The other day I started to finally organize my garage. Two and half years after being separated from my wife, and more than one year after moving back into a home I never wanted, I rummaged through various trinkets and doo-dads from the past. Some were mine, some were “ours.” It lead me to reflect on how transient everything is. So much comes and so much goes in our lives. And the going is not always a going in peace but often a going in resentment, anger, and disappointment. The reflection on a broken past led to a simple, yet ever-present prayer, “Oh Lord, now what?” That was all that I could muster, “Lord, now what?”
Further rummaging lead to an old Army “A-Bag;” still stuffed with uniforms that hadn’t been washed since the day I left Fort Bragg, almost 8 years ago. Next to them a pair of tan desert boots, treads still crusted with dried mud from the mountains of a beautiful yet unholy part of the least evangelized country in history, Afghanistan. Magazine pouches, an old, maroon beret, a tourniquet (never used, thank God!). Five and a half years in the service, half a year at war, and what remains but a bunch of old medals and ribbons stuck in a bag in the garage. What do I do with this stuff? Make a memorial? Bury it? The emotions first, then the reflection, then the prayer, “Lord, what was the point of it all?” That was all I could muster, “Lord, what was the point?”
But my story is not unique. Have we not all been there, in our own way, rummaging through our lives? Finding ourselves at the end of a long journey that ended in tragedy or maybe that simply ended, without much sense as to why we were on that road to begin with. Sometimes our lives just are that way, neither victorious nor even sensible, but just life. The all-to-common phrase “it is what it is” sums up the mood; like a movie that appears terribly out of order or that one expects to have a certain scene in it, but that scene never show up; maybe the director had a bad script or the producers ran out of money or the editor fell asleep on the job. Who knows? The movie, like our lives, is just a bit too incoherent. A bit too hard to follow. Everything’s muddled. Futile even. But somewhere we’ve heard that word before, “futile.”
“For the creation was subjected to futility,” so Paul tells us in Romans, the 8th chapter. Is that how the story feels, as we try to put our garage in order? He goes on: “The whole creation has been groaning together…” Wait now, I am not alone? The “whole creation” is this way: out of order, incoherent, senseless? “Yes,” Paul says, “yes it is.”
Or, at least, yes it was.
For although you cannot see it, others have. The women first; then Cephas; then the 12; then 500 more; then James, the brother; then all the apostles and then, yes, even Paul himself. And what did they conclude, the ones who saw? Is all still futile? Paul continues, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
How could Paul say this — this murder of men, women and children? Could it be that all things, literally all things will be made whole again, worked out and worked together for our good? Just as His body was made whole again after two nights in the tomb, would Paul, the tyrant, be made whole again, and his victims too?
But it’s true, for His Resurrection has indeed been seen. Seen and preached, and it has gone throughout the whole creation, unto the corners of the world, even to your home, and into your living room, and your child’s nursery, and yes, even my garage. And for those who believe, His Spirit groans on your behalf, and because of this you will know, you will know your story will be complete, for He has authored it. You will know the pieces will be put together and the plot resolved, for he directed it. You will know that every purpose under heaven will be fulfilled, for He has purposed it. He did it from the beginning, from the very start He did it. It is done, and He did it. He is Risen.
Anthony Vincent blogs at theologicalapologetics.com