We loathe struggling.
The first time I remember struggling in school (apart from elementary school handwriting…ugh) was Mr. Quigley’s Calculus class. A severe case of Senioritis combined with the unanswerable question of “What-will-I-do-with-my-life-when-high-school-is-over?” and resulted in an overwhelming apathy towards anything school-related. The only cure was to play golf. So I did. I completely avoided the struggle.
A little over three years ago, I read Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution. This incredible story challenged my comfortable suburban assumptions, stirred the slumbering prophet within, and called me to follow Jesus in the struggle of radical and ordinary love. I started learning to embrace the struggle.
Last Saturday, I went riding bikes with some friends to prepare for the MS-150. On this particular loop is the infamous “Longview Hill.” Over the past three summers, I have been training myself to love hill riding with the simple mantra, “Riding hills makes me stronger.” I overheard one rider say, “I would love bike riding more if there weren’t so many hills.” I started seeing purpose in the struggle.
One of my favorite stories in Scripture is the story of Jacob wrestling with God. He’s on his way to meet his brother, and is quite anxious about the vengeance Esau will exact. Instead of resting on a rock-pillow, Jacob goes WWF with God. At the break of dawn, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. Israel means, “one who struggles with God.”
Jacob was completely transformed in this divine encounter. From this day on, he walked with a limp, because of an injury that occurred in the struggle. The limp was a tangible reminder that he now is no longer who he once was, but a new creation. From this day on, Jacob is no longer “the deceiver,” but the one who will live in light of the struggle. I started finding comfort in the struggle.
Over the past few years, my struggles have increased.
I still struggle living in the relative comforts of suburbia while millions have no place to call home.
I still struggle with our material excesses and easy access to food and clean water while 30,000 will die today from no food or clean water. (Take a moment and think about that number. That’s 10x the number of 9/11. Every day).
I still struggle to find affordable clothes and shoes that didn’t enslave someone in the making process.
I still struggle with a call to write stories and sing songs and dream dreams and pay the mortgage.
But I am finally learning.
In the struggle, I follow in the footsteps of those who don’t have all the answers yet live in a radical trust that love never fails.
In the struggle, the temporary plastic trinkets of stuff are revealed as the fluff of life and the true treasures are found in relationships with friends who are willing to faithfully walk with me.
In the struggle, I am starting to find joy, for I know that this faith of mine desperately needs to be strengthened, not overly dependent on what these myopic eyes see.
In the struggle, I find hope. For the struggle sends me to new places, to meet new people, to hear new stories, and to learn that there are others on this journey too.
I recently read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and loved it. Huxley imagines and writes some 600 years into the future, yet it looks remarkably like today. In this utopian world, people don’t struggle, for they have anything that they want whenever they want it. Towards the end of the book, the Savage, John, shouts out in protest to the consumptive comforts:
“I don’t want comfort, I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
It is in the struggle we find the fullness of life.