It seems a phrase that is becoming quite common is “It is what it is”.
And sometimes that’s the way it has to be.
Sometimes whatever the “it” is cannot be changed. Whether or not we like the “it” doesn’t matter. That’s the way things are and there’s no alternative.
But I’ve a sneaking suspicion that all too often it’s easier to say “It is what it is” than to try to come to grips with the “it”.
Dealing with the “it” can be painful, time-consuming, and sometimes, well, just a plain nuisance. Grappling with the “it” can involve tough decisions. The “it” can move us out of our comfort zones and send us kicking and screaming into making changes in our lives that we’d rather not make.
We Christians often find ourselves stuck in an “It is what it is” quagmire. We want to be faithful to our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ… yet, at the same time, we find ourselves battling the challenge he lays before us to go beyond the “it”.
For Lutherans, there should be no road other than the one where Jesus leads us. Martin Luther’s teaching that the Bible is the “source and norm” for our lives should grab our attention. Lutherans also stress that in the case of conflicting information, the Gospels override the rest of the scriptures.
That pretty much narrows it down. Jesus is our leader and we look to his words and actions as the “source and norm” for our lives. It shouldn’t be that hard, right?
We try to keep up with Jesus as he leads us into the world, but it can be scary stuff. Jesus has told us from day one that we don’t always need to know where he’s leading us. He asks that we trust him. That’s all it takes.
Easier said than done!
Human beings that we are, we have a need to know what lies ahead and we are sometimes suspicious – if not afraid – of the unknown. The trick is to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to Jesus and to trust him completely while we grope our way down the path he has laid for us.
I believe that makes the Gospel the blueprint for how we structure our thoughts and actions. It’s… well… I guess it’s our Bible.
And what is this road Jesus beckons us to follow? What is this path filled with unknowns that dare us to stretch our faith to its utmost limits and to seriously struggle with the “it”?
Jesus tells and shows us that we are to welcome strangers, treat others with dignity, assist those in need, work for peace, raise up those shoved to the fringes, and… well… just practice what he preached.
On the flip side, Jesus shows little patience for those who hoard their wealth, abuse their religious or political power, and who spend their energy and resources spreading hate, discord, and those things that bring misery and destruction to the world.
I’m not making this stuff up. Read the Gospels. Then read them again. And again. And one more time. Matthew. Mark. Luke. John. It’s all there. There are no apologies. There are no “alternative facts”.
Jesus has thrown down the gauntlet and dares us to move beyond the “it.”
Can we do it? Certainly, if we believe that we can do all things in Christ. Certainly, if we sustain one another through love, friendship, prayer, shared triumphs, and mutual tears.
Will we do it? God help us.
“Nila…..Nila, there’s a guy standing over by the band who seems to be trying to get your attention,” my college roommate, Pam, alerted me. On a pretty boring Fridaynight in mid-September my three roommates and I had decided to attend a mixer, a dance held at the CMU Student Union, which was designed to bring guys and gals together for a fun-filled evening of dancing and socializing.
I turned and looked in the direction in which Pam indicated. I saw no one. By then, the young man had wound his way through the dancers and approached me. Immediately, I recognized my home church’s new organist, Bob Frei. We greeted each other with an acquaintance smile.
No hello. No how are you? How do you like CMU? None of that! His pickup line: “You will never guess who is getting married!”
“I have no idea.” I replied with a very quizzical expression.
“Bruce Frei, my younger brother, your friend and classmate is getting married.”
I thought to myself, "this is the craziest opening introduction I have ever faced!" I decided to play along.
“What?! You mean Bruce, that little pest?” as I gestured to a height much shorter than myself. “Who would marry HIM? You have to be joking! He’s such a little pest. Besides that, he’s only 18 years old.”
Bob laughed. I assumed the joke was over. Not quite. “Bruce is marrying a classmate of mine, Betty.” Bob continued with the story. By then, I did admit the story was growing more unbelievable by the minute. “It’s true. Really it is. I am not joking.”
“Pesky little Bruce? She must be INSANE! Stop making up such an outlandish story.” I remarked rather loudly over the rock beat of the band filling the room. “Besides she is two years older than he is.”
“I know you think this is a contrived story, but believe me it is very true. My parents are upset, especially my mother.” Bob tried to smooth over the conversation. During our dialogue the band continued to play, couples danced around us, and we received a number of stares.
