How would you feel if you could raise the dead, heal the sick, walk on water and yet you couldn’t escape your last day on earth?
Corporal punishment was the prime way of trying to convince young kids to give attention to their education, regardless of their ability to learn. For fear of pain, I had always tried my very best to stay ahead. Yet, one afternoon, the teacher launched a dictation quiz, right before break time. I saw kids lined up with their sheet to be corrected. The number of misspelled words goes along with the number of whips. Some kids have gone through their whips and are now outside playing and eating. I probably was the last on the line, and there was no escape. I wept and wept before I even had the chance to hand in my sheet. The teacher took so much pride in extending his arm to deliver strong and firm blows with the whip. I don’t remember the weeping that came with the physical pains. But surely, the weeping prior to giving in my sheet for correction, that weeping I remember it like an hour ago.
There is so much I wish were true. And I enjoyed the lies for as long I had believed them to be true. There was such a sense of security, a sense of entitlement, a sense of assurance with each day that passes.
So I didn’t eat out of the garbage, therefore I should feel entitled to being healthy. I have wronged noboby that I know of, therefore I should be entitled to zero harm from anyone. I had worked hard and diligently therefore I should be entitled to a primetime vacation with merriness and glee. You know that deep within feeling that everything is right and that nothing can possibly go wrong? That’s the drug we all would pay for regardless of what the statistic says.
The kids are asleep in bed, and not in the emergency room, and you feel entitled, rewarded for having worked toward such goal. You got home from work, sitting and having dinner with the family, and you feel entitled and rewarded for having worked toward such goal. Your debts seem to be under control, and you feel entitled and rewarded for having worked toward that goal. You still have a job, and you feel entitled and rewarded for having worked toward that goal. Then one day, you become sick. No money, no food, none of your so-called achievements can match or counteract what you could have never prepared for. One day, you didn’t make it home from work. One day, the kids couldn’t fall asleep. One day, the job was gone. One day, no money was left on the account. One day, many were calling you with job offers, but you were too sick to get out of bed. You may have been used to love the bed for rest, but now you hate it the most. What happened then to the things you believe you were entitled to?
There’s a Haitian Creole term that says, “Wilib”. Wilib means “free ride”. It also means a “non-guaranteed ride”. Did you know that you and I are exposed to being swallowed by a sinkhole like anybody else? Did you know that you and I are exposed to being mugged and raped like anybody else? Did you know that you and I are destined to suffer and die like anybody else?
So how do we go on? Everyone believes something. Whether that something is true or not, is not essential. For as long as they believe it to be true, they will go on. Yet, if you inflate a balloon with air, you can easily believe that air to remain within unchallenged. But if you put that balloon either out in the sun or in the freezer, or if you simply stare at that balloon with time you’ll notice the air somehow manages to escape because circumstances change.
You’ve heard it before, “let’s pray for better circumstances”. I think what is meant instead is, “let’s think of better circumstances.” No one wants to think about the day that their long-held beliefs to be proven untrue. The driver wants to believe that the car will keep on moving forward for as long as his feet is on the gas pedal and that the gear is on drive and that the oil hasn’t dried out and that the transmission is still engaging and that others cars before him are still moving either forward or aside and that there’s still road and that…and that he still has life and alertness and strength and determination and need to keep that car moving forward.
We’re driven by our dreams. But when those dreams cannot guarantee our very well-being, what then?
The writer of Hebrews said this:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:1-4)
Faith is not that lifeboat you killed someone for as you tried to get into it fearing of being sunk with the ship. Faith is being told, being revealed of what’s ahead so that we’re not caught clueless of the developments of time. Faith is not a way of escaping the realities of life. Religion is. Faith is being informed of such realities at every level, the physical, the mental, the spiritual.
I once said this, and I’ll say it again. Nobody wants endurance. Neither do I. I’d rather not have the circumstances requiring endurance altogether. No, I don’t want to own a gun. No, I don’t want to own a gas mask. No, I don’t want to dig a hole to bury my wages. No, I don’t want to think of any ill coming my way. Yet, my or others’ thoughts have zero power over the ills that have been reserved for me before the day I was born. There’s nothing I or you can do to change that. We can either believe otherwise and go on living on the glee of things and simply cross the bridge when we get there. Or we can retain the panoramic picture that faith is so that we see the bigger view of things and not lose heart. We’ll lose heart for everything we once believed as it concerns this life. But we won’t lose heart for the things Christ has promised us.
Life on this earth is a raging storm. And we are to experience such storm in every dimension simply because our heart, our spirit moves by the ups and downs of such storm. What more can I say? We’ll get seasick, become dehydrated, and even fall asleep. But surely, Christ will take us home.
We are guaranteed nothing else other than trouble as it concerns this life on earth. The only peace offered to us, the only peace reserved for us, the only peace we can hold firm to is not the peace that cancer is not in our future. It’s not the peace that crying and weeping are not in our future. It’s not the peace of knowing that suffering is not in our future. It’s the peace of knowing that God holds nothing against us despite how we feel, despite what we are going through, despite what our friends and family are going through. Despite the raging storm of life, we can sleep in Christ, we can die in Christ knowing that he commands everything to unveil his goodness to us. Speaking of ills awaiting us is nothing compared to going through those ills themselves. Jesus spoke of the time he’d be crucified. But his weeping was the overflowing of his suffering even before he was crucified.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)