Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"Stop worrying and Enjoy Your Life"

It's about four years since I saw my first 'Atheist bus' climbing Park St. in Bristol. I remember referring to it in a talk I gave in the Physics Building at Bristol University that term.

It was tempting to speak of it's a misnomer, to retort:
There probably is a God and that's why we can have joy. I think I probably said that at some point. I definitely thought it.

And we can have joy.

The logic of the absence of god meaning joy is really the triumph of the rebel who says - Actually we think there is a god but we've made it acceptable to ignore him... so all those things you enjoy that you think you're not meant to you can go on and enjoy. It's the cry of someone who thinks they've pulled the wool over the headmasters eyes.

Joy is a real concern. The Bible speaks of joy as part of the Spirit's fruit in the life of a Christian, and that there is joy everlasting in the presence of God. I spent several years being schooled by the Christian Hedonists and I'm thankful for that. Piper never said life would be easy. We say we mean a joy you can experience when sorrowing.Like Paul under great pressure. And that's better. But what does that really mean?

Then Francis Spufford. Heir to the title The Cussing Pastor (though not a pastor) observes in his book Unapologetic that joy is a strange luxury. Spufford says most people don't get joy/.. joy is good if you're privileged and healthy but most people don't and aren't.

I didn't get that four years ago. Four years ago my wife was 8 months pregnant with our first child.  Since then we've had the joy of a second child too. This is brilliant and has stretched us beyond what we'd have thought possible.
And it's brilliant.
Yet our income has fallen. Our costs have risen.
We go to the hospital more often than ever.
Little boys have developing immune systems.
And they run into things. A lot.
A good night's sleep means we only got woken up 4-5 times.
(from about 5:25mins)
Things that were once very ordinary, like leaving the house, become epic conquests :)

The reality is there's more challenge in my life today.
This isn't "a patronise the naive younger me" post. I don't mean it to be.
And this isn't to moan about it. Its good.
And in any case, any pressure I've experienced is decidedly moderate in the big picture.
I know fractionally more today about struggle in life than I did four years ago.
Which is still not very much.
Meanwhile grace abounds abundantly.
And I've not always handled that the weakness or the grace well.
Even recognising that is helpful. Thanks Pete Scazzero for aiding my emotional health.

In Imagine Church, Neil Hudson, helpfully advises towards a church culture that isn't set on avoiding suffering.  Less "I'm a Christian get me out of here." and more on how to grow in suffering.
As someone has said "Manure grows extraordinary fruit."
I've had my seasons of self-indulgently wallowing in the situations I've faced.
Of grieving over lost opportunities.
And lost luxuries. And physical stresses. Of self-righteous strops.
Those effect other people.
It's good to talk. It's good to listen.
Its good to be silent. Sometimes even speak of joy.
I could do with listening more too.
Many have it much harder than me.
I may be a bit bruised but many more are badly broken.

Enjoy your life is too simple. More prosperity gospel than gospel.
"Touch the screen and you're gonna be healed." 
Jesus never said that. Thanks Martyn.

BTW, Ambulance because I'm in need of help.
The giraffe because its part of life now, and sometimes you just have to laugh. 

There is joy but Christian good news comes from the God who is both with us in the pain - not offering us a holiday from it - and whose being with us guarantees that evil will finally lose its grip, death will lose its sting, tears will be wiped away. The God we know when we know Jesus - the one who isn't supervising from on high, who doesn't like holier than thou attitudes, but who in love sends his Son to be involved, to face suffering, to suffer, to struggle, to die.

This God is good news for real people. Joy is great, hope is better.
And God is with us. And I still have very little idea what I'm talking about.

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