Be a Watchman
"Hope is imagination put in the harness of faith."
Eugene Peterson,A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
My son struggles with anxiety. I get it. I do too. Parenting a kid with anxiety has meant learning new parenting tricks. Finding new tools for my parenting tool belt. I need to have coping skills at the ready for whenever anxiety strikes. One of the tools I have put in my tool belt is imagination.
It works something like this:
My child freaks out because the library doesn't have the book he wanted. The next book in the series he is reading. And yes, it's a big deal!
I pull out my tool of scaling the problem and ask: How big is this problem? Small, medium or large? Small means not a big deal. Large means you might die.
Child thinks and answers: Medium
I pull out my tool of imagination and ask: Do you think we could ask the librarian if they have another copy at a different location? Can you imagine what you could do until that copy arrives?
Child thinks and answers: Yes, we could ask the librarian and I think I could read this other book until my book arrives.
Sounds simple. Like silly simple. But until my child can imagine living, literally staying alive through the problem, he's stuck. So I have to help him use his imagination to bring him to safety. Yes, he will have to wait for the solution but now he can imagine life in the waiting and that is powerful.
In my recovery from surgery last year, I had to learn to use my imagination too. I had to imagine life without intact lungs. To imagine life with the risk of bleeding at any time, anywhere. To imagine life still full of love and joy but different from what it looked like before.
Imagining those things took faith. It took accepting my new "normal" and allowing God to direct my new life in his way. Imagining also brought me hope.
Wait and Watch
In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson labels Psalm 130 as the Hope Psalm.
O Israel, wait and watch for God—
with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
Psalm 130:7-8 (The Message)
Waiting and Watching, man those are hard to do. I know. It's what I did all of 2018. It's what I am still doing.
photo by Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo
Living with the knowledge that the vessels in my lungs may burst any day could crush me. Living with a child with adoption trauma could wither me. But I am learning to watch with expectation that God will redeem these days. I am learning to wait with expectation that God is at work behind the scenes. Waiting and watching have required me to accept the truth of my situation, that my life has limits, AND ALSO to be actively imagining life on the other side. Life redeemed by God.
Peterson says, "A Christian is a person who decides to face and live through suffering." Yep. Suffering comes to everyone, but a person who loves Jesus will believe that he can end the suffering and so, will follow him through the suffering and come out victorious.
Peterson quotes Karl Barth as saying,
"God Himself is merciful. ... It lies, therefore, in His will, springing from the depths of His nature and characterizing it, to take initiative Himself for the removal of this distress. ... He is really present in its midst, and this means again that He wills that it should not be, that He wills therefore to remove it." (emphasis mine)
Karl Barth, from Church Dogmatics
And so, God is at the boundaries. This is why we can face suffering and endure it with hope.
Peterson explains that Christians have an active role in our suffering. We are to wait and watch and together, those add up to hope. We wait knowing that God will work in our situation in due time. We watch because we expect Him to work. Oh, the hope!
"The words wait and watch are connected with the image of watchmen waiting through the night for dawn. The connection provides important insights for the person in trouble who cries out, 'But surely there is something for me to do!' The answer is yes, there is something for you to do, or more exactly there is someone you can be: be a watchman."
Eugene Peterson from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Be a watchman. Wait and Watch. The dawn will always come.
We do this in our everyday, ordinary activities. For me, with my unique challenges of weak lungs and traumatized kids, being a watchman is very simple. I get up each day. I get dressed. I go to work because it brings me joy to do kingdom work in my little corner of the world. I spend time in the quiet of my backyard with my friend Jesus. And I don't stop doing those things. If I'm still breathing, it means God gave me another day to live for Him while He's at work crafting a resolution to our struggles.
My lungs still fill with air. My kids grow healthier each day. He is at work.
Be a watchman.
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I’d love to send you this beautiful reminder that hope is never inappropriate. Wait for it.