotcha. Sounds great. ALSO ME: I'm still freaking out. HOW I HEAR GOD:
You don't have to have certainty to be okay. You can wisely place your trust in Me, even it it feels really scary. I am completely good and utterly safe. Plus, I love you. And I'm with you. Period. Even if and when it all falls apart. How does that sound?
You mean I don't have to have do all the right things?
Or have a perfect and guaranteed formula?
I can just be?
I actually might like this.
In fact, I might love this.
HOW I HEAR GOD:
It's called unconditional love. It's what I have for you.
It opens the door for vulnerability and trust.
Healing is much more likely to happen in this safe space.
Those formulas that you counted on are not love.
And that's why they don't work.
Unraveling (as freaky-outy as it's felt) might be the best thing that ever happened to you.
Plus, I get to have a front-row seat to watch you re-ravel.
And as you do, never forget this little tidbit that might make all the difference in the world:
"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (St. Paul)