So…tomorrow my wife celebrates a birthday. That also means that it has now been ten years…one decade…since we first met over a game cards in the lobby of Agee Dormitory at OBU. I thought it might be fun to go back and find some pictures from each year, 2004-2014, and share a little trip down memory lane.
Despite how clear a picture you might think you have of the future when you are 19 and 20 years old, life has a way of throwing curve balls, speed bumps, and large woodland creatures into road you’ve set yourself driving down. As I look back over the last ten years I’m amazed by all that we’ve been through together. As I look towards the next ten years I’m excited about what our future holds. Undoubtedly there will be highs and lows, good times and bad, heartbreaking sorrow and ecstatic joy…but I look forward to taking journey with my favorite.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say. ~Bilbo Baggins
The news has seemed loaded down with dark stories these past few months. From girls being kidnapped from their families by Boko Haram to an Ebola outbreak that is ravaging parts of Africa to the systematic slaughter of men, women, and children in Iraq. It is impossible for me to look at events like these, some brought about by nature and some brought about by human nature, and not realize that everything in the created order is still operating in a world cursed by sin. A world falling apart. A world crying out for the completion of the new creation that was inaugurated on the cross.
And that’s exactly where I end up when I see these stories: at the cross. The honest truth, and one that is not unique to me, is that that when horrific things happen in the world I often find myself asking why God would allow these things? Doesn’t he know the hurt and the pain? Why not finish the work started on the cross now? Why wait until after disease, famine, and war have ravaged creation for another two thousand years?
The cross, in all its terrible brutality helps me work through those questions. Why? Because Christians do not serve a distant god. A god unacquainted with the struggles of humanity. Christians serve a God who lived a fully human life and experienced the range of human emotions. A God who loved men and women and saw their bodies ravaged and destroyed by disease. A God who saw his chosen people oppressed, displaced, and persecuted. A God who experienced betrayal. A God who experienced an extreme amount of physical pain. Jesus demonstrated the incredible love and grace of God in his experience of life as a human and in his sacrificial death on a Roman instrument of torture.
This God of extreme sacrificial love gives me hope in a dark world. Hope that he will finish what he started on the cross. Hope that he will one day restore the world to a state of perfection.
But what do we do about evil? The kind of evil that has image bearers of God systematically taking advantage of the weaker image bearers and in the worst cases attempting genocide? Christians are quick to point to our perfectly loving God in any number of situations but God has more than just one dimension. He is also perfectly just. For some reason we shy away from this image of God which is clearly presented in Scripture. But when indescribable evil happens in the world, evil that no human court can adequately judge, the image of the perfectly just God is a sobering reminder that while Jesus is called the Lamb of God he is also called the Lion of Judah.
From Revelation 19:11-16
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
To paraphrase from C.S. Lewis: Jesus is good but he is not tame and in a broken world we can be thankful that is the case.
This evening Laura and I were making s’mores and a chocolate chip dropped behind the oven. It inspired me to write this little story for my kids. This is unedited as of now and I may go back and try and smooth it out some later.
I dropped one chocolate chip between the oven and the cupboard. Now there’s a kaiju in my kitchen. Well, that’s not quite how it happened. First I was helping my mom make s’mores and even though we were VERY careful I still dropped one chocolate chip. I didn’t think much of that little chocolate chip as we microwaved our graham crackers, chocolate chips, and marshmallows.
That night my daddy tucked me in and told me a story about a knight and a kaiju.
“Daddy, I want a pet kaiju!”
My daddy just smiled and kissed me goodnight.
“Maybe if you wish for one…” he said as he turned out the light.
That night I dreamed of knights and kaiju and knights with pet kaiju and kids with kaiju on leashes.
“Good morning! I’ve got a surprise for you!” Called daddy.
I thought about surprises. Marshmallow cereal? A toy? A trip to the beach?
A kaiju eating chocolate chips at the table? Apparently kaiju love chocolate chips so much that they climb out of their lairs in dark ovens and cobwebby cupboards to eat them.
