Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bait and Switch

At an event I attended recently a girl introducing her almost-completely bald father to a group of people mentioned (slyly but not cruelly) that her mother's first words to him, when they were young, had been "You have such beautiful hair!"

With the passage of time can't most everyone say, "This isn't the person I married"? I worry for my parents and stepparents sometimes, hoping and praying Mom and Dad won't have to experience divorce a second time, or my stepparents, each of whom was widowed, have to watch a spouse die again. I guess, even putting aside the divorce option, it's almost certain two of these four will lose a spouse to death (the alternative being to die together!) There's nothing we can do to stop that pain from coming, or to predict who, how, and when.

It seems naive and faithless - even if somewhat understandable - to give up on a marriage too easily when one finds the other person has changed. But other relationships may be different. When do you leave a job? a church? a friendship? How many of us get in life what it was we thought we were signing up for?

When things go 'bad,' what do you do with your hopes and expectations?

Inadvertent bait-and-switch situations happen quite often in ministry. It's particularly common for people to join an organization, go out and raise all their support, and finally make it overseas to join the team and ministry they had been dreaming of and telling everyone about, only to discover that even if (big if) their perception of what it was like had been accurate, it no longer is. The job situation changed drastically. The family with the kids the same age as yours? Now in a different city. The open doors for a ministry that suited you perfectly? Slammed shut. The new doors that have opened do not interest you or do not seem a great fit. Do you leave, or stay?

The book club I'm part of met today to discuss The Shack as well as to catch up on each other's lives. One member, I., had just returned to the States for a season after a couple of years overseas. We were so glad to see her again. But her home is in that other country, really, even though her team, country, and the needs of her family and ministry seem to change quite a bit from one term to the next.

There's one point in "The Shack" where the main character, Mack, is dealing with how frustrated he is about suffering and injustice, and discovering how deeply rooted are his ideas about what God should and shouldn't do/allow. It brings him face to face with the question of his rights. Do we have the right, for example, to be protected from evil? On what basis? God does deliver us from evil, but there are few promises on this account. When we suffer, Mack is told, we hide out behind illusory "rights," when God offers us relationship instead. It's "I am with you always, to the end of the age," not "I'm going to keep you safe so nothing bad or disappointing happens to you."


Paul Merrill said...

Life is forever changing. I think the older I get, the less I like big changes. (All the more to depend on God!)

Shane said...

Hey Marti,

Nice post. Thanks.