What Ad Are You Living Out?

Easy_button Choosing the "AND" Life in an Easy-Button, Less-Filling World

A Coke Zero® ad stresses “AND”—tastes great AND zero calories. The actor shouts “Who wants ‘or’? ‘Or’ makes you choose.” Then he sings a version of War: “OR, What is it good for, absolutely nothing!”

Maybe for diet drinks the “AND” life with the tagline “Enjoy Everything” works. But not in my too-much-AND life.

Who wants OR? Me.

I don’t want everything. Everything includes . . . well, everything

I want my family to live passionate lives for Christ without the and of the pain that drives us to Him. I want revival with no and of repentance, grace with no and of groaning, success with no and of sacrifice, mercy with no and of messes.

But somehow those I love and respect the most are poster families for the AND life (even if they wish for the OR life).

Mike and Terese prayed for revival for their city and for the kids at their son’s urban elite prep school to become Christians. It’s happening. But it comes with the AND of their beloved son’s football-related traumatic brain injury. Derrick and Cathleen prayed for their college daughter to refocus on her faith. She amazes them with her renewed passion for Christ. The AND? An unplanned pregnancy and complicated custody battle with the ex-boyfriend and the baby's adoptive family.  A family member is facing a painful divorce. It's driving him to questions about religion that he never considered before. Yes, it is worth it. But is there no other way?

Why can’t I have “OR?” Why can't I have the the depth of character and Christian faith of people I respect without the AND of their lives, the darkness and pain that, in part, is what made them the compassionate, overflowing people I want to be like.

I confess. I want all the benefits of the Christian life without the AND of the brokenness, confusion, neediness or vulnerability.

I want to live in a different ad, the “Easy-Button” life promoted by Staples.

The Bible never tries to sell us the Easy-Button life. From the beginning, it clearly portrays the Both-And life. In Genesis, we see both the creation and the fall, and see redemption weaving threads of hope and life into the fabric of sin and death. In the Gospels, Jesus comes both as Savior and Sacrifice. Mary both miraculously gives birth to the Son of God and bears the mother’s pain of his public death that would save the world. As believers, we experience this Both-And world, this already/not yet place where we live out who we are and wait for who we will be in this home that is not our home.

Maybe the Coke Zero one-liner is as close to theological truth as an ad can get. “OR, What is it good for?” Biblically rich living is a Both-And life, filled with simplicity and shrouded with mystery, glimpses of glory in the midst of pain, ongoing choices to embrace both joy and sorrow. You can choose to live the “OR” life but you will find it a lesser life. You’ll find yourself living out the Miller Lite tagline of life: Great taste. Less filling.

Jesus promises a life that has both great taste and is more filling—a full and filled-to-overflowing life.

 OR, what is it good for?

I want it all—Jesus and every ounce of life he is calling me to live. So I will edit the Coke Zero tagline and choose—not to “enjoy everything”—but to enjoy Jesus in everything. I choose the AND life.

*Names changed

Who Should Get the Medals?

Maybe the medals that count aren't for winning but just for showing up and finishing.  

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This is the postscript for my pre-half-marathon post on A Click of Courage where I finally pressed the computer key and committed to a half-marathon in Auburn (hey, how often do you get to finish on the 50-yard line of Jordan-Hare and see yourself on the jumbotron?).

It's one thing to sign up for a race when you think you will be one of the anonymous thousands.  It's another to get your race packet and discover your number is "40." I had signed up so late that all I could think, "Are there only 40 runners in the whole race?  Great. All the volunteers will be waiting for me and the Balloon Lady to finish." Like the Cowardly Lion I would have turned and ran if my kids hadn't grabbed my arms and dragged me back.

So I showed up on a long-run perfect morning in the low 60's with low humidity (rare for Alabama even in April). Eased into the middle of the pack (relieved that it was a few hundred instead of just 40), put in my earbuds and made it to the finish line.  I had lots of pondering time as I pounded the pavement. First, I was thankful to be out there after several injuries. I'm starting to not take any part of life for granted.

But mostly I reflected on real courage as I spent time praying for friends and family who are in real-life ultra marathons: battling cancer, losing a business, grieving the death of a spouse, surviving an ugly divorce, trying to reach prodigal kids, enduring in a heart-wrenching ministry serving abused children, dealing with depression, learning to live with a beloved son with a traumatic brain injury, aging with dignity.

