Earlier today I read a quote from Eugene Peterson’s book, Leap Over A Wall: Earthly Spirituality for Everyday Christians.
“Pain isn’t the worst thing. Being hated isn’t the worst thing. Being separated from the
one you love isn’t the worst thing. Death isn’t the worst thing. The worst thing is failing
to deal with reality and being disconnected from what is actual. The worst thing is trivializing the honorable, desecrating the sacred.”
There is a lot to unpack in a statement like that. Beyond our knee-jerk reactions to the initial onslaught of really bad things he mentions, we are left with those last two sentences. Those sentences make me uncomfortable. Not because I disagree or don’t understand them. They make me uncomfortable because so often I know that I allow those first things to actually be more important than the last. When I do that, I am in essence creating idols by taking things that are gifts from God that are good and important and making them supreme. Pleasure is preferred over pain or discomfort. Sure. But I don’t need to make the avoidance of pain my primary aim. Heck, just about every important life lesson I’ve learned involved some kind of pain. Being hated? Oh man. I feel like George Costanza in an episode of Seinfeld Season 5, entitled The Masseuse. In the episode, George and Jerry double date with George’s current love interest and Jerry’s masseuse girlfriend who doesn’t like George. It drives George nuts. I totally relate. Take a quick look.
Being separated from the ones I love…I’ve kind of learned over 25-plus years of marriage that that is going to happen. So, that one, I can usually handle. Death. That’s a big one. I think that I am relatively at peace with that one if it is my own demise we’re talking about. However, death to someone close to me? That has been a challenge at times. There have been difficult times regarding the health of a loved one that I am pretty sure I was at least on the edge of making that most important.
But what of Peterson’s “worst thing?”
The worst thing is failing to deal with reality and being disconnected from what is actual. The worst thing is trivializing the honorable, desecrating the sacred.”
Reality is rooted in the God who created the world. Reality is rooted in truth. God is good. God is true. The entirety of Peterson’s quote goes on to describe the importance of dealing with loss and grief in the context of God’s sovereignty as opposed to seeking to run from, avoid, medicate, excuse, etc. the pain of living in a fallen world.
As a Christian I can deal with the reality of the world because I have a true North. I have a foundation. But, as a person living in a fallen world, I sometimes catch myself adopting a bit of the thought processes of someone not living in reality. What I mean is, if there is no God, if we are “gene machines,” as the famous British atheist writer and biologist Richard Dawkins once said, then any meaning or purpose that we have in this life is only that which we create for ourselves. And, while most of those who call themselves atheists that I’ve known are kind, respectful, caring people, there is no real reason or purpose for that. They’ve just determined that their life will be better because of it. That being said, if it’s ultimately just about what makes our life more pleasurable, who are we to judge if someone else’s morality conflicts directly with ours?
Bottom-line? If we don’t have a foundational basis for reality, goodness, morality, etc., we are left with the responsibility of assigning it for ourselves. To a large degree, this is where we have arrived from an American cultural standpoint. The inability to recognize the Reality that we have an authoritative Lawgiver, Creator, Source of all that is good, who is Love and is the source of all love, means we have begun to trivialize the honorable and desecrate the sacred. As a believer, I repent of my tendency to do this. I pray for myself, my wife, my children, and our nation that we would not be disconnected from the actual, but instead we’d follow Paul’s admonition to the Roman church.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.