“How was your weekend?”
“How’s work going?”
“How’s your friend, so-and-so?”
“Oh, he’s great. Yeah, just great.”
Sounds familiar, right? Isn’t that pretty much the sum of 95% of our in-passing conversations?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Sometimes, in-passing, I’m flat out lying. And I know you are, too. Sometimes it’s not Good, Fine, or Great. Sometimes it’s Meh, Ugh, and Blech.
Here’s the thing: our problem isn’t our in-passing lying. No, there’s a time and a place for everything, even quick and semi-dishonest answers. Our biggest problem is that we expect life to be perpetually Good, Fine, and Great, with absolutely no Not-So-Great interruptions. We keep working so hard to achieve Good, Fine, Great and we get sad, frustrated, and sometimes despairing when we keep coming up with Meh, Ugh, and Blech instead.
Maybe we’re expecting the wrong things. Maybe God has better things for our lives than just Good, Fine, Great.
Salvation has taken on a much bigger meaning in the past few years of my studies. (I’ve written about it before at Life with Jocelyn: here and here, for example.) It has been a wondrously freeing and humbly eye-opening experience to learn that I’d been using the word “saved” and thinking of the concept of “salvation” in a completely different way than Jesus and the Bible use that word. Furthermore, I have read and met a widening cloud of Christians who have a very different – much broader, much more ongoing – idea of salvation than I had had. And they got their ideas from the same Bible as me! To think!?
Salvation is the ongoing healing, restoring, rescuing, re-making, re-forming work of God in, of, and through all creation. All of creation is being saved. All of God’s work is salvific. Much of what is already happening in this world that is healing, restoring, rescuing, re-making, re-forming things is God doing God’s salvation work. Count on it. The more hidden and unknown, quiet and humble it is, the more you can be sure of it being so.
You have already in your lifetime received many tastes of the salvation of God, whether or not you’ve given God credit. And the salvation of God is ready today for further tasting, if you will only stick out your tongue. And tomorrow you’ll receive the salvation of God again, if you know what’s good for you.
One more thing: healing, restoring, rescuing, re-making, re-forming are nice sounding words, but when God does them in my life and heart, they are not always nice feeling. In fact, usually they do not feel nice at all. Ideas I’ve clung to for years must be broken down and thrown out. Coping mechanisms I’ve used for decades must be wrenched from my white-knuckled grip. Things I’ve always really treasured must be exposed for the sub-par loves that they are. When I finally experience the freedom that results, that is a nice feeling. But there are many good reasons why the symbol of the salvation work of God is a cross, a death.
This week in The Way of a Pilgrim, first written in Russian by anonymous, I came across the following. A starets, or monk, gave this encouragement to the pilgrim brother whose had encountered a series of very grim life events:
God orders every event for the help and salvation of man; ‘He willeth that all men should be saved.’ Take courage then [in the midst of your many distresses]… Soon you will be rejoicing much more than you are now distressed.
I’d always thought, unthinkingly, that ‘He willeth that all men should be saved,’ meant that God doesn’t want anyone’s soul to go to hell when their body dies. I’d never before connected ‘He willeth that all men should be saved,’ with God’s ordering every event in our lives for our help and salvation. What a refreshing perspective on all of the stuff that goes wrong in life! God wants everyone to be saved. Sometimes salvation can only come about through distresses and Meh, Ugh, Blech. Do not expect only Good, Fine, Great; you will only be disappointed. Expect salvation, knowing that salvation cannot come only through perpetual, uninterrupted Good, Fine, Great.
Next time your weekend is rotten or your workday goes badly or you’re sure your friends don’t like you, just pray to God in your heart: ‘He willeth that all men should be saved.’ God wants you to be saved! God wants to save you. God wants you to experience – today – more and more salvation. God is at work. God is saving you, vigorously and vibrantly!
You don’t have to be happy when your weekend sucks and your work is going nowhere and your friends never text you. You can still feel plenty sad about all of that. But make sure just to be sad. Do not let yourself become sad and despairing. You must not despair: God is at work. God is saving you, vigorously and vibrantly! Maybe God will even use your Meh, Ugh, and Blech life to do so. How then can you despair?