They show up every day and run their race by faith that God is good in the midst of a life not planned nor wanted. medalThey're vulnerable enough to confess that they are tired, scared, angry and needy, and if God doesn't show up, they're done. And they do it every day with no medals, ribbons or recognition. But in their long run, they're surrounded by the saints who've gone before them and Jesus at the finish line (Hebrew 12:1-2).  They will get more than a tin medal, they will receive a crown of glory  (1 Peter 5:4). I wish I could give my medal for finishing to all my friends who are "hitting the wall" in the middle of their real-life marathons.

Where are you hitting the wall? Who are you cheering on as they faithfully run their not-planned-for races? Who would you give a medal to? Leave me a comment. We'll figure a way to send them a middle-of-the-race medal.

 

Spoiler Alert!

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I’m in one of my panics that always ends with me in a fetal position (and no, that is not a yoga pose). Let’s just say I’m possibly being irrational. But note to all men, especially my husband: don’t ever tell a woman she’s being irrational, even if she is, even if she says so herself. And don’t tell her all the rational “facts” that life is really not that bad. Just listen, nod sympathetically, at the most make “mmm” sounds through closed lips. With the emphasis being on the closed lips. Second important note: Some women may like to be patted on the arm. Not me. 

Here is what’s causing me to roll into a hedgehog ball (and why you may not want to pat me on the arm): I’ve come away from a week caring for sick aging parents I cannot help. I’m overwhelmed on all sides: fearing the future, grieving the present, and flashing back to some hard memories. I’m trapped in Mount Doom and nothing my husband and friends say reaches me.

Everything is wrong. Everyone is wrong. I am wrong. I’m surrounded by chaos that will never go away and is growing. I’m at the bottom of the pit in the land of Mordor. It’s filled with Orcs and goblins and Wormtongue is whispering in my ear, “This is the way it’s going to be, forever.”

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As I wallowed in my Mount Doom, I had to prepare to teach Romans 8. (Note: It’s why I teach. It forces me, even when I’m in a hissy fit or deep pit, to deal with truth.) Scripture can do what I let no man do, whisper true truths to me, exposing Wormtongue, whom I call the “Lie Guy.”

Romans 8 was my “pit-stop.” In every verse God met me in the midst of my Mordor meltdown. Beginning with Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus and ending in Nothing will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, my Heavenly Father embraced me with truth: I am not alone. In Christ Jesus I have the Holy Spirit and a new way of life and peace. I do not have a spirit of slavery, but a spirit of adoption so I can cry out Abba Father. He gives me permission to groan for better and not feel guilty that I don’t even know what to pray. He’s up to something good in my life.

I begin to uncurl.

God’s Double-Handed Grip on Me

He has known me, chosen me, called me, justified me, and glorified me. His love will not let me go. It is a done deal.  That is my Abba Father’s tender yet unbreakable grip on my failing, flailing life.

He knows the tortured raw questions inside my head in the midst of my pain:

Are you, God, really for me?

Will you really give me what I need and want?

What about all those who are criticizing and ripping me apart? Will they win?

Who can condemn me? Will you?

Is there anything that can break me away from your loving grip?

The answers to those questions are like the Abba’s other hand holding me. (And I do let Him pat me on the arm.)

As I feel my Abba Father’s strong doubled-handed Scriptural embrace, I hear him whisper what only a beloved father can say to a downwardly cycling daughter, “It will be okay.”

With one hand he steadies my shaking shoulders and the sobs wracking my core. My volcanic emotions never erupt—I’m too well trained for that—they just implode and eat my insides. As my internal lava flow ebbs, I relax and begin to hear his truth.

With his other hand, he strokes my hair, “It will be okay. I am for you. Remember, I chose you. I called you. I justified you. I glorified you. I see you. You’re beautiful. You look so much like my beloved son.”

“Think about it. If I sacrificed my Son for you, don’t you realize I will follow through and give you all your true heart desires? Yes there are many who are lobbing charges and condemnations at you. But don’t you remember what I said?  There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Although your self-condemnation hurts me, it will not stand.  Christ died for all those accusations, even your own. Nothing will take you away from me. You are safe. You are secure. You are loved.”

He pauses as I look up, “Everything will be okay. In fact, everything will be more than okay. It will be glorious.  Wait for that day.”

As my breath slows, I read the sign he’s left with this chapter:

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  I sense him saying, “So, are you ready?  I want you back out in this beautiful, broken world. But never forget my embrace and my truth.”

“Everything is going to be okay” may be a weak statement to some people.  But it lets me breathe. It allows me to stop and be in the present moment, even with its hard realities. It will be okay.

It is okay—and it will be okay—in fact, it will be more than okay. I unroll from my fetal ball and show my husband where to hang the sign so I won’t forget.