“What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
Those memorable lyrics from The Grateful Dead (1), were running through my mind as friends described their challenging, decades long odyssey in the Church of Jesus Christ. I had new respect and appreciation for their courage and really a kind of foolhardiness in following after faithfulness in the midst of a merry-go-round of strangeness in one Church setting after another.
Thinking of my own family’s journey through the vicissitudes of life and Church the word brutal came to mind: brutal… brutally hard, brutal relationships and ordeals, brutal losses and brutal disappointments; brutal.
Yes, my family has had some really splendid times and great relationships; we’ve known some really lovely people in the four churches we’ve called home over the last four decades. But a glance back, even a brief look over my shoulder and it’s pain and heartbreak, the brutal nature of life on the big scale that strikes me.
Andrew Garcia, no relation to Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead, was a mountain man whose trip through life was mainly in the pristine mountains of Montana. He left memoirs that were later edited into a book describing his time in the 1870s with the Nez Perce tribe and their battles with the US military. He experienced life in a country so lovely and yet simultaneously so brutal, that the title of his life story was “Tough Trip Through Paradise”.
As a younger man and still newish to the faith, I had a gilded, romantic view of life, based on a relatively wholesome upbringing, lots of friends and adventures, great literature and poetry, and a joie da vivre that seemed to come naturally. But for all the hopefulness of youth, life has certainly chipped away my naïveté and left me with a clearer, truer view of life; it’s hard, it’s strange, it’s brutal, and sometimes it’s glorious.
We ofttimes slog through the valleys of life and the brutal wilderness of loneliness and disappointment in-between the sparkling moments of glory and joy.
Should you ask if the brutal pain is worth the momentary glories on earth, I’m not sure what to say, especially if life, here and now only, is the reference.
I do know this, we were made for greater, for eternal glory (2). And if it’s the glory and joys that never end that are in view, then our strange and difficult trips on earth can be absorbed, or endured at least, in light of what’s to come; like enduring the waning days of school in May, knowing June and summer vacation are just around the corner.
(1) Truckin’, from 1970 album, American Beauty.
(2) 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.