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Life is never what we expect, but it can be good.

“Levin had been married three months. He was happy, but in quite a different way from what he expected. . . . He was happy, having embarked on family life he saw every step that it was not at all what he anticipated. Every step he took he felt as a man would feel who, after admiring the smooth happy motion of a little boat upon the water, had himself got into the boat. He found that besides sitting quietly without rocking he had to keep a lookout, not for a moment forget where he was going, and that there was water under his feet, and that he had a row, although it hurt his unaccustomed hands; in short, that it only looks easy, but to do it, though very delightful, is very difficult.” -Leo Tolstoy (from Anna Karenina)

“Life will never go as you plan; things will never be the way you expect them to be.” This is something I say all the time to my children. After a while I started to get some pushback from one of them. “So, Dad, you are saying I should never look forward to anything? Something is always going to go wrong?” While that is probably the case, but it isn’t the full story. Yes, things often go unexpectedly wrong, but they also go unexpectedly right. So I’ve amended what I say to my kids. Now I say things like, “life will never go as you plan, but you can still find great joy and happiness in it; things will never be the way you expect them to be, but they can still be good and full of meaning.” 

I think of the students that were in drama performances this year. From the roles they received to the play they performed to the performances themselves I doubt things went the way they anticipated or desired. But they were still good and it was clear they had a lot of fun. Being a father has been far more challenging and draining than I expected, but I have also found it far more enjoyable and rewarding than I could have imagined. And I am sure we parents can all relate to the quote above regarding marriage—it is nothing like we expected and it is often difficult, but it can be simultaneously difficult and delightful.

This seems to be a rule of life, built into the fabric of reality. The world was created perfect and good . . . but it is fallen. The Kingdom of God has come and Christ has conquered . . . but we await the final consummation of his victory. In Mark 10 Jesus states that some that follow Him will leave houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, or land, but they will receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brothers and sister and mothers and sisters and lands, but with persecutions, and eternal life. What an odd passage. We lose much to follow Christ, but gain more both here and now and in the age to come, and we’ll be persecuted. This isn’t the script I would have expected. 

During the past two years we have gone through a public health rollercoaster that I certainly would never elect to live through again, but many uprooted lives are now bearing fruit in places that the pandemic harrowed.

I don’t know what this summer holds for us individually. Neither do I know what lies ahead for us collectively this fall. But I do know there will be surprises—things will not go the way we expect. Things will be difficult, but they can still be good. There may be things we lose, but we will gain others. We may face trials and persecution, but we can still live lives of meaning and purpose. We may have to strive, but we can do so joyfully.  

Thus ends this year’s weekly messages. I hope they have been in some way edifying.