Monday, October 04, 2010

What to do when the A.F.R. has hit the fan

Today is the Monday before Fall Break begins on Thursday. And as is the case on most college campuses before break, all the professors got together and decided that the most delicious form of torture for college students would be to coordinate syllabi so that all the exams, all the projects, all the papers, all of the big-ticket assignments would come due at the same time. And of course every professor or instructor treats his or her assignment as the most important, expecting you the student to do the same. Even if you are only enrolled in basket-weaving 101, that instructor’s attitude toward that class is that it is the most vital to your entire educational career, even if you should go on to pursue a PH. D. in aero-dynamics. It’s just the culture of academia.

Returning students have learned to greet the days before Fall Break with the grim resignation to hunker down, bury themselves in the library or dorm room, and grind through each intellectual obligation until all are completed. Freshmen are more like deer caught in headlights. For a few brief moments they hyperventilate, and then, after chatting with friends, parents, and pastors, discover that the devastation can be survived. Then they too, hunker down. If you are a college student reading this, you didn’t need me to tell you that the A.F.R. (I learned this term on TV last night when a resort worker was explaining what happens when a kid poops in the pool—it’s called “accidental fecal release.” Cool huh?) has hit the fan. You are living it.

And as I was pondering A. F. R. this morning during my run, I began to wonder as my breath formed a foggy mist in front of my face if toots (passing gas, farts, tooties, whatever) would also form a lovely foggy mist in the cold air. Can you tell I hang around college students? I share this for two reasons: First I think it is hilarious! Second, when we are going through tough times we need help to get through, to persevere, to survive. Humor has always done it for me. I often tell my students that in the body of Christ I am the funny bone. My bizarre thought process on how we survive the tough times is actually related to Philippians 4:11-13, a familiar scripture that I have been pondering for the last several days:

For I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There is a Veggie-Tales video that explores this verse. Larry the cucumber asks Bob the tomato if it means that through Christ he can be a chicken, because he always wanted to be a chicken. Well, no. It doesn’t mean that. Usually we take it to mean that we can do anything for God through the strength of Jesus Christ. And yes, that is true. We can do anything God asks us to do relying on His strength. But we usually look at this text through the lens of the American Dream, meaning that if we don’t like the situation we are in, with God’s help and our own will-power we should be able to fix it. We kinda are the “fix-it” nation. We hate to be uncomfortable, and we avoid pain at all costs. However, this is not the way of the Gospel, certainly not the way of Jesus who did not run away from the cross but chose it because he loves us and knew there could be no resurrection, ultimate defeat of sin, death, and evil, without it.

At the heart of the Gospel is the good news that Jesus transforms the bad into the good. Not by running away, but by enduring, and pushing through. Somehow the power of Jesus infused into our lives gives us the ability to do the same, to persevere and push through. And through His grace, our worst experiences can be transformed through the power of His love and resurrection into something of eternal beauty. Don’t ask me how He does it; I just know that he does. And He does it not by removing us from the difficulty but by strengthening us within the difficulty. Now don’t get me wrong; I do believe in miracles and deliverance. But I also know that God doesn’t choose to answer every difficulty we encounter in this way. What He does give us every time is the strength to be okay in the midst of A.R.F.’s and quickly whirling objects (i.e. fans). The good news is that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, God is able to sustain us while we are in them. He helps us get through them. He makes us able to praise Him on the other side. So thankful. Honestly I’d rather have the American Dream, but I’m so thankful I have His grace instead. He’s gotten me through a lot.

And so my dear ones, do not be discouraged. In a matter of days Fall Break will be here, and you will be able to rest from your basket weaving 101 adventures. Just know that the God who loves you is with you, to strengthen you and to bring good out of you and through you. And in His grace you will see your toughest trial transformed into something of eternal beauty for His glory.

This is me trusting,


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