"And I'd end up saying have no fear, These are nowhere near the best years of your life"
- Brad Paisley
“If you understand what holiness is, you come to see that real happiness is on the far side of holiness, not the near side.”
- Tim Keller
I’m sitting in an empty conference room at seminary. Nothing special really, some old guy has his picture on the wall, with a glowing sentiment about all the great things he has done. He’s been a missionary for a bajillion years and a professor for about as long. Everything else in the room is pretty normal. The chairs do not match, there are a couple of holes in the walls, and it smells kinda like dirty cloth and fake leather. And I have to admit. I kind of hate it a little bit. I hate because it threatens something quite dear to me “ My Boring Idol”……. Allow me to flesh that out….. and when I do it will probably look boring and normal also.
When I was 20 years old I was barely a Christian, and lived a life my dad described “ as hell on wheels” on several occasions. I'm not one of those dudes that hated high school, it was quite the opposite. I loved it. But really I loved it for all of the wrong reasons, I loved it because I drank a little, I was popular, funny, moderately attractive, I played sports and that was awesome, friends and I partied far more than we should have, few of us cared about classes, basically it was college, except we had to call our parents if we wanted to go somewhere. We were like Zach Morris making fake ID’s to get into The Attic. But I find myself hearkening back to those times. I remember telling my mentor and dear friend Dennis that my biggest fear was “ becoming an ordinary dude, and that adulthood looks boring”. He laughed in his typical manner and we went on our way. Lately what I have found however, with the help of Paul Tripp and other Christians far wiser than I, is that in the mundane we encounter something you will never hear at a conference or read in a bestseller, or made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Gosling, you encounter a God who cares deeply about the ordinary, and that maybe our Christian subculture has enough room for radicals and “ordinary”.
I run in circles where Downton Abbey is pretty popular and most folks eat things with organic in the title. What I’ve learned is that’s ok. Its ok to drive a minivan and have a few kids and live in a neighborhood that has a brick sign out front. I am not talking about the “American Dream” keep all your money, don’t meet your neighbors, surgically enhanced trophy wife stereotype. I am talking about the Christians I encounter from working in a suburban church. They love Jesus, and they love him well. Sure it’s annoying hearing them talk about working too much, but they talk about it because they would much rather be home serving their kids dinner, and it breaks their hearts that they cannot. Still they persevere, they press on leading the life that the Lord has laid out for them, and honestly their life looks pretty incredible, (even if it is littered with keurig machines and ½ marathon applications). The bigger tragedy is the guilt laid on by folks who aren’t in that season of life. The “Young and Restless” crowd sees the suburbs as sinful living and flock to the cities to plant churches and start soup kitchens. Those are great and necessary things. What is neither great nor necessary ,is when I talk to folks a couple of years out of college who feel burned out and shamed that their life isn’t what they thought it would look like at 17. There is an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” in which the main character Marshall feels guilt because at age 30 he is a “corporate sellout and he can’t even dunk anymore” because at age 17 he had written a letter to himself saying he “ will marry a tall blonde, wear stonewashed overalls, and have a rat tail down to his knees”. His wife Lily is short and has red hair, and he cut his rattail and threw out his overalls. But in a moment of clarity as he is writing to his 60 year old self, he looks across at Lilly and says “ 60 year old Marshall, if in 30 years you are still married to Lilly, then you are alright”. Now while this is not anywhere near a theological statement, it has the stench of common grace all over it. For the extraordinary life we are to desire is that of Jesus, and if not for his great mercy we would never make it. We long for the next world, and it is our mandate to pray for his will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. When that last hiss of oxygen leaves our lungs we won’t be hearing God ask us if our lives were spent being “radical” ……instead, if our lives are hidden in him, we will hear our Savior say “Well done, My Good and Faithful Servant”. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, that includes the country boy in a beat up truck, and the suburban mom jogging with a stroller, for Christ’s blood covers all sins, even the sin of watching Downton Abbey.
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