I had a goodly number of reasons to be frustrated in the last week, and (almost) none of them was my fault. Some of them are insignificant and some less so. There were also several occasions of graciousness and blessing offered to me, and in this season of my life I am holding them close.
I have tried to not let those kinds of events – helpful and otherwise – define my sense of myself, or my understanding of the world. Hard moments are precisely that, and there are some which make us gasp, lost for words. But they are not the whole story.
There are moments, perhaps even tiny in the scale of human history, which give our hearts cause to beat joyfully. I saw a photograph of a friend holding a newborn baby which he had helped deliver in a Mosul refugee camp this week, life’s new wonder on his face. This is not the whole story.
We are caught in creation’s heartbeat, and have been since God first said yes to light and life. We are creatures of dust and breath and love, inherent to the world around us, in its wonder and its frailty. We are tempted to believe that we are entirely responsible, that our efforts alone address the brokenness and celebrate the wonders. This way leads to frustration and despair.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them – they are more than the sand;
I come to the end – I am still with you.
We are not the whole story, and it is not in our hands. This is, and has forever been, in the hands of God.
How else do we face the trials, trivial and otherwise, which confront us? How else are we able to receive the blessings bestowed?
Listen for Paul’s Roman symphony; in the midst of the appalling exigencies confronting the Roman church, Paul tells us there is more – more glory, more justice, more hope. The struggles we face, with war and environmental disaster and diverse human cruelty, are not the whole story.
Paul is not naïve, writing in some sheltered theological workshop; he is writing to a church confronted by the empire’s fist. God has more for us, and the entire creation, in the hope of Jesus Christ.
As the world groans in what seems an interminable labour, the promise of new birth is grounded in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s not up to us, we are only invited to live the story out in every way we can.
We forgive and serve and hope, because of Jesus. We act and proclaim because of Jesus. And we hope, entirely, because of Jesus Christ, who is the whole story, forever.