the best future and abundant life

The moment we saw our sweet baby’s profile on the ultrasound, we just couldn’t wait any longer.  We’d kind of been telling people along the way anyway.  The last several weeks had been a mess of joy and worry, anxiety and exultation.  I had surprised my dearest friend over (virgin) cocktails, given a Father’s Day card to a new grandpa, blurted it out at a family gathering, and my smile had spoken the truth for me when we met some soon-to-be parents at church.  If there was one thing David and I were learning, it was that we were horrible at keeping secrets. Especially secrets that seem too good to be true.  Every time I told someone, though, my joy was tinged by a little bit of fear, a little bit of worry. A rule follower for as long as I can remember, a sneaky, tiny voice whispered in the back of my mind. You’re not supposed to tell people yet. You’ll regret this. You should wait as long as possible.

Because if there’s one thing the devil would like, it’s for us to sit quietly in a closet and hide our joy away where no one else can see what awesome things God is doing in our lives. If there’s one thing that will make us just like the rest of everyone else, it’s that we are afraid to share our joy because it might not last forever. If he could have his wish, we’d be spending what should be exultant days of thanksgiving and celebration with our community crying behind our locked office doors wondering if this baby “counts” yet.  We’d be fighting to learn to trust alone because we’re isolated in our joy so that we’ll be insulated in our sorrow.

I’m not just talking about having babies, people.

I’m talking about everything in our lives that we don’t tell because we’re afraid. Afraid that our joy might cause someone else sorrow, afraid that letting other people in might make life a little bit messier. We do this with joys and with sorrows.  When we have the chance to come to our communities with blessing and brokenness, why do we choose to keep to ourselves?  Why do we choose to hide from the people in our lives when we could share with them?  Do we really love neatness more than we love togetherness?  Would we really rather carry our heads high than carry one another’s hearts?

The tail end of a verse in Romans has stuck with me since I read it over 2 years ago, riding a Metra train home from a job interview. Paul is talking about food sacrificed to idols, warning his readers about sin, and he says “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” That means if my decisions about what I share and what I keep close come from my fear that things won’t turn out how I want, from the desire to have a tidy life, from the anxiety that other Christians will accuse me of “over-sharing,” I’m sinning.  In a sermon about this passage, John Piper says,

“Faith rests in God to shape the best future for us.”

Maybe your decision to keep your pregnancy, illness, job situation, marital discord, new ambition, exciting news comes from a belief that as God shapes the best future for you, he asks you to be quiet.  That’s between you and the Lord, and I’m not suggesting that this is always the way it has to be.  What I am suggesting is that we are missing out on so much of what Jesus intended for us to experience as Christians because our fear that God isn’t really shaping the best future for us–or for the people we care about– cripples us into silence.

But trusting…

Trusting that God is at work now and will be at work tomorrow and next week and six months from now, inviting people into our lives to rejoice with us in each gift he gives on the day that he gives it,  to mourn with us each sorrow we bear on the days he asks us to bear them, choosing the messy life, the I-can’t-promise-this-will-be-a-happy-story life– I think this might be the kind of life Jesus intended for us when he talked about the “abundant life.”

I think he might have been thinking of a sister who starts a blog so that she doesn’t miss a millimeter of spiritual growth, so that she can give glory to God in the midst of cancer, so she can learn how to suffer, so she can teach people how to suffer.  Of people who honestly answer the question “How are you?” instead of offering platitudes.  I think he might have had in mind parents who carry their sweet baby girl to her delivery day and immediately release her into the arms of Jesus, then give him glory by praising him for his care of their little girl, by telling people how he cares for them, heals them.  I think he rejoices every time someone is honest about their doubts, every time another one of his children chooses to enter into the suffering and celebration of another wholeheartedly. I think he might smile when a husband and wife are so eager to share his goodness with their community that they announce their pregnancy 3 weeks in, not because they’re careless, but because they’re careful, because they have chosen to celebrate and mourn in community.

These people change our lives because they believe that God is shaping the best future, even though they cannot yet see it, and because they believe that he has given us community for blessing and for burden.  They rejoice where we can see, they suffer where we can see, and their lives invite us to join them in  a life that’s not afraid of what might come tomorrow.  A life where joys aren’t tainted by fears of future sorrows, but where hope grows from the soil of God’s promise that he is doing what is best for us. Today. Now. In the blessing and the burden.

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