Do you remember being afraid of the dark? There’s something about not knowing ”what’s out there” that leads to speculation, which leads to anxiety, which leads to fear of shadows. Let those shadows (the economy, COVID variants, election audits) define you, and your life will shrink, becoming much smaller than the calling of generosity and hope that is yours, the hope you’re created to pour into the world. Presently, it appears that we’re all giving more power to shadows and dark speculations than we should. It’s leading to small and anxious living. Immediately after 9.11, we who are Americans were all united, sharing a common grief, a common honoring of heroes, a common love for our country's ideals, and a common crossing of social divides
Since that dark moment and the light that shined through it, we've become more and more fragmented and divided, not just nationally, but globally. We who follow Christ, though, no matter our nation or skin color, are called to rise above the partisan, tribal fragmentation of our age. We've not done very well on that front these past few years. Here’s a way forward:
We live in a world where the deepest and truest realities are hidden. They’re buried in the thick fog our 24/7 news cycle, which is designed to incite fear, anxiety, and anger. The music of Christ's hope is drowned out in the cacophony of noise that is "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Our appetites are shouting at us, telling us that a better reputation, better body, cleaner food, more alcohol, different political party, more sex, more money, or any of a million other things, will fill the void and solve the problems.
The fog, noise, and cries from our appetites won’t go away. They conspire to a create a world where satisfaction and rest go missing, at least most of the time. The problem, though, is that its all like being afraid of the dark. Our soul gets gripped by a sense of dis-ease, and we begin worrying about what’s in the shadows, which allows the fruits of fear and insecurity to take root in our bodies. When we live out from these insecurities we lash out, or withdraw, or self-medicate. None of the options are pretty, yet all are available and widely used, even among ‘spiritual' people. Just look at the ugly dialogue unfolding among people of faith around matters of race, vaccines, masks, elections, and statues.
This isn’t what God has in mind for God’s people. We’re created to be image bearers, which means we’re here to embody the generosity, justice, beauty, love, holiness, and peace of Christ. We allow Christ’s life to pour through us into our needy world and find joy in doing so. We rise above the ridiculous partisan political arguments where both sides suffer from the delusion of thinking their system and answers are ‘the truth’.
If the realities of nation states, political parties, denominational distinctives, and economic winds are the deepest realities, then the arguing and fighting is appropriate. The reality check, though, is that the stuff which consumes most of our anxious energies are these “so called“ realities, in spite of the truth that these realities are fading away. Meanwhile, the eternal realities too often remain hidden in the background. It’s these eternal realities that are rock solid, unshakable, and eternal.
Here’s how I write about this in an upcoming book:
Jesus landed on this planet in the midst of an oppressive empire with the domination model on full display. It was a world filled with haves and have-nots, of people lording it over others, where the empire and its values were the only normal available. Jesus then speaks into this prevailing paradigm of struggle and suggests we learn to live more like flowers and birds than empire soldiers. He sleeps in the bottom of a boat in the midst of a life-threatening storm.
He touches the untouchables, crosses social divides with ease and delight, forgives his tormentors, and unleashes scathing rebukes on the institutional religious professionals of his day. What reality is he living in?
He’s living in Shalom, in God’s kingdom reality.
Let it sink into the depth of our being that all the political posturing, all the righteous indignation spewed on our 24/7 news cycle, all the storming of castles, all the disease and isolation is, while its own form of reality, nothing more than a temporary veil. If Jesus is right, the kingdoms of this world are passing away, and when that happens, all that remains will be that which is shot through and saturated with our Creator’s love, beauty, and glory.
During the next four weeks, the church where I teach will be a doing a series that offers a scriptural basis for a meditation practice designed to re-calibrate our souls, so that we’re living out from God’s deeper kingdom reality rather than the passing fads and fears of our cultures. I’ll be teaching a “saturation prayer” which is a reminder that Christ is everywhere: above us, beneath us, around us, and within us.
There will be a video available soon where you can join us in this meditation practice, along with a weekly teaching here, and a daily scripture reading here. It’s vital that we stop being ‘afraid of the dark’ and live instead in the light of God’s truth. The material offered here, and in the links above during the coming weeks are intended to equip and encourage you toward that end.