On 12/12/12, the day the Mayans said the world would end, I sat in on the closing of my first house thinking, “Well, if the Mayans are right, at least I’ll die a home owner.” On 12/13 I woke up and started painting the house. Three weeks past the Mayan deadline, my wife and I were still painting and I found myself wishing they were right. We all have narratives – no matter how radical – that we put ultimate hope in.
In high school, I wanted the narrative of being popular to offer value and self-worth, the narrative of getting the grades to mean I had earned and proven my importance, and the narrative of being seen as a “good person” to verify that I was.
Even now, as an adult, I have a tendency to put my hope in narratives that can’t stand up to the realities of life.
The Single Narrative of True Hope
Most Christians can quickly identify false narratives, especially the ones that are starkly against the narrative that undergirds our faith. A narrative that began before time itself began. It is the single narrative of true hope. A hope born of man’s fall and Jesus’ journey into this world to set right what went wrong.
With his work finished, Jesus ultimately leaves us to work, prepare, and wait for his return. We wait knowing that this very real narrative of humanity has a defined end, and it is going to be a really good one: everything will be made right. The only problem is that Jesus didn’t leave us with any way to pause this narrative, or fast forward it, or run our mouse over the image to see how many minutes are left.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier to know – for ourselves and for our students – the day this endless drama concludes?
Wouldn’t it be so much easier for our students to be able to say, “If I can make it to that date right there, the day Jesus returns, I can bear all of the pain and suffering right now. I can bear people at school who are giving me a hard time. I can live one more day in this house with an abusive parent. I can live one more day in a world that seems to hate me for reasons I don’t understand and can’t change. I can live one more day grappling with the person I used to be or the person I currently am: abuser, thief, fallen, sinner.”
Adopting other narratives
Living in Christ’s narrative can be hard and that makes the allure of other narratives very tempting. These narratives offer (among many things) personal comfort, a sense of belonging, a way to understand the world, or safe boundaries in which to exist while we wait for Christ’s return. Many of these adopted narratives stealthily infiltrate Christ’s message to us about the power of grace, love, and community. They drive us apart as we unknowingly idolize issues of money, power, race, pedigree, schooling, marital status, fertility, employment, control, political affiliations, religious denominations, etc.
We live in a time when “You do You,” has become the cultural battle cry. Christ’s single narrative of true hope, even among his followers, starts to demand less of our attention as these other cultural narratives are thrust upon us.
When I was 9, growing up in inner-city Chicago, I noticed that things were different in my neighborhood than in friend’s neighborhoods. For one, in my neighborhood law enforcement seemed more tense and suspicious of me. Some of my friends were even buddies with their local cops. I also noticed, as I walked down the streets of my friend’s neighborhoods, people treated me differently than others. As my tear-filled questions became harder for my mother to answer, she decided it was time to have a “Talk” with me about the difference between myself and my Caucasian friends. She told me things I never knew existed and immediately wished she never had.
The narrative of racial prejudice in America is one that almost crushed me as a child. Even now as an adult I find the weight of it hard to exist under. The one thing that helped me endure then and now was my mother’s advice to choose to put my trust in the narrative of hope that Christ has to offer for our world.
In Micah 7:1-7, we see a man whose focus remained fixed on this very narrative: hope. Even though his world seemed to be falling apart around him, he placed his faith in the savior he knew was coming. Even with his unwavering hope, other narratives caused his world to collapse around him, cracking at the fabric of his belief. Finally one day, full of confusion and sadness, Micah cried out a series of questions that challenged the Jewish people: knowing what they knew about God, believing they were his chosen people, how could they go so far off track?
In an act of both defiance and obedience, Micah had a message for the people of his day, and it’s a message for us too:
“But as for me, I wait in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 10:30, that even the hairs of our heads are numbered. He wants to walk beside us and our teenagers because we are not footnotes in his story. Like Micah, we are people he deeply desires to be in relationship with.
I think about what I see in the news every day, from the #BlacklivesMatter movement, to the #Bluelivesmatter movement, from the terrorist attacks to the political turmoil. As I think about the lives of our kids, I know they are not without challenge because God never promised us that.
Then I hear Micah’s message to all of us and it renews my faith. It helps me to see that in all these challenges we face, even the ones that seem like they will overtake us, God is with us and declares that there will be victory in the end. What comes to mind immediately is clarity about what Martin Luther King Jr. meant when he said, “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
I invite you to examine the narratives that swirl around your life and the lives of your kids. My hope for you is that no matter what you are going through today, I invite you to hear Micah’s words. I invite you to not just wait, but to wait for your Lord… that you will wait for God YOUR savior. Because Your God will hear you! Your God is with you.