God seems to believe in keeping it real. He wants us to face challenges that are bigger than anything we know, more complicated than we can figure out, and so dangerous and all encompassing that we are forced to develop our gifts and our characters to the highest possible degree. He wants us to ‘be all that we can be’, and he won’t take anything less.
That’s not how we want it. Human beings want to tame the wild uncertainty that surrounds us on every side. We want that raging sea to calm itself, now. We want predictable returns on our stock investments, and we want steady economic growth. We want to build institutions that can carry on just as they are until the end of time; uncertainty is the dish humans hate most — and it’s the one thing we can count on God to serve.
– Walter Russell Mead
I sat in my chair during our Easter service at church, staring at our Pastor’s face, his eyes, in particular. Red and welled up with tears. He was caught up in this Easter story, in the mystery of it all. I don’t think the mystery was in so much the details as it were in the implications – the greater narrative that the story of Easter, the Resurrection of Christ, thrusts us into from then until eternity.
It is the mystery of being covered by love, forever. To be loved, without condition, and without ceasing by a God who insists upon this very choice. This is the standard to which He has set Himself, and what will forever remain a mystery to us all is how He says He will not fail.
And so here is where the crossroads begins, for many of us. Here is where I feel my Pastor has somehow convinced himself to taking a particular path and never to look back. For him, he has chosen belief. For him, the mystery of this love is worth believing in. It is worth it all. He allows himself to get swept up in the promise of an untarnished love, forever offered to him and to the world free of charge.
The thing is – this love, this mysterious gift of a thing – it is the only “certain” thing in the deal. And it is only “certain” in that the scripture that tells us of this love, declares that it is so. It is bold and unabashed. It could care less being unrequited but the love exists and persists because the God of the scriptures wills it to be so.
This is the “certain” thing. This is the path my pastor has taken.
I, on the other hand, stand on the crossroads still. The path he has taken is also the one before me. The road is there for the taking, and yet here I stand, still.
I return to this place often, because I tend to saunter down the other path. The one that seems to promise many more certain things. The one that tells me if I work hard, I will succeed. If I go back to school, I will have more to offer. If I save now, I will have more to spend later. And so on.
These are the certain, tangible things I have chosen to pursue. None of which, by themselves, are unworthy pursuits. All of which would likely lead to some reward, something fulfilling.
But I sat looking at my pastor, staring just at his eyes and letting his words wash over me, thinking – how many times have I actually chosen the path of disbelief?
For all the things I can tangibly pursue in this life – the goals my eyes have fixed themselves upon, the dreams my spirit keeps chasing – I fear that I may be missing something even better, and it is right before me. The only real requirement for this other, better thing is that I believe.
The promise is love. What this love actually looks like, feels like, I do not know. But it is the belief in its mystery, in the wonder of being held, knowing I will never be let go, that remains the available choice.
My pastor has committed himself to a God that promises only that He will love us, forever. The rest that follows, is absolutely uncertain. That is the radical risk that he has chosen. It is also the radical risk that God has chosen – considering, the lures of this world and the stabilizing certainty that we crave as human beings could very well prevent us from ever choosing Him back.
I’ve chosen to believe – just not fully. I remain half-hearted in my faith because I haven’t allowed myself to plunge into anything uncertain. For me, I’m too steeped into my own need for conditions. I know little else but to function in this way.
I’ve justified that my hanging onto my doubt and disbelief over the goodness offered by fully being loved by God is better than jumping into it without knowing all the details in advance – only that I will be loved with a reckless abandon. The kind that cost an innocent life, for the sake of all, and for all time.
Easter celebrates the risk that God took first. The far lesser risk that remains to be taken is the choice we have daily before us, the one that challenges us in our every moment.
Do we choose His love, this radical, unrelenting love, again and again?