Of course, I know that in many ways, when I write and experience difficulty it is very much as what folks are calling a ‘first world problem’. I’m not writing about that kind of stuff, I hope… I’m not blogging about how tired my legs felt whilst going for a bike ride on my day off, because I appreciate the luxury that is tiring myself out for fun. I’m not complaining about how much it seems I have to do, because I recognise that goes with having possessions.
The problems I’m thinking of are sickness, death, failed relationships, suffering… and yet even there I recognise that I’m not really touching on the true depth of third world problems- water (clean would be good, on tap would be even better), safety (to sleep at night without fear of attack or rape), freedom to speak and worship (whether implied or explicit oppression), health care (the hope that a fever or wound will as a matter of course be treated and recovery take place).
In case you’re wondering what Bible passage sparked these slightly downbeat thoughts, Its Mark’s Gospel, chapter 5. The beginning deals with the healing of a man who has a spiritual problem- he’s possessed by demons that make him violent, cause him to self-harm and drive him away from other people (whether this is an instance of demonic possession or mental illness isn’t my point- I think that we can distinguish between the two and its important to, otherwise all mental illnesses get tarred with the ‘demonic/spiritual’ brush which is a baaaad idea, or alternatively we put all spiritual/demonic problems in with other mental illnesses, which is logically flawed: there are similar symptoms but a different cause… anyway, moving on). Jesus meets the man, healing occurs; its all good. The man goes and shares this great news with his friends and family- yay! But then Jesus returns back across the lake.
Question: Were there no other sick, ill, oppressed or possessed people in the Decapolis region?
Then Jesus heals a woman who’s been bleeding for years and brings a child back to life. Yup. Read that again. Amazingly cool- you’d have loved to see it. And then he moves on again.
Question: Wasn’t anyone else sick, ill, bleeding or dying?
Of course, the answer is yes to both of these questions. But Jesus didn’t come as a paramedic. He came to create the possibility of healing and to open people’s eyes to a new possibility. He came to give the tragedy of life a new storyline.
Here’s where we started from. In times of tragedy many people look around for support and help, because things are falling apart around them. Some find that support from God, in their faith, or even in the faith they didn’t know they had. Others find it in different places, or look for it in a bottle or a needle… and here’s the tragedy that I see: they do that because they don’t see an alternative.
Because we try to be strong and independent, making our own way through the world, we brush aside all thoughts of support and vulnerability. Why would I want to be vulnerable to you when I can be invulnerable to all things? And then somehow, something slips through our armour- our own version of kryptonite, and we’re in deep trouble, without Lois Lane to rescue us.
The tragedy of life is that we do not notice how beautiful the world is, how important people are, how fortunate so many of us are, how little we do to actually make the world spin… until the day when our world comes crashing to a halt and the colour drains from everything.
It takes a tragedy to make us realise the true meaning of life. That is a tragedy.
So lets take the tragedy and turn it into something else in our lives.