Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “reality”

JESUS, WHERE’S WALDO, & PROBLEM SOLVING

About 15 years ago or so, the Kansas City Star used to put Where’s Waldo in the lineup of comic strips in their Sunday edition. Back in the day, we spent lots of Sundays with my folks who took the paper faithfully. I remember Sunday after Sunday, lying on the family room floor, poring over each comic strip with an occasional grin or chuckle. But one of my favorite parts of the funny papers was Where’s Waldo. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s one of those seek-and-find type things. Waldo is a kinda geeky looking guy with a red and white striped shirt, round glasses, wacky brown hair, and a red and white stocking cap. Where's WaldoEach cartoon features Waldo tucked away in some crazy, action-packed scene. And your job is to find him. I usually couldn’t. I’d spend a good 5-10 minutes searching for the guy, but wasn’t very successful. Then my oldest son, who was about 4 or 5 at the time, would come scrunch down beside me, and within 30 seconds would say, “There he is, momma!” I thought it was coincidence at first. But week after week, I’d search high and low, studying the scene with a careful eye, trying to find Waldo. I’d find someone who closely resembled Waldo, but not Waldo. Then like I said, Caleb would swoop in, and find him in a heartbeat without even trying.

Sometimes I think solutions to our problems are like this. We search high and low, in what feels like some crazy, action-packed scene. We look the scene (aka our problem) up one side and down the other and just can’t seem to find the solution. For us it’s sometimes grueling and clouded by seeing the same reality over and over again. Someone else, however, can take a look at the same reality and see the solution quickly. They can come in with a different perspective—one that’s not emotionally charged—and see the solution.

But here’s the thing…we don’t like those people. Even though they can see clearly what we should do, we don’t listen to their advice. We brush away their wisdom. It’s a pride thing in us. We have trouble admitting the fact that we have weaknesses and need help. There are times when we should seek out wisdom, help, advice, or counsel from others, but instead we just insist on trying harder ourselves.

You remember the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? When He stood at the entrance of the tomb and hollered for Lazarus to come out, scripture records that “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:44a).

Why did Jesus do that? Why didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus out all clean and fresh to put a further exclamation point on this miracle? Why did Jesus have Lazarus come out of the tomb all “mummified” like that?

The very next thing Jesus said to those close by was, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go (John 11:44b).” That’s why. Jesus asked whoever was near the tomb to help Lazarus take off what bound him. You see, Jesus knew we needed each other. Jesus knew the value of others stepping in to help, to unbind us, to be hands-on in setting us free from our problems.

If you can’t find Waldo, you might ask Caleb to help you.

If you can’t find the solution to your problem, however, you just might consider the Jesus method—of asking those nearby to help unbind you.

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CHRISTIANITY IS A CRUTCH

Gravity.

It’s a force that gives weight to objects. It’s sinking or falling. It’s heaviness or pressure. It’s that thing that causes objects on earth to fall straight down to the ground.

Reality.

It’s the state of things as they are or appear to be, rather than as one might wish them to be. It is that which exists. It’s actual. It’s that thing we experience, we see, we live.

Sometimes the gravity (the weightiness) of our reality (what we live) is overwhelming.

For me, I go through seasons of my life when I sense the gravity of my reality up close and personal. And truthfully, it is downright depressing. I struggle. The things I want to have happen don’t. The things I expect to happen don’t. The things I long for don’t surface. The things I work hard for bear no fruit. Joy comes few and far between. Struggle comes all too often. And that’s what I call the gravity of reality.

When the gravity of our reality gets heavy, weighs us down, seems unbearable, we all have different ways of dealing with it. Some ways are more admirable than others. Some of our solutions we’ll admit out loud, some we’ll keep hidden…very hidden. I can’t say that I have the perfect solutions every time. I can’t say that I respond in the most godly, positive, honorable ways either. But lately, I’ve been trying to respond to the gravity of my reality by breathing deep the self-talk of God’s Word.

