Thursday, March 19, 2015

How God Ruined Our Family

In one of my classes we are reading through the book Water from a Deep Well by Gerry Sittser. It is a book that examines various expressions of faith throughout the history of the church and discusses the relevance of certain practices for the church today. In the chapter on Martyrs Sittser reminds the reader of how many of our forefathers and foremothers paid the ultimate price for their faith, suffering death for their refusal to renounce Christ. Still today, we have Christian brothers and sisters around the globe who face the same destiny. These people bear great suffering that is thrust upon them from unwanted sources.

But in another chapter Sittser talks about the Desert Fathers and Mothers. These were people who pursued a more challenging life in order to grow in their knowledge of Christ. Their suffering was, for the most part, chosen. And so Sittser asks the question, “Would it ever be right to choose to struggle?”

My gut response is, “Who needs to choose it? It comes knocking regularly!”

But really, it doesn’t. We are creatures of comfort, seeking ease and entertainment through every moment of the day. A slow line at the grocery store can seem to us like Chinese water torture. Traffic is endured as if we were letting blood. Our team loses the Super Bowl and we are plunged into despair. I think we have forgotten how to struggle. We have lost sight of the value of struggle. One of the desert fathers, Abba John, said, “Fighting is good for the soul.” He was talking about the struggles, both inside and outside, that turn us to Jesus and make us strong.

Most of us (myself included) spend our lives trying to figure out how to avoid struggle. And when we do struggle, the goal is to get out of trouble as fast as possible rather than trusting the Spirit to do his slow and faithful work in us through the struggle. We want out of the struggle more than we want the transformation that the struggle can bring. Oh, but the flesh dies slowly. And it dies in the struggle, not in escaping from the struggle.

In the midst of reading this chapter by Sittser, I was in the States with my two boys, Graham—a freshman in college, and Chandler—a senior in high school. As I spent some intense mother/son time with these two amazing guys, I became overtaken by a deep grief. Through our conversations and experiences, it gradually dawned on me how steep a price they each have paid for David and I having been called to France. Yes, there have been positives—bunches of them. And because we like to avoid pain, we have focused on those positives. They are real, and we are grateful. But they aren’t the only reality. The other truth—the harder truth, is that Graham and Chandler have struggled and suffered.

They are ruined.

Yes, I know, this has become quite the “catch phrase” for the fad of being “missional.” People talk about being “ruined” like they got a new tattoo. It is not so simple. Those who are truly ruined rarely brag about it. It hurts too much. It cost too much. And even saying it aloud sounds trivial to those who have actually lived it.

Ruined is not fun. It is not cute. It is not stylish.

It means that you have been broken in places that may never heal, so you have to learn to live into grace for every breath of life. It means that you will be misunderstood by almost everyone you know, so you have to cling to Jesus like he’s the only friend you’ve got. It means that life as you once knew it can never be your reality again, and so you choose to die to yourself again and again and again because it’s your only hope for life.

David and I chose this struggle. But our boys did not have the choice. And yet….

And yet they are learning to let the mess of their lives be turned into works of art for the glory of their king. There is nothing fake about them, for truly ruined people don’t have the luxury of masks or assumed identities. They are raw and fragile and genuine and strong.

We are a ruined family. And I while I have no doubt that we were right to follow God’s call to France, I would be sadly missing much of the point of this call if I did not acknowledge the struggle. What all this means is that obedience to Christ is expensive, and I’m not just talking about finances. True discipleship costs us our lives and even the lives of our children. True discipleship does not mean being spared from the flames. It means trusting in a God who brings beauty from ashes. 

1 comment:

  1. Hugs. I get it, I hadn't applied it to myself, but I'm ruined too. :)