Peace: When all the options are bad
-Rev Melissa Fain-
1 Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me;
suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple.
The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
2 Who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can withstand his appearance?
He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.
He will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
They will belong to the Lord,
presenting a righteous offering.
4 The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord
as in ancient days and in former years.
Malachi 3:1-4 CEB
Life sucks sometimes. There, I said it! Life is sometimes a big honkin' candy cane turd!
One of my biggest pet peeves when I look into a church, is this desire to make every message sunshine and sprinkles. Jesus never promised belief would lead to rainbows and unicorns, and neither should the church. That's very shallow and dangerous theology. It's shallow because it doesn't take any real thought to process. It's dangerous because if someone is thrown into life's deep end with shallow theology they are far more likely to drown.
I bought this ornament for my husband the year we adopted our cat, Morse. We loved that cat. He was a mouser and gave us attention all the time. He was also huge. Just big in general, not overweight. He'd sleep with us at night, settling in between our legs, and not move, like he was a dog. During the day, he played by jumping out in front of us. Most cats, if I jumped back it would cause them to hide in submission. Not Morse. He'd run like it was a game of tag; only running to immediately come back for more. He was a very fun cat.
You might notice I've been talking about him in the past tense. That's because when we moved back to Georgia we had to make some tough decisions. Some of those decisions were tough on a superficial level. My husband had to give up the desk and bike he loved because it wouldn't fit in the moving van. We had to live in some places that were uncomfortable for a bit. Jobs had to be taken that were not easy or liked. Something that wasn't superficial was Morse. If we wanted to move on, he would have to go.
I bawled as I passed him over to the the animal shelter. The worker who took him clearly had no idea what to do with me. She wasn't used to people being heartbroken as they brought animals in. At first coldly, she asked why I was upset. As I told her my circumstance, I watched her icy demeanor melt. She told me to have hope, I had a couple of months to figure it out, and he should still be there. It was a nice thought, but I knew we'd never see him again. This was a casualty of the chaos. If we kept him, we'd be homeless. There were no good and right options; just varying degrees of bad options.
And that's an important note. Sometimes you are stuck in a place where any action (including inaction) is bad. There were avenues for peace, but those opportunities eventually pass. History calls WWII the "just war." The idea being, it was the war that had to be fought to bring peace. Reality is, war is never justice. By the time you get to the place where bombs must drop, multiple people wasted multiple opportunities to set things right. Like I mentioned a couple of days ago, peace often requires giving something up. In the case of WWII, the something was revenge in the form of the Treaty of Versailles. There is no justice in revenge, only the lost opportunity to bring peace, and set everything back in motion towards what is right.
There was nothing "just" about needing to get rid of Morse. A set of actions from so many players, including myself, led me to that path.
Any one of us can be in that place. We can find ourselves in a situations where the good options are no longer on the table, and we are sitting in front of only bad options. We still have to move forward. That's when hope comes in. It's difficult to see where we are heading when nothing good is happening. That' s when we have to go back to the beginning and realize where we were headed, and choose the option that is going to lead us back on the right path. For our family, it was the hope that our family would find a new "normal." There was nothing good about needing to get rid of Morse, to reach that goal, but I had to get rid of Morse to get our family headed in the right direction.
This week, peace, is like the middle book in a series. It is the most difficult theme of the four Advent themes: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. Most middle books are not as good as the first or following books. There's lots of set up. Well, that's peace: set up. Next week is a fun week, as the puzzle pieces begin to line up, and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Starting Sunday, we enter into Joy.
Let us pray:
Oh holy and forgiving God, thank you for your immense grace. As you forgive me for my failure, may I extend that forgiveness to others. Amen