For instance…

When the gravity of reality says, “No you can’t”—I will choose to say, “Yes I can.” (Philippians 4:13)

When the gravity of reality says, “This mountain is too big”—I will choose to say to this mountain, “Move from here to there.” (Matthew 17:20)

When the gravity of reality says, “You’re sinking in the pit”—I will choose to say, “No, my feet are on a rock, on a firm foundation.” (Psalm 40:2).

When the gravity of reality says, “Your future is bleak at best”—I will choose to say, “God plans to give me a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

When the gravity of reality says, “Give up, quit trying”—I will choose to say, “I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6)

When the gravity of reality says, “You’re just stumbling around in the darkness with no real direction”—I will choose to say, “God’s Word will light my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

crutches

You know…some people have the idea that Christianity is just a crutch for those people who can’t handle the gravity of their reality. They think that Christianity is for the weak, the ones who aren’t strong enough to live life without some sort of crutch.

Well if this is the case, then I’ll take my crutch any day.

WHY NOT GET HOOKED?

The summer after my sophomore year of high school, my best friend said to me, “Hey, let’s get hooked on a soap opera this summer.” I sort of shook my head, and naively agreed to “get hooked” with her. Since neither of us had a job or any other important things to do, it worked out quite well for us. Sometimes we’d watch together at each other’s houses. Sometimes we’d watch alone then call each other and chat about it. It was silly really. But guess what? We were semi-sorta-kinda “hooked” for the next 15 years until the network canceled the show.

Okay, I wouldn’t really say we were “hooked,” I guess we just enjoyed this particular daytime drama. I know…this makes me sound really shallow, doesn’t it? But I suppose there are worse things to be hooked to, right?

You know, when I think of people and the many vices that have a grip on them, it makes me sad. Plus it makes me angry. And I understand part of the addiction—it’s an escape. For a brief moment, the addiction (or whatever we’re hooked to, dependent upon, obsessed with, etc.) is an escape from our reality. And reality can be a real bear, can’t it?

But the way I figure it, the more we escape reality, the more disconnected we are from real life. If we’re disconnected from real life, we’re disengaged from real living. And therein lies the danger. You see, those we know and love exist in real life. Situations and circumstances happen in real life. When we live in our created escapes from real life, we miss out on real living. People pass us by. Family members—with all their bumps and bruises—float past without our full engagement. Opportunities—even the ones that knock on our very doors—present themselves without a passing glance from us because we’re missing out on real life.

And it’s easy to do. Facebook, reality TV, smartphones, sensationalized news channels, daytime dramas, computer gaming systems, romance novels, celebrity preoccupation, pornography, drugs, alcohol, gambling, iPods, iPads, tablets, food, and all the rest. They have a grip on us. And the grip is ugly. And the grip is strong. But the thing is they provide a respite from reality. And any break from our broken, less-than-perfect lives seems refreshing.

Refreshing? Yes. Healthy? Maybe not. How do we break free? I’m not totally sure, but I think it has lots to do with prayer and living on purpose. It has to do with being intentional. It has to do with allowing the power of God to penetrate the grip on our dependencies, or their grip on us. But until we make a move, we’ll remain hooked.

Why not get hooked?

Wouldn’t it be cool if we got hooked on stuff that made an impact on others? Think of the possibilities. Why not get hooked on:

  • Praying big prayers and seeing what happens next
  • Doing random acts of kindness for people you’ve never met
  • Meeting the needs of other people—painting a room, mowing a lawn, giving a ride, etc.
  • Finding someone to bless every day
  • Paying for the meal of the car behind you in the drive-through
  • Sending notes of encouragement…in the mail
  • Having someone new over for dinner every month
  • Reading  and studying God’s Word
  • Humility, not pride
  • Mentoring a younger person
  • Finding an older person to mentor you

You see, real people exist in real life. And these real people have real junk—baggage, hurts, scars, and needs. If we’re hooked on the things that allow us to escape reality, then we’re allowing real life to skate by. Before we know it, we’ll end up being far more knowledgeable about our vices than the very people we know and love. But if we’re hooked on stuff that makes an impact on other people, our own reality begins to be more bearable.

Isn’t it time to shed the things which consume us? Isn’t it time give up reality escapes? Isn’t it time to live life, engaging in the real world with real people? Isn’t it time to get hooked?

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