It’s a Wonderful Life
It is almost that time of year again… in fact if you start trolling strange channels at odd times maybe it’s already that time of year. Time to hear those dulcet tones say, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings.” The movie from whence I stole my title begins with a question mark and ends with an exclamation point. Because first we have to ask – is this life wonderful?
At the strangest time I find myself asking that question. Is life wonderful? You see at the moment I feel a gnawing sense of something akin to despair but not as dire. I walked into work to some frustrating conversations. This is nothing new but in my sleep deprived state I’m just not patient enough to have them right now. I have this lingering disease of being someone who is renting a house and owns an unoccupied house to boot – every month ensuring that when we do sell that house we will have significantly less money left over to try to actually become home owners a second time. Then I got some sad and disappointing news and I felt it… a small but ubiquitous sense of despair lining the layers of my life…
If you know me you realize this is a really strange timing… or maybe its entirely to be expected. It was only four days ago that I watched one of the greatest miracles. I watch my child emerge, with medical help, from my wife. A child born… a fourth time through all that, four wonderful children – a miracle that doesn’t get new. I’m watching this mewling, fragile child object to birth – the ultimate change, but a necessary one for life to happen. That child could not have remained where it was and live. So that child had to die… yes die to everything it knew, and we had to make that happen for the child because she would not have chosen it for herself. She had to die to live.
I got to watch that happen… it is amazing. So really why despair? I should be reveling in life right now – overjoyed… ecstatic… caught up in the moment. Instead I’m reflecting and spinning and caught off guard at how I can be happy and sad to great extents at the same time and not be torn in two by the juxtaposition of it all. I think happy… but I feel sad.
And then I see it again… a thousand images some sterile and beautiful and heavenly and some gross and dark and ominous and some are other worldly and some are so incredibly in-the-pain-of-the moment… a thousand images of the cross.
Because isn’t that a lot of what the cross is? A crossroads of life and death, of despair and hope, of joy and trauma, of escape and commitment, done and ongoing, completely but not yet, to be avoided and embraced. The cross is the great juxtaposition of two realities that struggle to exist in one moment and one place all tied up together. And Christ at the cross tells us this is life – existing in the spaces that cannot be…. embracing the great ALL of life.
We prepare to watch, or flip by a thousand times, It’s a Wonderful Life. We also prepare to welcome the birth of a child… a child born to die – and live again. What is more the movie, and our own seasons of the church, asks questions of itself in order to invite us to that ask ourselves that same question. Is our life – in all its swirling emotions and experiences – wonderful? Can we embrace despair and hope at the same time? The cross similarly invites us, Jesus birth similarly asks us, can we embrace death to find life?
That is a big question. A wonderful question. It will also manifest differently for each of you… you are welcome to stop reading now – simply walking away with that question in whatever particularity with which it applies to your life IS the point of all this babbling on my part.
There is much beyond my control right now that I passionately wish I could control. What a perfect time to welcome a child in a reminder that sometimes we need to pushed beyond what we control. Sometimes we need to be killed (or have our world so changed that feels like death) in order to find the wonder-filled life that is all around us. I am reminded of that now… again. I will need the reminder again soon. This is why we journey through the church year to see over and over again Jesus’ invitation. Jesus who bids us come and die… that there might be life.
Thanks be to God….i think… most days at least. Amen.