Have you ever had one of those moments? When you got THE news you had been waiting for? THE opportunity you had worked long and hard toward? THE break of a lifetime?
I have recently, and it caught me totally by surprise. It’s the oddest thing. You believed in the promise, but now that you’re holding the confirmation, it doesn’t quite seem real. You look again, just for confirmation. Yep, it’s real.
What do you do? Well, you smile and your heart races and you have the sudden urge to tell your friends. If no one is around, you post it on Facebook. Lotsa friends there. People are happy for you. They congratulate you.
But after the moment of initial elation, things start to settle. You hold the thing just a little bit closer, feel its warmth, it’s life. It looks up at you as if to say, “I’m yours. Now what?”
This moment is especially vivid for me having just been mesmerized by the cover art on this month’s (the January-February 2014 edition) of the Upper Room Magazine. It literally stopped me in my tracks. A bearded man clutching a small, swaddled child to his breast. The two are awash in a map of the world. Beaming from the child’s blanket is a point of light.
The look on the man’s face, is it joy or is it pain? The artist himself calls it “ecstasy.” This is Simeon, the priest in the temple when Mary and Joseph brought their baby boy to “do what was customary under the law.”
What must that moment have looked like? What does it feel like to hold the Son of God in your arms? The second chapter of Luke tells us…
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” Now, he could be dismissed in peace.
Complete and utter joy. Simeon had waited his whole life for this moment. But, the look on his face, is it joy or pain? Because these moments are just that, moments. You can only stand and revel in your Facebook congratulations so long, then you have to do something.
Simeon told the child’s parents what he knew of what was ahead for this child. That was both good news and bad. And that’s the way with moving ahead into whatever comes. It’s not all good. But you can’t stay in the glory. You’ve got to get to work. This gift is not for holding or hoarding, it’s for using and sharing.
So, you take a step. Perhaps a tiny step. Or maybe in your enthusiasm you take a giant leap, waving your new book contract above your head screaming, “Lookie here! I’m gonna be published!”
Some people dance and sing for you, saying, “Now you made it! Congratulations, I knew you could do it!” They figure that all that’s left is the coasting. Sit back and let the royalties roll on in. Not so fast.
Other people, those more in the know, look you straight in the eye and say, “Now that the miracle has been delivered, what will you do with it?”
Holding a miracle flings open every door in the house. The wind howls in the hallway. The curtains start flapping. Everything that’s not nailed down takes flight. God’s that big. You are that fortunate. The weight of that moment is huge. Good thing, because otherwise you would be swept up in the whirlwind, too.
Instead, you hold it close, feel it nestle against you, it’s heart beating strong and true. It looks up at you in total trust. The eyes look back at you, big and brown and soft and somehow intense. You look down, trying to reassure it, reassure him, even as all around you the ideas and the opportunities spin. Dizzying, if it weren’t for your focus. Hold on!
What do you do when you’ve been given the one thing you’ve always wanted – a crowning achievement, glory itself?
Embrace it. Nurture it. Go for it.
“Use what you have in your hands. It’s mine. It’s me. It’s ours.”
I was going to write “My water bottle runneth over,” but that won’t cut it today. My water bottle just got punctured by a piece of flying shrapnel. Its contents are leaking out all over the sidewalk. Oh-my-God.
I don’t like the commonality of that expression. The Omg’s uttered by teens and young adults in regular conversation. An expression of delight or disgust. An outburst of enthusiasm or horror. An interjection. An expectorant. An expletive.
That’s not the way our Lord’s name is supposed to be used.
Well, I am climbing down off my high horse. Because yesterday at the Boston marathon, it was both an expletive and a prayer. And somehow that fits. In a moment, a triumphant celebration was reduced to chaos, confusion and horror. A war scene on the streets of the city. Taunting are the flapping finish-line flags, colored for nations represented by the runners.
All of a sudden the race didn’t matter. As a Washington Post writer put it,
“Marathon runners halted, then ran again, this time with no destination but for an elusive place they could call safe.”
Someone stole the finish line. Oh, the banner was still waving, beckoning the runners across it, but it didn’t matter any more. Finishing didn’t signify anything, not anything of importance.
This is particularly poignant for me – someone who works with athletes and whose business is called “Fit2Finish.” The notion that some need help getting to the finish line is why I do what I do. The reality that some give up before they get there is unavoidable. But the idea that someone took the finish line away…now that is what has me saying OMG. Not that they stole the banner but, in a more insidious way, they stole the joy by making it not matter.
All of a sudden it didn’t. And so be it. It’s not where we finish but how we finish that matters. We’re all running toward our finish line. Some at a sprint, some at a plod, most at a pace in between. I expect what really matters is, if along the way a bomb goes off and then a second, we’d give up our race to attend to the wounded. As many did yesterday.
All the runners eventually were stopped. I say eventually because I read about one runner, a Boston psychology professor and his daughter, who heard the blasts and saw the chaos but refused to stop. Until they were made to. “Your race is over,” they were told by officials.
Now those are words I wouldn’t want to hear when I reach the end of this race I’m running called life. Then it might be too late to call out to God. This is God’s finish line after all. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Or more properly,
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. ~ Job 1:20-22
It’s that last thing that’s the kicker. In it all, praise the Lord. This is not God’s doing. God ushers us into the safe place again and again when we call on Him. Even as we make our way to a destination we don’t yet know. Even when we call Him OMG. No one can take that away from me.
My prayers and tears are with all those whose lives were lost, disrupted or forever changed by the events at the Boston marathon yesterday. Civilians who all of sudden were part of a war zone. Active healthy people turned wounded warriors. They say war is hell, and that’s what it appeared to be on the streets of Boston yesterday. Except for one thing: I saw and read about those who stopped and helped. Who were God among them.
Either it wasn’t hell, or God goes there, too.
May the name of the Lord be praised.