Now there’s a kaiju in my kitchen.
Daddy and mommy said I could keep him as long as I take care of him.
So I feed my kaiju his favorite foods: chocolate chips and grapefruit juice.
I make sure my kaiju gets plenty of exercise and take him for walks at the dog park. The dogs don’t seem to mind my kaiju but the ducks don’t like it when he swims with them.
I give my kaiju a bath at least once a week. It is hard to keep him in the tub but if we feed him chocolate chips he doesn’t seem to mind my scrubbing and rubbing.
At the end of each day I read my kaiju a story about a brave knight who tamed a ferocious dragon.
Then I tuck my kaiju in and tell him goodnight.
Having a pet kaiju is hard work but I know that with a kaiju in my kitchen my best friend will always be close as he sleeps in the dark oven and the cobwebby cupboards.
I love long weekends on Army posts. Things are typically pretty quiet. People usually are hanging out at home, working in the little backyards, or making a day trip to any number of great places in SE Georgia or northern Florida. I’m sitting here in a quiet house as Liam naps and Laura, Ewan, and Aunt Sarah have yet to return from their trip to Savannah for some shopping. As we sat out on our driveway last night to watch the fireworks display on post, I was struck by how much different our circumstances are this 4th July versus the last one. I don’t really have much else that I wanted to say beyond that little observation. I’m so incredibly thankful. There are folks who desire to get to do this job but for one reason or another they never get the opportunity. For some reason God opened the door for us. My prayer is that we take full advantage of the opportunity that we’ve been given and that my family is able to show the love of Jesus to many soldiers and their families.
We truly are blessed to be where we are.
It seems that the more rights we discover and desire the government to recognize that the less liberty we have. Every time society decides that something is a fundamental right, an aspect of life that to be deprived of diminishes human flourishing, it requires the government to step in and make sure that right does not get trampled. It means new laws, rules, and regulations. It means the government has to grow and has to get more involved in our every day lives because we demanded that this right be recognized.
Now don’t hear me wrong. There are rights that are necessary for human flourishing but they are far less than we imagine. Essentially what has happened is that we have come to view the privileges and comforts of modern life as fundamental rights. As in, “It is impossible for me to flourish without a cell phone Thus I have a right to one. Thus the government must make sure I am provided one” or “It is impossible for me to flourish unless birth control or abortifacients are provided to me by my employer. Thus I have a right to these things. Thus the government must make sure that I am provided them.”
So it seems noteworthy to me that the more things we see and demand as rights that the less liberty we have to simply live our lives. Granted, there will always be a tension that exists in society between rights/law and liberty. A completely libertarian society will fall into anarchy and a communist/Marxist society attempts to make sure everyone is equal but only succeeds in making everyone equally miserable. As strange as it sounds, it seems like the path we are on right now is a combination of the two. We desire a libertarian government when it comes to our personal behavior but we also desire a huge bureaucracy to subsidize, reinforce, and endorse said behavior.
From a Christian perspective, there are three big reasons to push against the tendency towards more perceived rights and instead in the direction of personal liberty. Religious liberty demands a right to freely assemble, a right to proselytize, and a right to have religious ideas be a part of the larger philosophical conversation that takes place in society. Right now it is that last one that is taking the hardest hits. You’ll hear a lot of people talk about religion being something private and something to be confined to the home or the place of worship. You’ll hear people saying that religion does not have a place in the board room, the class room, the court house, or the science lab. Thus by marginalizing religious thought, the place of religion in the broader marketplace of ideas, and the rights of people to practice their faith outside of their homes and places of worship, we are truly trampling on the right of religious liberty.
But I’m a realist. I recognize that the right of religious liberty is not highly valued by the culture at large. That’s why we see new laws, rules, and regulations that are quick to chip away at religious liberty in service of whatever the perceived right du jour is. So then the real question becomes, are we mature enough as a society that even as we demand new rights we will craft laws in such a way that they respect those older, foundational rights? Sadly, I think we know the answer.