This morning Scout and I walked past a family loading up children for the ride to school. The dad was standing by the back door, yelling: "WHY DON'T YOU HAVE YOUR JACKET?" The exchange quickly escalated, becoming louder each each time the ball crossed the net into the other court...
- "I DON'T NEED A JACKET!"
- "IT'S GOING TO BE 30 DEGREES!!"
- "I'M NOT COLD. I DON'T WANT MY STUPID JACKET!!!
- "FINE THEN!!!!"
So the guy climbs into the front of the car and slams the door. I notice he's wearing a t-shirt.
When I meet with my men's study group Wednesday evenings (affectionately known as "The Men's Room") so many concerns and prayer requests center around difficulties in relationship. Guys struggle to be the right kind of parent, to communicate to their wives without tripping over themselves, to be more open about their inner lives, to move their relationship with God beyond a perfunctory nod of the head, to own the moral courage to lift themselves out of "the way things are" and to blaze a new trail - be it at home, at work, on the freeway, at the gym, with their friends at church...
But we live in this conflicted world. Too many people find themselves defined by what they are against, who they are at odds with, what makes them angry, disappointed, frustrated. It's almost as if the world wakes up in the morning with a chip on its shoulder and gets out of bed daring anyone to do so much as breath on the precarious balance that holds it in place.
But listen to these words of Jesus. Jesus who is The Way. This Jesus who we say we follow. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33
The point of a discipleship that lives in the truth of Christ's teaching is to get up each morning and believe that Jesus really has "overcome the world"!
Our opportunity is to infuse all of our relationships with grace.
So there I was, thinking about the family still screaming at each other as they pulled out of their driveway. And I continued on my long walk, practicing my morning devotional initiative. Then - clear as a movie screen - God places this image in my mind of what Kingdom Life really looks like. It helps of course that the image was, originally, a movie that I watched back in 1984.
You may have seen the movie - "Places in the Heart" with Sally Field. The screenplay, set in the Great Depression, tells the story of a young mother trying to make her farm work against seemingly insurmountable odds. Her husband had been murdered; there's deep grief, horrible racism and an attempted lynching; people behave dishonorably, others do the right thing; a terrible tornado hits; infidelity rears its ugly head; throw in greed, manipulation, oppression, hope, belief, yearning...
But the image that played out in my mind is that of the closing scene. At first it looks like a simple communion service at the community church; the bread and the wine served as the pastor reads from scripture. Some people (I can remember quite clearly over 25 years later) got up and started to leave the theater because they sensed it was the end... and they thought they got it... and so they were done.
But Rebekah and I were mesmerized because, subtly, the scene shifted and suddenly everyone was there. The widow, the man who shot her husband, her husband himself, the racists, the young man they tried to lynch. Black and White - Rich and Poor - Just and Unjust - The Living and those who have passed on.
These people were serving one another, sharing the bread and the wine, demonstrating what is possible when we live out loud in terms of Grace and Forgiveness and Peace and Reconciliation - all wrapped up in the word "Redemption..."
It was a picture of what Kingdom Life really looks like. It was an image of what is possible when we follow Jesus. It was a picture of real prosperity - prosperity of heart and of mind, and of soul.