I’m no fan of country music or radio preachers (blasphemy to some), and when I’m on the road in Texas, they hijack large spans of the FM bandwidth.
But life is full of surprises, eh?
A couple days ago, I was driving up the I35 corridor from San Antonio to Arlington. It’s been a week of family crises. Real ones. Painful ones. A stroke; a near fatal car crash. My trip was a mission of mercy. I was amped with more stress than I realized.
Flipping through the channels, I came upon a radio evangelist. The first words I heard were, “No one escapes the pressures and trials of life!”
OK. I peeled my finger away from the seek button.
Too much American Christianity, said the preacher, is cloaked in a false garb of abundance, as if belief is a magical flak jacket deflecting life’s difficulties.
I said a quiet amen.
This lie, he continued, tells us that somehow we’re more acceptable to God and others when we “have it all together.” It spawns a cosmetic religion, one content to deal with surface issues rather than core elements of life.
Another quiet amen.
Then he unpacked a few verses from the Epistle of James: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Joy comes from knowing a truth. We place our mercurial emotions – our fears and panics of the moment – under guidance of an overriding wisdom.
That truth is this – even the worst hardships can strengthen us. Too often we see this in retrospect, a blurry memory through the rearview mirrors of our frantic lives. But what if we embraced every trial – in the present – with knowledge that it hides a treasure?
I don’t know about you, but I value inner fortitude. I desire faith that can face life exactly as it is without running, hiding, or medicating. I cherish steadfastness of character.
And so on a Texas highway, I brought all the griefs of my week into sharp focus. I asked myself; “Krin, do you know, really know, not only that our Creator will help you find a way forward, but that this experience – right here, right now – will fortify your faith AND your value to others in this conflicted world?”
My answer was a heartfelt yes.
It was an open stretch of road. I hit cruise control and settled back in my seat. A few clouds fleeced the hot August sky. A vast expanse of sun- bleached pasture passed on my right, cattle browsing the stubble. I took a deep breath, one of those inhalations that descends to your soles.
Pure joy? No. But the weight of my circumstances began to lift, replaced by a growing sense of something else. I would call it peace gilded with a measure of happiness.
It wasn’t easy to maintain. I had to return to deep breathing, one mile marker after another.
But still…poked by a radio preacher, his theological bandwidth so narrow I would never consider tuning in on a regular basis…