“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)

Smarter men than I have wrangled long with this idea, but the words strike a chord of soundness despite their strange source.

A long obedience in the same direction…

When we consider these words through the lens of a follower of Jesus, it seems like the underscore of Jesus’ call to “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Luke 9.23) He doesn’t just call us to embrace the hope of the gospel and in earnest obedience plunge into the waters of baptism only to come up and go on about life with a great cosmic advisor on speed dial when the sticky spots come along.

No, that thing to which we are called is a long obedience in the same direction—His direction. It is to follow Him every step of the way, to take the next step in obedience and the next and the next and the next and the next.

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It’s been a roller coaster of occasions over the last several weeks.

There have been so many things to celebrate.

I’ve had two kids finish degrees and I’ve passed another birthday. We’ve celebrated the baptisms and the growth of our faith family. There have been great blessings and sweet victories. I’ve seen relationships restored and new ministry projects succeed. I celebrated the passing of another year of life and yesterday marked twenty-six years of marriage with my favorite human.

What an array of occasions I’ve had the privilege to celebrate with people I love.

But…

I’ve sat with friends as they wrestled with the changes of parenthood and prayed with others for answers that have yet to come. I have prayed against the dreaded cancer and cried with the unwilling divorcée and struggled to make sense of the mind losing its grip.

I left a great ministry activity to drive a couple of hours to be with family in the turmoil, fear, and agony of a precious child that died before it had even taken a breath. I tried to speak words of comfort and hope amidst the indescribable sorrow of such a loss.

The celebrations and the sorrows seem unevenly commingled like a salad with way too much of that one vegetable you simply cannot stand to eat. The celebrations, rich with joy, are yet tainted by the inescapable brokenness of life. The sorrows, with all of their gut-churning sting, are still somehow endured by clinging to the promise that this brokenness is truly temporary.

It’s not supposed to be this way… but it’s broken.

It was all created and made very good… but it’s broken.

There shouldn’t be litter in the beauty of the Grand Canyon… but it’s broken.

We shouldn’t need nursing homes and hospitals… but this world is broken.

There shouldn’t be commercial demands that squelch the creation of art and we shouldn’t have to choose the lesser of evils… but it’s broken.

Love shouldn’t be so painful and marriage shouldn’t be so hard… but it’s broken.

Laughter ought not be tainted with tears and offenses should not wreck families… but the whole thing is broken.

We shouldn’t have to bury family pets or be laid off from long-held jobs… but it’s all just broken.

Babies shouldn’t die and young men shouldn’t get cancer… but it’s all broken.

This world is not what it was made to be.

But it’s also not what it one day will be.

But, in big and small ways, in beauties amid the tragedies, in pleasures among the pains, in the joys mixed in with the burdens, in the hope stirred through the despair, in the celebrations alongside the sorrows… there is an innate sense among us that there must be something more.

The beauty is so rich that we know there must be more.

But the brokenness is so profound that there simply has to be so much more.

He told us there is something far greater yet to come:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21.4)

A number of years ago a young songwriter expressed this idea beautifully in his song, “Beautiful, Broken World.” I encourage you to give it a listen and that you join me in looking for the beauty amid the mess, the joy amid the pain, the celebrations amid the sorrows.

Hurry Up And Wait

April 24, 2017

The regulations and margins needed for air travel are there for a reason. I recognize that. But something so directly affected by weather is always a little unpredictable. And there always seems to be a ripple effect.

Our first flight was out of OKC and it was held up, naturally, by the late arrival of the plane on which we were to travel. That’s not altogether unusual, I suppose, but air travel, in general, is unusual to me. I generally fly once or twice a year, occasionally more.

But the connecting flight in Dallas was not being delayed. So it was tight. So, while we hurried into the airport and checked our bags and hurried through security and on to our gate, we still had to simply sit and wait our turn.

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