I have not been tried by fire. No, it’s the ordinary struggles of life that challenge me and wear me down, the loss and pain that we all eventually face. And I am not sure that I am very faithful, for at the first sign of trouble, I resign myself to second-class citizenship, sure that God is saving his best blessings for others.
This summer, our pastor is doing a series on lessons from Dr. Seuss. The past two summers, he has focused on parables during Ordinary Time, but this year, he says, he wanted to do something different, something to help us encounter the gospel in new ways in the hopes that we would also find new ways to live out what we believe. Plus, children’s books are awesome. Especially Dr. Seuss.
The first sermon was on my mom’s favorite Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg. We never had a copy, but my grandma did, and I remember being at her house and my mom reading it to us, especially the famous line, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.” It is a very special book for me – my mom doesn’t have many favorites, so when she points something out, I pay attention. It always seemed like our own special family book, rather than one everybody knows.
The sermon focused on two things: 1 Peter’s encouragement that we remain faithful and the reminder that, like the mini-winged Horton that hatches from the egg, God often surprises our faithfulness with a triumphant twist. He said:
This is the good news: our God acted, our God is acting, and our God will act in times to come. It is the triumphant twist of the continuing revelation of God that there is indeed a reason to live faithfully, trusting not in ourselves but in the great mercy that makes us new.
It seems easier to me to believe in the triumphant twist of the gospel at Easter, when we are dressed up and singing our favorite Easter hymns. It is harder to see it when your job is on the line, when people are sick, when you feel rejected again. I would tell you that I believe in redemption, but I am not always willing to be like Horton and do the difficult work of investing in people, of being the hands and feet who take life’s hardships and help turn them into something good. Horton was sitting, it’s true, but his sitting was work rather than laziness or inaction. I can’t always say the same. And Mike will tell you that I believe a lot of wrong things about how much God cares about my everyday life.
The answers, the redemption we are given aren’t usually as obvious as the Horton/Mayzie hybrid that hatched from the egg. Nor can I claim that I will be 100% faithful to God’s call and the truth of the gospel, but I am going to try to use this summer to think about what it means to be faithful in the ordinary struggles of every day.
I am usually pretty shy about ending entries with a question, especially because it’s so sad and empty if no one answers. But I would love some feedback on these thoughts. What inspires you to persevere when you feel that life has given you a beating? And how do you live it out, whether action or patient inaction?