Week 20: “now and not yet”

I have always been aware of the “now and not yet” of following Jesus. I am reminded that it’s okay to still feel unsettled, somewhat incomplete, and a little discontent; because things are not (yet) as they should be. Everyone knows this. Some recognize it more than others. It is something of a prophetic understanding—those who see things as they should be, and feel strongly the disconnect between how they should be and how they really are. Shouldn’t reality reflect, well, reality?

When I was younger I was haunted more with the sense of “not yet” than “now” (to this day, I often still am). I didn’t understand it (I still don’t). How can the world be such a dark and lonely place for so many people if what I was taught about God is really true? Why isn’t reality as we “intuitively” know it should be, if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-present, and in total control?

To this day I have difficulty reconciling these tensions (I probably never will). It seems that God is full of paradoxes; or perhaps this is the only comfortable understanding we can prescribe to him because of our limited knowledge and shortsightedness. Perhaps it is only we who are full of paradoxes because we are (mostly) the creators of our own pain and suffering. But then, there is the pain and suffering inflicted not by humans, but by nature, disease, sickness, famine, drought (some or many of which might still be traced to human origins, I’m sure). And of course, there’s inevitable death.

Is our only hope in an escape to eternal life (as some theological conservatives say), or our only hope in making life better here and now (as some theological liberals say)? I hope, it is both.

But for many who face hardship around the world, external circumstances probably won’t get much better. This is not pessimism or fatalism; it is reality. And for many who experience a relatively comfortable and secure existence, the eternal holds little appeal; they already have what they need.

It’s okay to look at the world, ourselves, others, and say, “It is still not right…Things are not as they should be.” It is okay to follow Jesus and sometimes still experience loneliness, anxiety, and depression; to sometimes still feel unsettled, somewhat incomplete, and a little discontent; to sometimes still question and doubt and take nothing for granted.

If God can enter a mess (the “now”) without immediately fixing everything, so can we. Following Jesus is not just the hope of seeing the “not yet” right now. It’s the hope of believing the “not yet” will be seen, even if not right now.

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