Where Am I Looking?

By Ward Shope

Rinsing my hair of shampoo at 5:30 in the morning, the phone rang to urgently call me to work.  I quickly dressed, laced up my shoes and grabbed what I could for the day.  I remembered the book.  I forgot my computer.  No time for breakfast – which of course meant I didn’t have time to make lunch.  Maybe I could pick something up later in the day.

It sounds pretty chill, but I wasn’t.  I hadn’t slept all night largely because of a voicemail I received the night before.  In fact, a lot of little things just didn’t seem to be going smoothly lately.  An important package got lost in the mail.  I’ve had early mornings and late nights quite a bit and less-than-pleasurable tasks have been the main course of life.  I’ve been waiting for the next shoe to drop.  And this was it!!!  I admit, there was some flash anger, and then I started complaining to God.

“What is it God?  You don’t seem to be too supportive right now.  In fact, it feels as if you get some sort of perverse satisfaction in making life difficult.  Have I done something wrong?”  I sounded like a lot like the psalmist: “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers. 13 Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!” (Psalm 39:12-13).

It hasn’t been that things have been impossible.  My life isn’t falling apart.  A fateful end is not certain.  But the expectation grows that this will be just one more trying day after a series of them.  Joy becomes a stranger.  Happiness shimmers like a mirage.  A cloud casts its shadow over everything.

One of our staff asked today how you move yourself from the darkness of disappointment to a place of thanksgiving.  We were looking at Colossians 3:1-3. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” And the answer is right there.  Clearly I’ve been looking in the wrong direction.  Of course things don’t look so good down here.  Sin and brokenness are entrenched here.  But the place that rules is above.

I have neither space nor understanding to put this all together in a nice neat package here.  I’m not even sure I’m happy yet – though I’m getting there.   A friend I met at 7:30 that morning, with whom I shared nothing about my day thus far, just happened to tell me he was carrying around some spare hoagies and he’d be glad to share them with me.  Breakfast and lunch solved.  And I wondered if the Lord was poking some good-natured and instructive fun at me – still!