On my way home Sunday night I drove past a car with a bumper sticker that read, “I heart construction!” The bumper sticker neglected to include the usual “…said no one ever.” Nonetheless, as I read it I knew that if there were a font for snark, this bumper sticker would have utilized it to convey the mood of its author.
Other than construction workers and their families, most Americans would agree that they despise construction and the inevitable traffic that ensues. It slows us down, lengthening the journey toward our destination. And for me, it’s all about the destination. I can’t think of a single good use of my time in a traffic jam other than, perhaps, reviewing Greek/Hebrew flashcards or answering emails…but I can’t…because I’m annoyed, obsessively calculating how I can get around the traffic.
In truth, construction is probably the best thing for our vehicles even if it sucks for our schedules. As someone who has had to replace a tire or two (okay, three) due to deep potholes, I can honestly say that the extra time in traffic saves me both the cash and time it takes to get my tire replaced. Bad roads can wear on your tires but crappy, nearly undriveable roads can damage the entire wheel and other parts of the car. The construction, though loathsome, prevents larger, more costly damages.
I continued driving and began to think about the loathsome, unavoidable, and sudden moments of construction within our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ…times when deep work needs to be done in our hearts….times when God’s grace and truth bring us toward deeper restoration in Christ…times when God is engaging in the active work of redemption and renewal in our hearts. You’re coasting through life and, all of a sudden, you start seeing the orange cones, the blinking lights, the neon vested construction workers, and all the other indicators alerting you that it is indeed time to slow down so that the bumpy places in your heart can be smoothed out.
Our relationships with family and friends, our work and/or ministry endeavors, our civic and political engagement…virtually every aspect of our lives will inevitably bring us to these redemptive moments because, simply put, we’re broken people, even amidst our striking beauty. When the inevitable redemptive moment comes, our response should be one of faithful attentiveness, slowing ourselves to walk even more humbly with God so that we don’t destroy ourselves or those nearest us. Yet, I know few people who, sensing that still, small voice telling us to slow down and attend, answer, “here I am, Lord…your servant is listening.” Frustration, denial, avoidance, or apathy are just a few (unhealthy) responses to the liberating work that the Holy Spirit wants to do within us.
It seems we have an unhealthy fear of these redemptive moments…maybe because we don’t really see them as redemptive at all, just unnecessary encumbrances to our lives. Even still, perhaps we fear our looming death because, after all, there can be no redemption without death…and no one wants to die. Perhaps the root of our fear is a false belief that, should we courageously attend to these redemptive moments, God will abandon us, leaving us to wallow in misery, flailing about as we sink into despair. But God never abandons us; He tends to us even as He refines us, making us more like Jesus Christ in the process.
I’m reminded of the story of Elijah. After orchestrating an epic display of God’s glory over and against the false prophets of Baal and Asherah, Elijah murders all of said false prophets. Queen Jezebel vows to render the same fate to Elijah that he delivered to her prophets. So he flees into the wilderness and finds himself underneath a broom tree lamenting his very existence. He is in serious despair and decides to sleep it off rather than face his plight. What happens next is probably one of the sweetest, most tender moments in Scripture. The Lord sends His angels to tend to Elijah, preparing food and drink for him as he sleeps, gently nudging him to rise and eat…twice. Elijah is so nourished by the presence and nurture of God that he finds the strength to journey forty days and nights to meet God at Horeb where he spends the night in a cave. There the Lord meets Elijah…not in winds, earthquakes, and fires…but silence. It is in this silence that Elijah receives revelation, deeper purpose and the instructions to carry it out.
As we enter into our own redemptive moments, we often long for an epic, John McClane-style conclusion. We want to know that God will annihilate our enemies, resolve our issues, and secure a publication deal so we can tell our story of triumph. However, God’s grand story of redemption is a bit more raw, earthy, and humbling. Sometimes we walk away with scars or a limp because we’ve been changed forever by this encounter with ourselves and with our God. Maybe the point isn’t triumph but death…dying to ourselves so that we can rise to new life in Christ. This new life is secured not by our self-help strategies but through God’s faithful presence with us. He tends to our souls through gracious brothers and sisters who bear with us in love but He also guides us toward places of deep communion with Him in anticipation of His revelation. God’s presence and God’s people are essential.
So, then, redemptive moments present us with three invitations to consider. First, to walk slowly and humbly with God amidst our own redemptive moments as He does the deep work of restoration in our hearts. Second, to humbly accept the companionship of those whom God would have tend to us. Third, to be the faithful, patient brothers and sisters who God can use to tend to others amidst their own redemptive moments. God makes everything beautiful in its time so let us remember to slow down and attend to His renewal in our own lives and the world around us.