I wonder what our lives, our communities, our world will look like a year from now. Five years from now. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I hear a lot about “getting back to normal,” I have my doubts that we’ll ever return there. In fact, my faith tradition and Christian theology suggests that “returning to normal” isn’t even the goal.
One of the ways that my own Lutheran tradition talks about is that God meets us in suffering. This isn’t saying that God causes suffering or ordains suffering or says that suffering is good but that God meets us there, in our own personal suffering, in the suffering of our neighbors, and in our communal suffering. Out of that suffering, then, God brings new life. Sometimes we call it resurrection. We see this happen most clearly when Jesus becomes human, takes on human suffering and death, and then is raised to new life. The churchy, theological phrase for this is “theology of the cross.”
So, I wonder what our lives, our communities, our world will look like a year from now. Five years from now. There is more than enough suffering at the moment, so trusting that God meets us here and now, I wonder what transformation God might be working.
For instance, what might it look like for the voices of those with black and brown bodies to be heard and centered? What might it look like if God led us to reimagine our human power structures and the ways that our social services function? What if as we did this work, we took seriously that black lives matter? (I want to point you all to the Rev. Marilyn Sargent’s column last week. She writes more eloquently than I.) This particular suffering isn’t new, of course, but it’s becoming more visible and noticed.
Or, how might we think differently about education? About worship? About work-life balance? About where and how we spend our money? About the role of faith in our daily lives? About science and its role in public policy? How will God call our Church and world to be different? What will this transformation look like?
I don’t know exactly, though you’ve probably guessed by now that I have some ideas. But I don’t know. I do trust that God meets us in our present suffering — whether that suffering has to do with health or job loss or the sin of racism or uncertainty about the future or loneliness or loss or any combination of the above. I trust that the same God who meets us there will also bring about transformation. Slowly.
Working through the inefficient and sometimes unreliable means of human beings (which is how God tends to work). It won’t be painless — it begins with suffering, after all. And will probably call for sacrifice — especially from people like me who were pretty well served by the normal. But I trust that it can be good. And that sounds so much better than normal.