I suppose there is a great irony in that my blog is called Raspberry Road and it seems like I’m always writing about the Raspberry’s being on the road. Ok, actually I only wrote one other one about when we were travelling. But truth be told, I really feel like every time we take a trip with our kids, I end up learning some spiritual life lesson…and, as you probably could have guessed, today's blog is about my most recent one!
“I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) Great verse. You know it. You’ve got it written on that sticky note on your bathroom mirror. You have heard it literally a million times. And you’ve probably heard it used most frequently when someone is about to go bungee jumping, or sky diving, or monkey feeding, or something sort of ridiculous. I’ve even heard it used among Christians in basically the same context as a football player smacking a fellow player on the behind as if to say, “You can do it!!” And bear with me, I’m just gonna throw this out there…but that’s really not what Paul meant at all! If you back up a moment to get the context of the verse, you see that Paul says, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13) Paul isn’t saying I can bungee jump because Jesus makes me strong enough to walk off a cliff, or I can jump out of a plane because Jesus makes me strong enough to open my parachute, or I can go to the jungle and get close to wild animals because Jesus makes me strong enough to hand food to an ape, or even that I am able to do anything at all ever because Jesus makes me strong. No. The point here is that we, like Paul, can live lives of abundance and peace regardless of the circumstances around us, and that, only because Jesus is our peace and our joy and our hope and our confidence and our steadfast One.
This passage had been circling through my mind for days before we left on our trip. We were heading on a massive cross country trip to see family, and while we were on the way home, I became aware of how tired I was, how tired my husband was, and how tired my kids were. You know that moment when everyone is just a little snippy and short with each other? Oh, we were there. And we were stuck in our car. Together. This was not my happy moment. And then, to make the circumstances outside our car more like the circumstances inside our car, it started to rain. I don’t mean sprinkle. I mean deluge. I mean the traffic that had been travelling at 75 mph, suddenly slowed to 25 mph. I was not happy at all. It was 9:00 at night and we were over 120 miles from our stopping spot near Atlanta, which had our hotel, already reserved and paid for. It became absolutely apparent that we were not going to make it to our destination with 3 little ones (aged 4 and under) to that hotel room, to OUR hotel room. Now, I was very unhappy, very discontent, very grumpy. So, we stop. And, we pay for another hotel room. The next morning, with everyone feeling slightly less grumpy, we hopped in the car and headed to Atlanta…all we wanted to do was see the aquarium, stay Saturday night at our hotel, go to church as a family, and finish our drive to home sweet home. It sounds so nice, doesn’t it?
Well, the aquarium was insane…really great and very impressive…but so busy you could not walk 3 feet without bumping into someone. The hotel room, which we should have already been in on Friday, was flooded when we woke up Sunday morning…like, major flooded (due, of course, to the rain which had stopped our traffic the night before). Church was a nice reprieve in the midst of our chaos. And then as we’re finally getting on the road to head out of Atlanta, our traffic, once again, comes to a standstill due to an important muckity muck travelling through and needing to get to the airport…his name was Barack Obama. Then once the president’s massive traffic halt abated, you’ll never guess, but it started to rain…again. Sheesh.
At this point in my life, I was having an internal argument…the me in Christ vs. the me in my flesh. The me in Christ said, “Jane, remember to count all these various trials as joy!” To which, the me in my flesh said, “Shut up. Absolutely not, you idiot.” And then, you know that moment when God gently whispers to your soul and you have a dual response of saying, “Yes, sir” and “oh, I already knew that”? That’s exactly what happened to me. What God said to my heart stung, and I felt embarrassed. How could I be so silly? His words were the very words He had laid on my heart before we even left for our trip. Here’s what He reminded me, “Not that I speak from want, FOR I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT IN WHATEVER CIRCUMSTANCES I AM. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Oh. The secret to being content in every single stupid circumstance is resting in Him. He had prepared me for the chaos of that trip by laying those verses on my heart before we ever left our home, and yet, in the middle of my frustration, I flat out chose to ignore Him. How silly. In the midst of rain, to ignore the maker of it…who does that?! Me.
But, I believe I am not alone in working through this. Job did. And he too, concluded that God was steadfast and good regardless of the circumstances. At one point, Job even asked his grumpy wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”(from Job 2:10) I don’t know what your circumstances look like, whether you have much or have little, whether you are sick or healthy, or whether you are even happy or not. But in any case, God is in charge. He’s in total control. Your circumstances aren’t catching the Maker of the universe off guard. And the answer to having great joy in the middle of whatever life looks like is simple. It’s Jesus. It’s just Jesus. Simple in concept, but hard to actually live out. On the rest of our way home, my heart-cry was, “…you can have all this world, just give me Jesus.” And, hopefully, the next time I’m stuck in a torrential downpour, I’ll stand, joyfully trusting the boss of the rain who strengthens us as we wait in Him.