Hallmark Christmas or Saving Private Ryan?

“The king of Babylon now stands at the fork, uncertain whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbah. He calls his magicians to look for omens. They cast lots by shaking arrows from the quiver. They inspect the livers of animal sacrifices.” (Ezekiel 21:21 NLT)

We tend to see our life from one of two distinct vantage points: We should always be happy, light-hearted, and positive. Or we see life as a battlefield where there are clearly “winners” and “losers.” How do you view your life? More to the point, how should we as Jesus followers view our lives?

Lisa Lakey wrote in a Family Life devotional: “I love a good romance. I’m more than happy to curl up with a blanket and a bucket of popcorn and waste an entire day watching chick flicks. Throw in a snowy day, a Christmas mix-up, and a happy ending? You had me at Hallmark. My husband, not so much. If nothing’s being blown up, shot down, or wrecked (apparently emotions don’t count here), he’s out. That’s a pretty good picture of who we are. I entered marriage with a Hallmark Christmas mentality. I wanted to experience love and laughter with a cute guy (nailed that part!) and experience my happily ever after. Sure, we’d have a few arguments here and there that would threaten to pull us apart, but we’d always find our way back to each other. We were ‘meant to be.’”

How do you envision Jesus as He walked this earth? Always happy, cheery, upbeat, positive? Or was He saddened by the deluge of sin that permeated the world He created, the world to which He’d chosen to visit for a very specific purpose? Why do we so often feel so insistent that it has to be one way or the other?

On some levels it seems we must prefer the Old Testament or the New. The verse above from Ezekiel typifies so many verses in the Old Testament that seem to paint a picture of constant strategizing on the part of kings and military leaders bent on conquering their world, or, at least, defending themselves from those who were seeking to conquer them. Yet, even in the New Testament, we see the same principles being applied on a spiritual level.

Paul urges us in Ephesians 6:10-11: “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” In this season of my life, I tend to be a strategist, constantly planning, hoping, praying to win one more “battle.” Either battling to keep the enemy at bay in my own life or battling in prayer to make headway in leading someone to the Lord.

How is it for you? Are you always looking for the Hallmark “happy ending?” Or are you content when the “bombs” of life miss your house? Can it ever actually be that clear cut? Jesus said in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The reality is life on planet earth is hard. Sometimes it’s frightening, sad, lonely, anger-inducing, and just plain mean. But there are times when we can celebrate the victories of love, kindness, gentleness, generosity, and hope. I’m not naïve enough to believe there aren’t some people’s lives where much of their life is pure, unadulterated hell. But for most of us, we have the privilege of having joyful seasons to offset the torments and tragedies of loss and heartache.

I believe the truth is, life to a large degree is what we choose to make it, especially as a Jesus follower. If Paul and Silas can pray and sing in jail after having the flesh ripped from their backs with a Roman whip, I can deal “courageously” when someone takes my favorite parking spot.

Food for thought.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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