Every Wednesday, Ian and I go to the library for storytime. As you can imagine, sharing is a hot-button issue among the 5-and-under crowd, and the library is not neutral territory. A few weeks ago, a little girl came up to the train table where Ian was playing and snatched a little blue locomotive right out of his hand. He immediately burst into angry, fitful tears. “That mine!” he yelled, and then looked right at me, as if he was waiting for me to come to his defense. He was waiting for me to step in and make it right.
I really love Jesus–the feet washing, scribbling in the sand, bread-breaking Jesus. I struggle with the guy who overthrew the tables in the temple, who talked about a brood of vipers, who cursed a fig tree. (Seriously, though. What’s up with the fig tree?)
My pastor once said that there is a continuum between grace and truth, and we all find ourselves somewhere along the continuum. Each of us tends to gravitate toward one end of the other. I am a grace person, through and through. Because I’ve wrestled so hard with self-imposed perfectionism and impossible standards, I just want to cut us all some slack, you know?
I stood in church the other day and we sang these words:
“O tell of His might, O sing of His grace
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space
His chariots of wrath, the deep thunderclouds form
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.”
It’s so beautiful and poetic, but this hymn has been hard for me to stomach since I first heard it a few years ago. I don’t like to think about might and wrath, thunderclouds and darkness. No, I don’t like it one bit. I much prefer the childhood nursery version of Noah’s Ark: cute fuzzy animals and bright rainbows, please and thank you.
I can’t even read or watch the news most days lately. I feel like an irresponsible citizen of the world, but once I’ve read about Syrian refugees or sex trafficking or Donald Trump, I walk around in a heartsick funk the rest of the day. I can’t always shake the cloud of bad news, and I can’t always find the helpers in the stories. And just like that, I find myself wishing for a little less slack and a little more resolution, a little more redemption, a little more justice. Now, please, Jesus, if you don’t mind.
Then, I stand in church on Sunday and those lyrics flash up on the projection screen above my head. I realize that the author of the hymn–hundreds of years ago–found it right and good to talk about God’s grace and might in the very same line.
And when it came time to sing the last line of that verse, I couldn’t help but lift my hands and sing it a bit louder this time: dark is His path on the wings of the storm. I found myself not afraid, but comforted.
The Jesus who overturned tables is, after all, the same who asked the men to put down their stones. His grace means more to me knowing it’s backed by justice. I am less afraid, knowing He is my protector as well as my friend. Truthfully, I don’t want God to turn his back to the pride in my own heart, because I don’t want Him to turn his back to the pride in a presidential candidate. I don’t want to worship a God who doesn’t do something about child labor or slavery or genocide. I want a God who sweeps in, who rescues. Indeed, I want a God whose path is sometimes very, very dark.
This is a good God, one who protects, rescues, and redeems. As the hymn says, He is our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend. He is the one who steps in time and time again to make it right.