Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Frogs and Living

I have learned over the past several weeks that it’s possible to go into hiding without meaning to. It happens in the slow drip of fast days, the ones that leave you empty, the ones that split your seams. I’ve experienced both this February, I always do. I used to think being simultaneously spent and topped off was impossible, or maybe the symptom of a larger problem. 

Now, I can only draw one conclusion, and it feels more like a song than a statement: I am alive. (Can you hear the music?)

Part of this epic “being alive,” at least lately, has involved conversations about frogs. Isn't that just the sort of thing that keeps us interesting in living? Not the frogs, but the striking reality that every single piece of it, every slice, every sliver, every atom holds the potential to grip us? One day, we’re roaming room to room in our cluttered home, wondering why we don’t just go outside and shake off our blues. The next, we’re hearing affirmations from the clouds and storing up accidental wisdom like a squirrel with nut-packed cheeks. 

I re-learned the distinctions between toads and frogs while sitting for an entire day in the vinyl chair by Calvin’s hospital bed. (He’s fine.)  A few days later I stumbled on twin stone frog statues on a warp-speed trip to Arkansas. The night I returned home, Silas asked to read about Moses in the Storybook Bible. I’m guessing he wanted the comfort of baby Moses sailing downriver in his pitch-sealed basket, being rescued from the reeds. My guy feels kinship with these stories of being found. For every story of rescue, for every baby dealt a new hand, there first came loss. Without release there is no capture, and this is enough to break us both. 
But anyway, the frogs.

The Moses we found that night was bearded and tall, railing for the captives to be freed. The answer was yes, and then it was no. This happened on a loop, to the soundtrack of creative, maddening disruption. Assault by nature – the parts of it that seem like mistakes to our untrained eyes. Eventually, the frogs were called out of their cool-earth hiding and into holy action. 

Silas wondered why God made everyone suffer, and it’s a very valid question. I personally wondered what God had against the poor frogs. They were made for the mud. Minding their own business. I'm guessing they never imagined their services would be needed to set captives free.

Here’s what I’m holding onto: none of us was promised a life of comfort. We’ve been called to a faith that will cost us something – must cost us something. Often, what it costs us is our preference for engagement. It costs us our big ideas on what it would take to really fix the problems we’re faced with. If we pay up, we'll never be more sure of our inability to solve a single thing, and that is a death worth suffering. So, we might mourn. We might gnash our teeth as we bury the mantles we’ve carried to “win souls for Christ” or whatever we were taught to call it. But after that last shovel of dirt is heaved, we’ll feel the looseness in our shoulders and our souls. 

This is freedom.
We’ll do anything for more.

I don’t believe I’ve been called to the holy war of disruption or the righteous battle of driving someone mad. I’m not that kind of frog. But I think it’s time to dig out from under this blanket of mud. Bury the old, awaken the true. I’ll squint at the sun and my thin skin will surely cry for mercy. None of this means it’s a terrible idea. It just means I’m a frog. It means I’ll need help along the way.

The miracle is this abundant life, the one we say we want. Though the details change from person to person, the themes are all the same. It will break our hearts and send us to bed at 9 o’clock three nights running. It will weary us. Wreck us. 

It will give us a glimpse of God’s kingdom here on earth, and we’ll find ourselves willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of it. We'll find ourselves stone-cold stunned by the strange and ordinary work God has for us.

It's somehow both February and spring outside my window. The physical world is calling us to wake up, and it's calling us early.  

Dig your way toward the sun. 
Come up out of hiding. 
Listen for the music.