Friday, November 3, 2017

The Next Day

I write this morning from an early flight. Flying east, out my plane window I see the nascent sunrise over a seascape of clouds that could pass for desert or snowdrifts.

I can’t see much else, for it is still hazy outside. Music from my teenage years nostalgically drifts through earphones of a technology that would have astounded my eighteen-year-old self.

Perspective. Change. Beauty. Memory.

I don’t know what is coming. I woke up this morning with what I think is a pretty good idea of what today has in store, what is planned for the weekend, how I have to prepare for that upcoming trial. And yet, the plane hits turbulence and the smooth trip is interrupted by unforeseeable bumps, and I realize that in fact, of course, I don’t know what the next moments really hold. All of my planning and dreaming and wishing and predicting are only breaths in a tsunami so far beyond my control that one wonders why I bother. My sight is limited.

Strangely, this is not terrifying or depressing or even disconcerting. This is the wonderful, terrible, unfolding world we have all learned to face and negotiate. Our mortality, which we ignore until we cannot, somehow manages to outlast what life has to offer, and then it is another day.

The sun has risen now. Those clouds are still there, rolling out a foamy foundation over which our flying tube magically propels itself toward the next tarmac. My plans for the day are in place, but how many details will I know tonight that have not yet occurred to me? What still-unknown people will I encounter? Whom will I see for the last time ever?

My life is what I planned - husband, father, lawyer, writer, churchman, baseball fan - decades ago. That said, I am certain that my teenage self would neither recognize me today nor choose my daily existence. Idealism and fantasy and certainty and moral clarity of my invincible youth would not have accepted the possibility of fragility and imperfection and disappointment and only-partial-achievement and misdirection and, yes, compromise that seem to characterize adulthood.

We plan, and God laughs.

Perspective. Change.

And yet ... and yet ... as the sun starts to melt those clouds, I can see patches of earth beneath. That life is neither as predictable nor as heroic as I once confidently assured myself it would be does not mean that it is bad or that I was wrong. I am surrounded by beauty - creation, wife, children, friends, parents, innovation, newness. I know there is solid ground.

Faith is a curious thing. The primary reasons I once thought I needed it - philosophical musings of eternity and escape from consequences of failure - still ring true, but those are not the aspects of faith that dominate my mind now. Today, faith mostly serves to center me with the One who made those clouds and holds my hand through the turbulence and the compromise, the One who is love and who paints a sunrise for me.

We plan, and God laughs. But it is not derisive laughter. No, it is the joyous chuckle of One who is letting us in on the joke, who allows an occasional break In the clouds so that we - Eureka! - catch a glimpse of His smile. He always knew, long before my childhood dreams and before my oldies songs were recorded, long before we were thought of, long before anything was ... He has always known that our wisps of planning and hints of understanding are lost in the ocean depths of reality. Yes, our souls need saving and our behavior needs changing, and yes, we must find God so that we can have any lasting hope of loving our fellow creatures, who are just as confused and imperfect as we, as well and as long as we should. But, faith is more even than salvation and transformation, for we exist in need of the One who is the only hope we have of rising above the clouds and making it to the next day intact.

Perspective. Beauty. Memory.

Tomorrow. Hope. Love. God.

The ride has smoothed out now. That does not mean I won’t have to buckle my seat belt in fifteen seconds. It does not mean that my iPhone won’t be lost in a blaze that prevents anyone from reading these words. It certainly does not mean that my day will not uncover surprise and hazard and perhaps heartbreak, for such is the lot of us sinners walking in this fallen world... but it may just as easily be a day of great joy and awakening, for i do not walk alone. For sure, I know that His mercies are new every morning.

And so I travel on, walking by faith, not by sight.

Thank goodness.

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