2/9/2011 — Farther Along

Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.
—“Farther Along” by Anonymous/Unknown

“Do not become envious,” the psalmist writes, “when some become rich, or when the grandeur of their house increases.” While I want  to be humble and focused solely on the Kingdom of God, I confess that it’s hard not to be envious when I see the latest sports car zoom past me as I drive my ‘93 Taurus station wagon in which the air conditioning is broke and which groans at every bump I hit. The psalmist’s answer is easy — those rich folks will get their in end, for their wealth has no eternal significance. And for many of us through the years that future retributive hope has been enough. Over time, however, that reverse snobbery of redefining our plight as morally superior begins to wear thin when the bill payers keep calling and we struggle to make a check last a full month. 

Common Prayer quotes Mississippi civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer in her groan, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” While that was certainly true of the segregation that kept her from advancing, that groan is rooted in the struggle of life where we see folks moving moving upward economically and passing us by as we struggle on the roadside. 

Oh I know that in the total scheme of life, I’m a rich guy. Compared with others throughout the world, I am unbelievably affluent, and just like those guys who pass me by. Certainly that provides some perspective, calling me to task for the way that I pass by others and fail to give the shirt off my back. Money certainly can’t buy happiness, and consumerism is a bereft way of life. Putting my trust in riches is doomed to failure.

However, there are days like today when, in spite of our relative affluence, we find ourselves sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

The psalmist who asked the questions at the beginning of this post in the song “Farther Along” recognized, I think, the futility of comparing our plight to the well being and struggles of others. Some are rich and some are poor — that is the way the world is (although God’s Kingdom call leads us to battle the inequity), and frankly we don’t understand why. We likely never will, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. 

Farther along we’ll know all about it, he sings.
Farther along we’ll understand why.
Cheer up my brother; live in the sunshine,
we’ll understand it, all by and by. 

Live in the sunshine — the here and now that we now, wherever God’s light shines. Don’t try to figure out why, for the why can only come when we cross over to the other side. Simply live out God’s call for you now, and know that someday we may begin to understand.

Lord, when we weary of the journey, strengthen us by your Spirit to imagine new heavens and a new earth. Amen.*

*Prayer from “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okora; Copyright (c) 2010 by The Simple Way and School for Conversation. All Rights Reserved. 

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