what living in the kingdom of God means

"... Seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Lk 12.31-32)

The abrupt end of Heather's pregnancy really sent me reeling. As I think back over the past two weeks, I wish I had responded better in many moments, and am grateful that more was not asked of me. But I suppose times like these are when we learn the most about ourselves. On top of the feelings of loss, I've just been so confused. And frightened.

It seemed to me that the experience really threatened my ability (or willingness) to trust God, because I thought I had trusted so hard. And then had been completely let down. I think that has had a lot to do with my deep confusion, and has scared me about my future.

I told myself that our faith, our trust in God, is most challenged when we don't understand what God is doing, or when we don't agree with what God seems to be doing. That's the hardest time to trust. That's when we show whether we'll only trust God when things are going as we think they should, only when we approve the plan. I do think this is true. But it didn't console me very much.

Perhaps I was feeling let down on some deeper level, like some foundational belief had been brought into question. Jesus' promises of God's care and protection and liberation have meant so much to me, both for my own life and as the most important thing I have to offer to others (especially those who come here for retreats). I knew those promises weren't an assurance that nothing bad would ever happen to us. But maybe experiencing such a deep personal loss was showing me the difference between accepting that as a possibility and living with it as a painful reality. It raised the question even more strongly when I thought that our loss was actually much less than what many others have experienced, including many who come to our retreats.

I have felt it is very important that trusting in God should make a real difference in our lives, in our lived experience, a difference that could be seen. That's how it was with Jesus. Not just a different attitude about the usual joys and pains of life, but that the circumstances and experiences were actually different, even miraculously different, because of God's response to those who looked to him in faith. I think Jesus' words and life promised us that. That's the good news I've wanted to share with people. But suddenly it was very hard to see where the difference was in my life, as I grieved just like so many others have grieved.

As I was struggling with this, I kept being drawn back to Jesus' invitation into the kingdom of God, that this was the different life we were being offered. It certainly did appear markedly different as Jesus lived it. Yet there was also grief and loss and disappointment. Even questions and dismay about God's purposes at times. Yet Jesus still demonstrated a noticeable freedom and power that made his life different. Maybe that was even more apparent in those times of pain and questions.

I believe what Jesus demonstrated is that we can trust God to always provide all that we need to be free to love and do good. So even in times where we must go through pain or loss, or afflictions and oppressions from other people, God will bring whatever is needed to give us freedom in those situations. It may be financial resources or the help of a friend or a spiritual experience. But we can trust God for real help, real things, real intervention to free us. Not simply to spare our suffering but to allow us to be our good self, a unique loving presence, the presence of God in the world. In all situations, at all times, throughout our whole life. That's what living in the kingdom of God means.

That is the good news that I needed to hear. In my present grief, but also in my concerns about the challenges of fatherhood, and in my hopes that our retreats can offer real encouragement to those who come. I don't think I'll soon forget this lesson.