“Just wait till you live in the real world,” they said, trampling my Jesus-heart. “The real world. You will change. You’ll see.”
Idyllic eyes flickered; shuddering breath pleaded that I won’t change: please God, so that others will know You through me . . .
A common epithet flung against those who live non-mainstream lifestyles, “the real world” is a phrase rarely used with loving intention. For conservative, patriocentric families who also live agrarian lives and who follow beliefs to be separate from the world, these words casually dismiss years of carefully assembled conviction and creed. While I grieve at the lack of grace which generally prompts this sentiment, I also recognize the factors that give many the occasion to speak them.
However, it can be an ambiguous statement. The real world? Why are these words so potent, and uttered from all sides with unusual fervor? “Real” to whom, for we all dwell within different realities and perceive elements uniquely. And is this the world spoken of by Jesus: I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one . . . ? Why then do so many try to do just that . . . flee “the world”?
Responsible parents naturally want to shelter their offspring from the ravages of evil. When concern metamorphoses into fear, however, an imbalanced and ungodly element becomes introduced into the family dynamic.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,” says the writer of Proverbs 3.
The fruits gleaned from a lack of faith do not provide sustenance or strength. It is all too common to see family leaders who claim to be motivated by trust in God, yet who control through fear. What ramifications does this have upon women who do at last encounter this tragedy we call earth?
I know that there are many positive elements of living a life withdrawn from modern culture and I hope deeply that my words are not cast as a judgment favorable towards society. I do think that there is a common misapplication, therefore a distinction, between worldliness and what many, including Jesus, refer to as “the world”. I will save the practical factors for perhaps a future article but at the moment I want to address something that is close to my heart.
I lived a life that was not considered “the real world”.
Therefore I was not truly prepared for the genuine pain of others.
I am sure that we all can agree that we have heard trite response in our lives as some attempt of assuaging agony: “just pray” “this too shall pass” “hang in there” “don’t give up” “let go, let God”, etc. I myself have said these things. And yet . . .
There is so much pain in this world.
For those who love Jesus, and for those who do not yet.
Within strictly-controlled, biblical homes, many of us are taught that pain comes from sin, that God exacts judgments upon others, and if someone is experiencing deep recurring pain then they are either running from God, not walking in obedience or faith, or some other merciless response. Some of these things may indeed be true at times, but within our sheltered realms we can grow to have a skewed perception of the true woundedness of others, and be ill-equipped to help.
True, our amazing God is mighty enough to use any of our humble offerings, and anything in His creation, to help those who labor, those who mourn. He is the answer for all cries of the heart, for all seemingly endless pain, for unbearable grief.
We are created to be in relationship. We are called to weep with those who weep. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ . . . the same Jesus whose ministry it is to heal the broken hearted, and to bind up their wounds.
Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for
enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer.
Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:6
My heart breaks and weeps for those who struggle to survive even from one day to the next, for those who have seemingly endless torment and never find relief despite their pleas to God. I feel inadequate, for I am but a broken woman clinging to the mercy and grace and presence of God in my own life. In dark moments I feel something akin to survivor’s guilt . . . thankful, yes, that God has brought me to life and continues to comfort the aching places, and yet there are moments when I almost wish I could trade all He has done for me with the pulsing wounds that others bear, if only to give them a moment’s rest. A kiss of relief. A bit of clarity, comfort, and sustenance.
Because there is so much pain.
Loving God, and seeking to walk in obedience, does not make one immune; propensity for our own sin does not make us necessarily a brighter target. We are all affected, each of us, by this tragedy we call earth, by the nature we call fallen. May we learn to be genuine, to exhibit the mercy of Jesus as we sojourn in this land. May we not be unaware of the sorrow and the grief that walks around us, that lies buried and even dormant in the hearts of those created in the image of He who is eternal.
May we learn to be vulnerable, learn to be a light in the darkness, a safe place for those who hunger, so that they will be drawn to the One who is in us. May we dare to step beyond the comfortable places, the protected places, the shelter . . . and follow the Shepherd who went to seek and save, to comfort and to heal. To the ones who lie struggling in blood, let us be His hands, His feet, His arms, His heart . . .
of the One who passed by,
who was not afraid to come alongside
33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
God is with us.