So this thing I wanted to blather on about today isn't even my thought. It's not my idea. You probably know it all already and I think that anybody who grew up in church land has heard this in a few ways, a few hundred times.
But I needed a Needtobreathe song to dump some revelation into my soul. So I pray, and I hope, that this silly me blog can dump some freedom into your self as well.
(The song is called Learn to Love. It's very pretty. Listen to it.)
Where to start?
Adrian Plass says a thing that I really like, that I wish I could fathom more, that gives me a taste of the kind of truth that can guide a person through a life. He says that 'In the heart of God there is deep sorrow and there is deep joy'.
Life isn't clear cut. Instagram wants me to think that it's all about happiness and that if I ate clean food, wore the rights skinnies, twerked for the right one/ few, had the best ombre (damn but I love ombre), managed my affairs correctly, vacationed cheaply but exquisitely, collected designer pieces for my capsule wardrobe, and a gazillion other aspirations...then, happiness will be achieved.
Green juices are what I need to stave off sorrow and achieve joy.
For maximum joy, apply one excellent job and if you feel sorrow creeping in, do some meditation because sadness is bad bad bad jump up and down and wave your arms around because you need to be happy happy happy. (But don't actually jump around because then you'll stand out and be not cool and that is NOT OK. Get back in your hole, weirdo).
This rant is all pretty current-craze specific but it's deeper, and it's been around longer, than that. We fear sadness. We construct our lives, building roads to happiness.
In England this might work a bit. If you're middle class, male or fully empowered and educated female, if you're youngish and if your family can look after themselves. If you stay healthy forever.
Do those people even exist in England?
Life is hard for so many people. At the moment I'm so aware that I'm not a refugee, that I'm not tending to my children out of a rucksack, that I'm not fleeing violence and terror. That i'm so, so, unspeakably lucky. Not trivial lucky. I would say blessed but it reeks of 'i'm blessed and you're not' and that makes me feel a bit sick. A better set of words would be: bewildered. grateful. cared for. content. and more grateful.
For so many people, life is hard. We've known hard! Even just in the last three years; you all know that moving countries has been brutally tough. That we have struggled with loneliness, bitterness, depression, arguing a lot, bewilderment and the daily humiliation of not know a bally thing about how to be a British person in Ukraine. And you all know about the wringing out of our hearts over the girls we have glued into our family, who we're learning to love well despite - threaded through in gold - our sinful every day failings.
But at the heart of God there is deep sorrow.
The anguish of his daddy's heart as we hurt ourselves, each other, and him. Every single sin. Nailing His hands.
This speaks to me when it's hard, when I can't muster up jolly jolly Christian jolly. Terrible at evangelism because I can't compress the truth into an appealing soundbyte. No it's not always happy and often I'm not happy, or people that I love aren't happy. But He gets it.
He gets it.
His heart knows sorrow. Deeply.
The whole Bible is crammed with His tears, His anguish, with His pleas, His hands outstretched, His grief and rage and pain.
God gets it.
We are never alone. There is always a tender friend who can sit next to us and take it. He can take it.
I think, however, that my English faith took this sorrow of God and made Him stroppy. Disapproving. Not 'God feels sad and angry' but instead 'God is angry! Stop doing the sins and then He won't send you to hell! '
Maybe we're more comfortable with an angry rage God than a sad, weeping Jesus, broken over the death of his friend and the pain of his friend's sisters, because we can't easily see the strength in vulnerability. Maybe.
The sorrow in the heart of God turned, somewhere in my walk, into cold disapproval.
So the flip side, the deep joy in the heart of God, is hard to find in the Bible, if you're expecting a mean God then you'll probably find what you're looking for.
But Jesus cooked for his mates, washed their stinky feet, cuddled them (does 'resting on his chest' mean anything else?), walked miles and miles and slept rough with them, jogged about on top of the sea and halted storms with a one sided conversation. Do we really think he did all of this joylessly? Dour and icy calm, stone faced never cracked by a grin?
When he said 'let the children come to me' did he intone it like an anglican reading? Precise and detached? Or was he scooping up the toddlers, covered in dirt and questions, for tickles and nose rubs? Kids don't usually approach boring or cross people. What was it about Him that enticed them? Could Jesus have been having....fun?
There is joy at the heart of God.
I see it in the friends gathered around Him. In the woman racing home to cry that 'He's here!', unjudged and seen for the first time. By a man. The first not to use her. The stories Jesus told - the father legging it down a road to hug the son who broke his heart and home, the woman leaping about her house because she found what she'd lost, the sheer kinetic energy smeared across the parables.
The Bible says that 'for the joy set before Him, he endured the cross'.
He stomped, limped and bled his way through his sorrow, the crucifixion, he looked the sorrow in the eye and now he has the joy.
You. Me. His kids come home, the kids he runs towards, the rocks he climbs back down, 'rejoicing', stupid sheep across his shoulders.
Every one of us redeemed. You are his joy.
It's when I'm sitting in our office trudging through hour three of language study and the song comes on and the lines blazes across my chest 'I'm on your side'.
love, God. xxx
(yes, God does kisses)
When God speaks that clearly it doesn't shake off quickly and it's stayed with me and if my mum would refrain from hernias i'd have tattooed it somewhere by now.
'I'm on your side'.
There is in life, and in the heart of God, deep sorrow and deep joy.
And through it all He is on our side. He is the positive, running, jumping, wine brewing, dancing, partying, healing, grabbing, mud writing, homeless, questing, hugging, listening, preaching on mountains and praying in boats and living completely fully...He's Himself. And he's on our side.
There is no sorrow that can repulse Him.
There is no joy that He won't share with you.
He's on your side.