Everywhere this freezing Christmas have been reminders that life is continual battle against a whole bunch of D words!;
decay, decline, decrepitude, degeneration, depreciation, deterioration, dilapidation, disintegration, disrepair
Our oil boiler packed in; we came back to the house yesterday to burst pipes (not too much damage); Northern Ireland (where we came from) is in chaos with tens of thousands of families & farms having no water supply for over a week; seeing family and friends and noticing the effects of ageing! (but not in the mirror of course); our back privit hedge has died in the cold and gone brown; for good measure our 17yr old microwave decided to quit; and I reckon the clutch in our car is starting to go …
Quite simply our bodies, our machines and our creations wear out. Relentlessly. As some pessimist put it
Health is just the slowest possible rate at which one can die
What is your reaction to unexpected things going wrong – with a body or a machine?
Mine goes like this:
(i) complain at the ‘inconvenience’
(ii) wish in vain it hadn’t happened
(iii) work out (and likely grumble about) what it is going to cost to fix
(iv) get on with things.
But musing on this a bit, such a reaction is pretty pathetic.
First, it assumes an entitlement or right to an easy life, that, when disturbed even at a superficial level, is a legitimate source for complaint. But a right to an easy life is a very recent notion and it sure isn’t a Christian one. In fact, exactly the opposite should be the expectation for Christians called to follow a crucified Messiah.
Second, linked to this, watching the news of families taking buckets down to the local river being interpreted as an unprecedented and outrageous failure of the water company that people have had to resort to such primitive methods speaks loudly of Western exceptionalism massively detached from the daily desperate search by millions for water to live by.
Third, any surprise that life will frequently be hard should be dispelled by Genesis 3:17’s account of humanity’s toil following the Fall. That machines break, pipes burst, bodies wear out and die is all part of the ‘inbuilt obsolescence’ of a deeply broken and imperfect creation where things happen that are deeply and awfully not the way God has designed or wants them to be. That’s not fatalism, it is realism about the nature of things.
Fourth, demanding or expecting things to be comfortable is a form of self-centredness – ‘I’ should have things ‘my way’. Just how deeply this runs is revealed by my reactions when things go wrong. It represents a consumer mindset that runs against the gospel’s call to a gracious and generous life towards those in need and a heart that can rejoice in the Lord whatever the circumstances:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil 4:4).
Fifth, Christian hope looks forward to a new creation where all those D words become gloriously and permanently meaningless. Lets look forward to ripping a whole lot of words out of the dictionary.