We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. II Corinthians 4:8-12
I remember, when I was a young boy, doing some pretty crazy things with my dad. Things like fearlessly fishing while alligators surface and sink endlessly around our little boat. I remember him letting me steer the van while sitting on the engine cover between the seats. I remember him cutting half-gallon boxes of ice cream in half, setting it in a bowl, sticking a spoon in it and letting us eat it at our own pace because that was dinner! But topping the charts for me were the many trips we made to the Tampa Downs — a night under the stars, the dirt track, mobile bleachers, the smell of funnel-cakes and billions of flying insects distracted by the flood lights that attempted to help the drivers avoid collision. It was warm, it was muggy, it was loud, it smelled of danger . . . it was awesome!
There were two important events on these race nights. The demolition derby and the figure eight. The demolition derby involved many cars — nothing shiny, and most could barely run. They were lucky to have doors and it was considered high class to have a windshield. Numbers were skillfully placed on their sides with their favorite can of spray paint because by the end, it would be hard pressed to tell them apart otherwise. The bigger the dent, the louder the applause! It was the craziest thing I could possibly think of attending. What kid . . . what boy, in their right mind would turn down the chance to see people wreck into each other — on purpose!!! The derby was the release of vehicular testosterone until the last car still running won the night. It was the fight for the death, a modern gladiator event with swords on wheels. My favorite, however, was not the derby. It was the figure eight! Twenty or so cars, all without a method to stop, circle and loop the dirt track in the shape of an eight until one car remains. Their demise you might ask? The center of the eight at the intersection. It’s a place of random introductions and incidental accidents — the risk was at an all-time high. The crowds went wild and I was no exception! Most never saw it coming, hit broadside — while others fought to navigate around the multi-car pileup in the way of moving on. It was intense!
Never did I think that those race nights would come back to me so clearly. The last few days, however, my heart has been reflecting on how much my life feels like a figure eight. Any one of those cars on that dirt track could represent an aspect of my life. And like you perhaps, I have never had more than two or three cars on it at a time — only one if I were lucky! Lately, however, I’ve found myself at a full line-up at the races! Which cars will collide? How many will wreck? Look at the size of those dents!! Seemingly helpless to the outcome, I sit and watch as all of my cars in the race meet, one-by-one, at the intersection — dented, disfigured, demolished.
Watching the world I’ve come to understand and know so well pile-up in a heap of twisted metal and ruin can only be described as nothing short of disorienting. But this is the view from within God’s chrysalis. Hanging upside down, suspended from the Tree of Life offers a view unlike any other. During this period of transformation, I’ve been experiencing the collision of what I once knew and all things new. But there’s nothing pleasant about this demolition — it’s painful! But in that quiet place of retreat, in the holiness of God’s darkness where He dwells, there is peace in the midst of the pangs of renewal. There is comfort in knowing my God sustains me!
Lord Jesus, the race is loud, the screeching, twisted metal and crushing glass startles my heart. The demolition is unsettling at best. May I be anxious for nothing — but instead, consider it pure joy when I encounter the pangs of all things new!
For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn — conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us . . . II Corinthians 7:5-6