Summary: One side was fear, the other side was life. One side was a hopeless man, the other side was a God who loves to breath new hope and life. One side is cruel kids, the other side is broken hearts.
Life on the Flip Side
Resurrection Sunday, Apr 12 2009, John 20:11-18
A simple coin has two sides. We look at one side at a time, and without a mirror or some other tool we can only look at one side at a time – we can’t see the other unless we flip it over.
As I walked towards Resurrection Sunday this year, the Holy Spirit seemed to apply that image to my life, and to the story of passion week, the story of the cross, and the story of the empty tomb. Two sides, the one I see, and the one God sees. And generally, I’m not looking at the same sides as God. And it got me wondering and reflecting on the question, “what is life like on the “flip side”?
I’m sitting at the hospital bed of my friend Bruno. He has cancer, but the worry at the moment is in his leg – there is a large blood clot, and if it releases and goes to his heart he’ll die instantly. The health care providers are working aggressively to dissolve the clot, and are hopeful the treatments will be successful, but there are no guarantees. I’m looking at the one side of the situation, the danger and the potential for sudden death. I see a sick man in a hospital bed, with a family who loves him and a church who needs him, and I’m just praying for healing.
But Bruno sees the flip side. He tells me, “if the clot releases and I die right now, please don’t take it personally…” He says, “I am not afraid to die. My life is in Jesus’ hands. I don’t want to die, but if it is my time…” and then he smiles as he starts to think of eternity with Jesus, no more sin or death, and he starts to speak to me of life. His life, his story, the way he met Jesus as an older man and then the way he could look back over his entire life and see how Jesus had been with him all the way, even before he knew Him and acknowledged Him. And we cried tears together – not of fear or sadness, but tears of joy over the goodness of God.
One side was fear, the other side was life.
I’m in my office and my secretary comes in to say that a stranger has just come to the door and asked if he could pray in the sanctuary. She let him in, but thought I should know. He looked a little rough, a little ragged, like maybe he could be even a little bit dangerous, but since I was here (unexpectedly, by the way – it was during a time of the day when I was rarely in the office), she let him in. From this side, it looked a little strange.
But God saw the flip side. One of His children, lost and struggling, full of anger and brokenness. I sat and listened to his story, which he poured out, of how he had been cruel to his wife and full of anger and how he had messed everything up so badly and didn’t know how to make it right. I listened, prayed with him, and he left to go and apologize and try to live differently. I’ve never seen him again.
One side was a hopeless man, the other side was a God who loves to breath new hope and life.
I’m with a group of teenagers, and I hear them say cruel things to each other, see them interacting in ways that tear down instead of building up. Part of me feels angry, feels like being cruel back, wants to defend the hurt ones by attacking the ones doing the hurting.
But then God shows me the flip side – they are all the hurting ones. The ones being cruel are acting poorly, but acting out of insecurity and pain and a thin shell that they hope will protect them from being hurt again, especially if they can hurt first. And as I see them the way God sees them, my anger melts into compassion and I re-double my efforts to love unconditionally with the prayer that the love of God will heal the wounds and restore life.
One side is cruel kids, the other side is broken hearts.
You sit and listen to a sermon from a guy in a clean suit with a couple of degrees in Bible and ministry. He makes sense, and on the human side he might look good.
But God sees the flip side – a side that is prideful and lustful and selfish, that has asked for forgiveness and then gone out and done the same thing again. And God sees this side and is kind, and that kindness leads to repentance, and amazingly God takes the filthy rags of my life and replaces them with clean, beautiful garments, and when I mess those up God does it again.