I have been reminded recently about the truth that life is full of ups and downs. As the old saying goes: “Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.”  And as Jesus told us in the context of not spending time worrying: “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 7) 

I have been reminded recently that life can change on a dime. I have walked with people who had everything change as the result of an unexpected phone call, a routine Doctor’s appointment, a new physical pain, an innocent trip to the store that placed them at the wrong place at the wrong time, someone else’s mess spilling over onto them. Lots of things can change your life while you are just trying to make it through your normal day. I have always remembered the story of Bobby Leech who rode over Niagara Falls in a barrel only to die from complications of slipping on an orange peel a few years later. 

I have been reminded recently of the paradox that while so much of our life is dependent on decisions under our control so much of life is also really out of our control. We plan, fret, worry and exhaust ourselves trying to control things we ultimately can’t. That lack of control can cause such a sense of powerlessness, humility, frustration, grief, anger, etc. Our lack of control forces us to face the whole gambit of what it means to be human. The march of time for example apparently has zero respect for me or my plans and dreams and just keeps sweeping me along into changes of my circumstances I don’t necessarily want.

I have been reminded recently that grief and pain are as much a part of life as joy and pleasure. That this life can be a dizzying whirlwind of sweet and bitter, hot and cold, fight or flight, gratitude and bitterness, black and white, full and empty, beauty and ugliness, faith and fear, serenity and anxiety, kind and cruel, connected and lonely. Sometimes it feels like it’s all of those at once. 

I have been reminded recently that every person I meet is deeply broken. I don’t think I realized how much I underestimated the amount of brokenness that everyone carries around. How everyone has their blind spots, their character flaws, their denials and delusions, their own personal pack of peccadilloes that work below and sometimes above the surface. Every. Single. Person.

I have been reminded recently that it’s hard work to close the gap between who I want to be and who I actually am. How complicated trading in a standard of perfection for a sense of satisfaction with making progress actually is. How easy it is to take two steps forward and one step back. How adversity often throws an excellent curve ball that keeps my batting average lower than I’d prefer at times. How far I have yet to go.

I have been reminded recently that it’s pretty normal to one day feel like my ministry is going well and I’m accomplishing what God is asking of me and the next day to feel like my ministry isn’t really doing much good for anyone at all. To one day feel like I’m growing, making progress and be full of hope for the future and the next day be drowning in the hopelessness that I’m never going to change. To one day feel that I would gladly sell all I possess and step out in faith and the next day to pull back and clutch my life in fear. 

I’ve been reminded recently that not all dreams come true, no matter how dearly held they may be, that not all longings get fulfilled, that not all visions become reality, that not all plans work out, that not all endings are happy. That many people struggle under the weight of life’s inherent disappointments.

I have been reminded recently that I can’t fix myself by myself. It is beyond my capacity and capability. I need other people if I’m going to fulfill my potential. Period.

I have been reminded recently that I am such a mixed bag. I hold both the capacity for great good and the capacity for great evil and I have exercised both. That there is a razor thin difference between choosing to face reality with courage or cowardice. That my ability to cherry pick the details and framing of the stories I tell myself so that they bend reality to my favor is alive and thriving. That my objectivity and empathy can be just as poisoned by pride as fear. 

I have been reminded recently that God is other and refuses to conform to my will or remake himself in the image I wish him to be. That in the midst of the duplicity of my heart and life that I am deeply loved. In spite of myself I am given grace that is both amazingly undeserved and marvelously sufficient for me.  And yet I will ultimately be held accountable for my willingness to cooperate with and the degree to which I allow that grace to define and form me. That this God cannot be mocked and I will in the end reap what I have chosen to sow.  That all of the longings I have or ever will have for God and a better world are an echo of God’s first longing for me and his good desires for us. 

I have been reminded recently that God does his best work in messy. That God is fluent in the language of paradox. Consider with wonder that when we did our worst to his son he used it to give us the best gift we could possibly hope for. 

I have been reminded recently that his love never fails, that he never changes, that he has chosen for his own reasons and according to his own counsels to put the treasure of himself in broken and cracked jars of clay like us. That he runs toward prodigals and not away from them. That he invites us to not only bend a knee as servants but to sit with him as friends and inherit his Kingdom as children. That he is not afraid of our doubts or duplicity and will work patiently with us just as we are.