Life is bittersweet, and bittersweetness is greatly to be preferred to pure sweetness. In the classic iconography of Heaven, everyone is 33 years old, everyone looks the same, and everything is oddly dead, like plastic flower on a grave. In real life, we love imperfections, irregularities, beauty spots, and signs of frailty or age. The mortal actual is far more lovable than the ideal. Don Cupitt, “The Religion of Ordinary Life”
To continue from my last post, “No Easy Road”, there is this tendency for many Christians to think that life is supposed to be neatly-packaged and easy to understand. Come on now, we’re “Children of the King!” many of us would assert. Many Christians will quote the second half of John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”, yet never read that verse in it’s full and proper context.
Life is-that’s all I can say. It’s good, it’s bad, it’s happy and it’s sad. Life is fair, no matter what happens. With all the vicissitudes that come with this package deal called life, it’s only natural to want life to go our way. Sad to say, it don’t-take it from personal experience. Things happen that are outside our little sphere of influence: illness; death of a loved one; spouse leaves; kids act up; you lose a job; you fail in your ministry; financial hardship…etc.
We’ll never get the longed for “Heaven” we see in the aforementioned iconography. In fact, I find Cupitt’s explanation the most thoughtful on life itself. Life is-in fact-bittersweet, and to me that’s okay. I’d rather get this package deal with all that comes with it than some “ideal” that may not be so ideal after all. It’s the be bitter that helps me appreciate the sweet. It’s the bittersweet life that keeps me spiritually in tuned. It’s the knowledge that life is that keeps me ever appreciative of the blessings of life; and keeps me mature.
However, many of us would rather settle for the “plastic flower” if it means we don’t have to face the bitter parts of the bittersweet. We seek the trivial and the shallow: “feel good” churches; escapist entertainment or habits; and at worst, addictions of whatever kind. This keeps us numb to life’s bitters and our constantly hunting for only the sweet. In this scenario, we eventually find ourselves on weak spiritual footing that will collapse when we face some overwhelming problem. Inpatient treatment centers and 12-step meetings are full of souls who learned this the hard way.
Life is-be it whatever-life is. All we can do is live it to the best of our God-given abilities. As we’re now midway through this Lenten Season, let’s ask ourselves where we’ve been looking for the “plastic flowers” in our lives; and pray for the Divine wisdom to embrace and live life with all that comes with it.
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