Turning to Jesus When the World Disappoints
Growing up homeschooled, I’d eagerly attempt to finish my schoolwork in time to catch the reruns of The Cosby Show on TV in the afternoon. Before I left for college, my parents bought me a box set of Cosby Show DVDs.
There was something so … settling about watching a show about a happy family. About believable kids who got themselves into laughable (and sometimes serious) trouble. About loving parents to guide them out. It wasn’t that my own family wasn’t happy. But despite the entertainment industry’s thirst for sordid drama, the happy family story never gets old.
Now, though, Bill Cosby has been convicted on three counts of sexual assault. He assaulted over 50 women. I don’t think I’ll ever watch those DVDs again.
Earlier today Stream editor David Mills wrote about the world’s heroes, and how they shouldn’t be ours. David’s column was a good reminder. But I think it’s something you have to grow up to grasp.
As a millennial (one of the ’90s ones), my childhood has been longer than my adulthood so far. But in the years since I left home, I’ve had my fair share of disappointment.
At a Christian college, when the professor everyone reveres turns out to be a creep. Where people you think have your best interest stab you in the back.
At churches, where pastors you look up to are forced to step down when their porn addiction is discovered. Where painful disagreements split a beloved congregation apart, leaving many of your friends heartbroken and torn. Where preachers you trust espouse views you come to realize aren’t biblical at all.
It happens in family relationships, too. You learn your adult relatives, including your parents, don’t have it all together. The discoveries in marriage hit you the hardest. Worse than finding out your spouse will hurt your feelings (come on, we all expect that) is finding out how low you can stoop. How angry you can really get. How unloving you can really be toward the person you committed to for life.
What Keeps Me Going? Only Jesus
I’ve seen people encounter disappointment and run. Run from God, the Church, from friends, from family. They run because it hurts too much to be disappointed that often. At some point, they say, “no more. This isn’t real. I can’t be a part of this.”
And honestly, I’ve been tempted to join them more times than I can count.
So what keeps me here — going to imperfect churches, hanging with imperfect families, engaged in a culture that regularly makes me want to recede into the wilderness and never return?
All I can say is Jesus.
I thank God that my imperfect parents taught me from a young age that He’s the most real thing in all existence. He isn’t a distant deity we worship to get into heaven and have blessings on earth. He’s here, alive and present. He knows me. I can know Him.
He Is the Reason
He’s the reason I do everything I do. I don’t go to church for the people there. If I did, I’d stop going, because sometimes they’re not so great. I don’t write because of the journalists who have gone before me, or for the kind (ha!) people who sometimes read my words. If I did, I’d have stopped long ago, because journalists can be plagiarizing jerks, and readers can be too. I do it all for Him. Because the church is His body. Because He made me to write.
And as painful as this reality is, I don’t persist in marriage because of the love I share with my husband. Even the sincerest lovers can fall into the fathoms of sin. I’m confident that without Jesus to keep me going, my entire life would crumble.
Jesus Doesn’t Disappoint
The great thing about Jesus is that He’s not just there for those of us who get disappointed. He’s there for us who do the disappointing.
People like Bill Cosby, when justice is served, get locked away for a long time. Maybe the rest of their lives. Good. All that was real to him before — the money, the fame, the adoration, the ability to get away with his crimes in secret — will fade away. Even his friends and family will leave. The only thing left will be his sins and the One who can save him from them. And Jesus can save him. He died and came back to life for that specific purpose.
At the end of our lives, everything in this world will be gone. The words that hurt us, the church buildings with bad memories, the circumstances that let us down. Even the worldly solaces we chose to replace those things will be gone. The only thing left will be Jesus, and our soul laid bare before Him. And if we know Him, that won’t be disappointing.