My friend was sharing on Facebook about the setback he had many years ago, and I posted the following:
“I just know that God sees success and suffering differently than we do. I totally identify, having crashed and burned literally and figuratively. Both times it reset my thinking deeply and put me on a better way radically. [Friend] you’re awesome, and you’re a light for many. I’ve always said that if we haven’t suffered we can’t be worth much. I’m sure that Jesus had that in mind when he told the rich man that he had to give up everything before he could follow him. I doubt that he was trying to teach us that everyone has to give up all their worldly possessions, but that each has to have that reset. Makes me want to blog again. Love you my brother, and your dear wife! Thanks for keeping on being you!”
It occurred to me that life is like a hurricane…and the only safe place is in the eye of that storm. What is the eye in the metaphor, and how can we be in it?
My friend had fallen from grace in the Christian community and lost “everything”, including a thriving, growing church. To most of us who know him, and to many who follow him on line, he is one of the deeper Christian thinkers around, and in a vulnerable, even brutally open, and certainly compassionate way. And continually you’ll see comments by people who find wisdom and solace in his words. Was it worth it? Would he choose to do it all over again over continuing along with a comfortable, “successful” life? Probably not.
If I think of my own life and the many stupid choices I’ve made, and the suffering they’ve entailed, I would certainly not choose to redo it the same way. Two fairly dramatic junctures come to mind, when I crashed and burned, once figuratively, once literally. But both times reset my way of thinking and restarted me down a better way.
Once I hit a concrete power pole doing 50 miles per hour on my motorcycle while under the influence, and miraculously survived. As it turned out, it was the first time in my life that I came to the realization that God was real, and that He had protected me.
Did I suffer? You bet! It hurt a lot, and I had to move in with my parents for six months while I convalesced. I lay in bed all that time in a lot of pain, slowly recovering the memory I’d lost completely for many hours, having to be accompanied to the bathroom by my step dad. But I also was thinking about God and how real He had become to me.
I’m sure God thinks of our suffering very differently than we do. He was even willing to become flesh and experience great suffering himself for a greater purpose.
Also, I’m sure God thinks of success in a radically different way than we do. Most Christians in the Western church were led to believe that being a pastor or missionary was the sine qua non, the ultimately successful Christian life. Next to that maybe becoming president, or making a pile of money. But I doubt that when we make that transition to the next dimension, we’ll regret that we didn’t make more money or become famous.