Then, Bob asked me to dance while we further discussed the situation. I remained very skeptical about this “so called” match-up. After a few more dances and a break by the band, Bob invited me to enjoy a Coke and snack in the food commons across the hall. I accepted the offer and let Pam know where I was going. She too had been dancing and joined us with her partner. The four of us sipped our Cokes and talked for over an hour. Pam then used our sign language of leaving for the rest room. I followed her, told her that I recognized Bob as my home church organist and the brother of my pesky classmate and friend, Bruce. I assured Pam that I felt safe. She then shared her plan of thanking the guy for the Coke and would return to the dance floor with our other roommates, Gail and Mary.
Bob and I remained at the commons sipping our sodas and talking. (Yes, he even let me have an opportunity to converse!) Time must have flown because we were both surprised when the manager informed us that it was almost midnight, and the Commons was closing. Since it was so late, Bob offered me a ride back to my dorm, Herrig Hall.
“Thanks for the nice conversation, updates on Bruce, and the Coke,” I remarked as I closed the Chevy’s door.
“Yah, see you around.” He replied.
About two weeks later:
Ring, ring, bling, ring, ring, “Nila, phone call is for you. It’s not the same guy you have been seeing.” Mary announced, “Be quick. I am expecting a call myself.”
Surprised, puzzled, and wondering who would be calling, I thought to myself, “It must be one of the football players who I had been tutoring that needed some academic assistance.”
“Hi, Nila.” The cheery voice greeted me. His voice sounded familiar, but I had some difficulty placing its owner. After a pause, the caller identified himself. “It’s me. Bob Frei. From St. Matthew’s. Bruce’s older brother.”
My first response was immediate. “Please tell me your brother has decided he’s too young to marry.”
Bob snickered, “Well, no. He and Betty are being married at the end of November. That’s about a month. My real reason for calling is to ask if you would go to a movie with me.”
Flattered, I agreed to see Bob on Friday night. We enjoyed our time together, but both had commitments of classes and work. In the next few weeks, we saw each other only a couple of times for a short “Coke date”.
One weekend I needed to locate a ride home to attend a celebration. I checked the ride board and noticed that Bob had posted open seats to Bridgeport. I caught the ride with 2 other passengers. All four of us laughed all the way home. Same with the return trip. However, I was the last person to be dropped off at Herrig Hall. Bob assisted me with my suitcase and the bag of goodies that my mother sent. I paid Bob the $5 fee for the rides and offered him a packet of homemade chocolate chip cookies. He then asked me out for Friday evening.
Again, we enjoyed our dinner, movie, and time together. Yet, once more, work and classes kept us busy.
In mid-November I became extremely ill with the Asian Flu. I remember my mother picking me up at CMU. For two weeks, I barely knew where I was and slept most of the time. On a Saturday afternoon my mother woke me and told me that I had a visitor. I assumed my friends from high school had stopped. My hair was matted and greasy, my pajamas and robe were winkled beyond belief, heavy black circles ringed my eyes, and my lips were cracked. What a miserable sight!
“YIKES!!!! Oh, no!” Laura and Bridget were not at my house! My visitor was Bob. I had used all of my strength just to reach the living room recliner. I was stuck. Bob didn’t seem too outwardly concerned about my appearance. I relaxed in the large recliner while he updated me about Bruce’s wedding.
“Your roommates are very concerned about you,” he told me as I headed back to the bedroom.
When I did return to Central, Bob and I began talking at length over the phone. We dated, but not exclusively. However, by Christmas break we had started seeing each other regularly.
“Would you consider attending my Aunt Lorraine’s Christmas Eve family party with me? It’s more fun with a friend.” Bob asked.
Christmas Eve after the party, on our drive to my house, stars twinkled, fresh snow glowed in the moonlight, and carols played on the radio. That was the night, I believe, we both fell in love. From that moment forward, we became an inseparable couple.
Funny, it all started with the line, “You will never guess who is getting married!”
About the Blog
Journey through the season of Advent with daily updates on the adventures of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Belliacre, MI as they attempt to cobble together a Christmas Pageant with an unlikely cast of characters.
Stephanie is an art educator and a landscape/portrait artist. Her inspirations come from the amazing people she meets and the gorgeous state of Michigan as well as her home state of Florida. She and he husband love nature. They are out in the water during the summer months and on the snow in the winter enjoying the simple pleasures of life.