The Tree of Life and the Case for Hope (part 2)

Everyone is looking for life

We might say we are going to change our life or manage our life, or get control of our life, or enrich our life, but mostly I suspect we’re just trying to figure it out.  When we are children we are lead to believe that life is made up of the circumstances around us, our accomplishments, the relationships we have, or the possessions we own.  While we are vaguely aware that none of the adults around us seem almost (or definitely) to have failed at life, by not reaching their dreams and stated goals for these things, we also are inclined to believe we’ll do better.  Life doesn’t appear that hard to grasp.  All we have to do is turn the right key in the right lock and we’re in.

Depending on our upbringing and convictions we may see that key differently.  Work hard.  Plan well.  Get lucky.  Make money.  Marry our soul mate…

This last Sunday I was listening to “This American Life” (the popular podcast which spawned the ridiculously popular “Serial” but that’s another story.) and they were talking about a network marketing company which has inspired thousands of people to join in pursuit of a life free from a J O B.  The company admits up front that only 4 percent of those who join make any kind of profit at all and only 1 percent make enough to actually quit their jobs, and yet the allure of the company seems to be that every person wants to believe they will be that one percent.

I bring this up, because it’s sort of the flip side of the coin to what I was ruminating on in my previous blog.  There I was contemplating whether pressing on in hope despite circumstances is faith or foolishness.  Here were people doing something similar and it definitely sounded unwise.  As I pointed out in my last blog though the difference is in what you are hoping.  Scripture says something sort of obvious about hope.

Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life.

When hope is repeatedly unfulfilled in our life, it leaves us feeling heart-sick. (This is, by the way, something amazing a lot of people miss about scripture: the way it just accurately describes the life we live.  I’ve read a number of professed Holy books including the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita and while there is certainly some wisdom to be found in each of them only the Bible describes the realities of life so consistently well.)

That tree of life part, we get that too.  We somehow know that what we are really pursuing and hoping for is life.  It’s not just money, or prestige, or fame, or comfort, it’s life.  That elusive, unmanageable thing which defies our every formula and key.  It’s like an untamable horse which keeps bucking us off just when we think we’ve got it licked.  Just as we settle in for a nice gentle ride, the horse makes a sudden left turn, threatening to lose as all together.

This unpredictability, this refusal to follow our firm hand on the reins, to do what we always ask of it, is part of the difficulty.

We sometimes speak of death as a mystery, but death isn’t a mystery.  Death is simple, it’s the absence of life.  Life is the true mystery

What is it?  How do we find it?  What do we do with it?  How do we control it?    We don’t even know how to make life.  Death is simple to create, predictably and reliably created.  But life is not so easily guaranteed from our actions.

But there are three things we do know about life, if we believe scripture.

  1. Life is a gift.  When you think about our physical life, this is clearly true, but it’s also true of this bigger picture of life we are seeking.  It’s not earned, manipulated or chosen.  It’s given.
  2. “He who seeks his life will lose it, He who gives up his life for my sake will find it.”  These words of Jesus seem paradoxical, but they reflect this idea of looking for life in things that don’t really have it.  These words acknowledge that one can’t truly pursue life in the wrong place and hope to find it there.  Things can only be found where they are actually are.
  3. “Your life is Hidden in Christ.” These words of Paul both acknowledge that life is hidden and elusive, but also tell us straight out where we ought to be looking for life.

Interestingly this line of thinking brings us back to the same place our last blog did.  Our hope will only bring us life if what we are hoping in really is life.  And while lots of things can pose as life these things are all to small to really be life, and too fragile to contain it.   Pursuing Christ isn’t just a theological issue, nor a moral one.  It’s not about philosophy or creed.  It just simply happens that Jesus is life and nothing else is. and.. things can only be found where they actually are.

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