~ ~You Have Been Led~
“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable God’s judgments, how inscrutable God’s ways!
For from God, and to God, and through God are all things.
To God be glory forever.”
~Romans 11:33, 36
Dear Members and Friends,
At the top of this page, there are two verses from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. When I was a rookie “student pastor,” I used to quote these verses as the benediction at the close of every worship service. (This was long before I developed the benediction that I use now.) It was a nice way to end an hour in church, with a majestic bit of poetry, straight from the pen of the Apostle Paul. The trouble for me began when I really got to know my congregation. At the conclusion of each service, I would rise for the closing benediction, look out at all the familiar faces staring back at me, and I would utter the time-honored words…with increasing discomfort. (Take another look at those two verses.)
This was my dilemma: Out there in the pews, I could see gazing back at me a young father embroiled in a life of secret addiction. I would see an abused mother frightened for her own safety and that of her children. There, too, was a proud, independent man who just lost his job, at the age of 57, and had nowhere left to turn. In the pews were people whose consciences throbbed like a nine-year migraine for misdeeds, and infidelities, and old, old faults that only they remembered. There were people dealing with doubts, and the deaths of loved ones, and serious illness. Out there, looking back at me, were the happy, and the hapless, and the helpless, and the hopeless—all manner of people to bless! I had to ask myself, “Are these necessarily the words I want to send them away with? Does everything—everything—in their lives come from the hand of God?” Perhaps just as importantly: “Do they need me hectoring them each week with the notion that their lot in life is all God’s doing?” If they are happy and blessed, I don’t mind telling them to be thankful. But if they suffer, if they endure hardship, do I want to tell them (do I even believe?) that this too is God’s doing?
Well, I still don’t entirely have an answer to those questions. If anything, I’m even less likely now to believe that God expressly sends hardship into our lives according to a secret plan. And yet, I still love those two verses from Romans. And I’m more and more comfortable saying that God is the source and the goal of all our living. All creation and all life flow from God, their source. And to God all things finally return, even those things that have been damaged in transit. In God, all things beautiful and broken (and most things are both) meet with perfection at last. God may not send misery into an already-injured world, but God is the force of healing that—over time—brings about the renewal and the new life that only come through suffering and loss. Resurrection is our story.
“From God, and to God, and through God are all things.” Whoever you are, reading this page, cast a backward glance over your story. Do you sometimes get the uncanny impression that you have been led? Your life with its imperfections and wounds (many of which were self-inflicted) has been patiently guided and shaped by one who is kinder, and gentler, and wiser than you could ever be. And come what may in this life of years, the one who walked with you up till now…still journeys with you into tomorrow.
In Christ’s Peace,