It’s one of the moments I remember so clearly. I was driving in the car with a dear friend a few months after my father passed away. I had helped my mom sort through his office, deleted his cell number, wept when a military convoy drove by (he was career military), and had been processing “goodbyes” in countless other ways.
My friend was telling me about a family she knew who continued for years to put Christmas presents under the tree for a son who had died. And this deep realization came to me that it is only in reality that Jesus can meet us and the Holy Spirit can be at work in us. When we are unwilling to live in reality, we distance ourselves from Him.
After his resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in believers, to teach us, remind us of truth, comfort us, and guide us. When we’re determined to live in that which does not exist – in unreality – we distance ourselves from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. By putting presents under the tree the family was attempting to live in a reality that did not exist, one God did not intend. Living in reality would mean seeing things as they are, being broken over it, honestly experiencing the feelings that go with it, and responding realistically. This allows us to go through suffering with Jesus, with the help of his Spirit within us.
Reality is the way things really are with myself, God, people, and circumstances. Reality is about being present in this moment. It is not in dwelling in the past, or the future, or an unattainable ideal. We stay close to Jesus as we live into the reality of this day, in its mix of all that is bad and good.
Living in reality means we’re open to seeing and engaging with the hard things in life. We don’t hide or avoid or pretend. When we are a bit gutsy and courageous to be present with reality, it allows us to work through grief, forgiveness, and healing. Living in reality includes seeing ourselves honestly and confessing our sins – in order to be a growing, learning Christ-follower. It allows us to see opportunity to show compassion and care. Jesus meets us in the hard things of reality with love – extravagant love that carries, encourages, strengthens, guides, and forgives us.
Living in reality also frees us to live fully in all that is good! It is in the reality of this moment that we love God and people, and receive love from them as well. In the present moment we can see people and be creative and respond with love. We can see circumstances and engage in meaningful work. In seeing reality, we keep our eyes wide open for all that is good and give thanks to God.
The Iowa sunrise in the photo was simply gorgeous. But it wasn’t perfect! It had just been dark, the snow left behind melting ugliness, and the horizon was marred by the university power plant. There is nearly always bad mixed with the good. But eyes looking for beauty can behold all that is good as we live real life with Jesus!
Living in reality is the place Jesus lived in throughout the gospels. He walk with us in our reality. In reality, he loved people lavishly, hated all that is evil, spoke hard truth, felt the full range of emotions, and lived in connection with God. Let’s follow in the footsteps of Jesus! And as we do that, find that we are walking with him.
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” ~Ephesians 5:2
What is a hard reality in your life? How will you be courageous to be present with it, and in so doing allow Jesus to meet you there?
What goodness is in your life? As you keep your eyes open for all that is good, how might Jesus meet you there?