Squinting our red eyes at the hope of a new day

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My love/hate relationship with Sundays.

Photo courtesy of jdurham, morgueFile, http://bit.ly/1WkFEiE
Photo courtesy of jdurham, morgueFile, http://bit.ly/1WkFEiE

Do you ever get the sense that life is a series of red eye flights from birth to the grave? Darkness and light duking it out over the course of 70 or so years.

Thanks to some insomniac in the 70’s, airlines realized they could maximize their fleet’s productivity/profit by using their planes to transport freight overnight from the west coast to the east coast, thereby arriving in time for morning deliveries. Additionally, this repositioned the aircrafts for the morning flights heading west.

From there, a few over-achievers discovered they could work all day on the west coast, hop on board this night flight, fly during non-business hours, and arrive on the east coast rested* and ready for a new business day.

*About as rested as Gulliver on Lilliput Airways.

Bi-coastal executives magically appeared at morning meetings with eyes redder than a baboon’s butt. Thus the red-eye was born.

A confessed wanderer, I see travel metaphors at every turn. Sitting in church a couple of weeks ago I pictured the whole motley lot of us sharing the flight of life. We inch forward on our individual paths all week and then meet up to travel collectively for a couple of hours aboard the Sunday flyer.

Our altruistic side wants to be there because we desire to worship a loving God who chose to “save a wretch like me”. However, if the communion cups contained truth serum, many of us wretches would confess our attendance is tied more to the hope of an express journey over the dark, difficult passages of life to a brighter destination. A spiritual red-eye.

In church circles,  darkness refers to spiritual obscurity or deprivation of light (insight). Daylight refers to life, salvation, goodness, and truth. Who wouldn't love to sleep through the dark, scary stretches and awaken to the hope of a brand new day?

The circumstances that lead each of us to the pew will vary, but the question we’re asking is the same: Why is my life not working out like I thought it would?

So I squeeze past the mission-minded, home-schooling, self-sacrificing, high-tithing cats in the first class section of the congregation on my way to the business class of sinners. Sometimes I spend the first few moments of the service sizing up my traveling companions.

If I strain hard enough I can compare myself not only to the present company, but to spiritual heavy hitters through all of human history. Surely up in that front row, just beyond my view, Moses and Paul are wiping their faces with hot towels, clinking mini bottles of champagne, and eating their pre-ordered kosher meals.

It feels like there is a holy/unholy separation of the population there in the rows, but there is no division. Only broken people in need of forgiveness, grace, and acceptance. Even Moses and Paul were a mixed bag. Two murderers who by God’s grace “broke good”.

CongregationThe church has to take us in. The liars, the abusers, the adulterers, the gossipers, the self-righteous, the embezzlers, the addicted, the prideful scum of the earth. You know…you and me.

Call it crazy hope, wishful thinking, or last-ditched effort, people are searching for illumination. Some of my darkest times in life were a result of bad experiences within the church and with people claiming to represent God. But even then, I didn’t know what else to do except show up in the place where, in the end, there might be some light.

This past week, I skipped the Sunday "flight." And in a true rebellious preacher’s kid move, I even cut the grass during God’s business hours. I half expected illumination in the form of a lightening bolt from the clear blue sky. But nothing happened.

Turns out God does not take attendance. Showing up is for our benefit not His. What I really missed was the collective weekly reminder: There is hope. I’m not alone. There’s something about being crammed together with a bunch of forgiven losers that sets the tone for the rest of the week.

It comes in handy when stumbling out onto the tarmac of Monday squinting our red eyes at the hope of a new day.

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