My running shoes were in the laundry (that’s a different story), so I drove over to Speedway to get Tuesday’s Free Press. I started by checking the bottom of the stack – hoping to find a copy of Monday’s edition (it has the best crosswords). There were none, so I just took Tuesday’s from the top. I was disappointed by how thin it was, especially since the daily now costs $2.50. Once home I grabbed the sports section and threw the rest on the kitchen counter.
It was at least a half hour later when I finally glanced at the front page headlines: Auto merger … Dan Gilbert’s stroke … and, wait a minute the third one is “Tough Times for Private Schools in Michigan”. And right above the headline is a picture – in vivid color – of me hugging a girl in our preschool! This is no scam – nor was that phone call last week. I’m on the front page of the Detroit Free Press!
I must admit it felt quite cool – affirming – to see the picture and read the article, however, as the day went on, I realized that the article was reminding me of something else taking place within me … the fact that I am still hurting – grieving – over the loss of our school. While denial of the fact is long gone, from deep within me came anger … and guilt … and an on-going dissatisfaction with God. The article’s author quoted me (accurately) saying, STL “is going through a whole grieving process as a congregation.” What I am now realizing is that I was talking about myself as much as I was about anyone else!
While loneliness – missing what is absent – is the presenting symptom of grief, I think that perhaps the underlying issue is the dissatisfaction with self, others and God. I think of all the mistakes I made. I think of the many ways I was hurt by others. I wonder if this was all God’s will, or if he is just picking up the pieces of my/our screw-ups, changing his plans, and making the best of a bad situation? And, though, I realize that the more I dwell on these things, the less prepared I am to move forward, I find my mind repeatedly returning to these thoughts.
James tells us to “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4.9-10) In these words I hear God acknowledging – even blessing – our grief. It is important for us – for me – to know that I/we are fallen people who live in a fallen world. Failure is a constant part of our story.
But these words are preceded by “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4.7-8) Failures is not part of God’s story. Thus it does not matter if it was God’s will or my failure that closed our school. What matters is that God has a plan for today, and for every tomorrow that follows. And it is Jesus himself who provides us with the ‘bottom line’: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10.27-28)
If there is anything that is worthy of makiing the front page it is this: Christ died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Our past is absolved and resolved … our present is blessed … and our future is secure. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3.13-14)
If one wants to feel really cool and totally affirmed, think about this … because God prints it on our front page every day.