I recently read an article comparing the reality of family life as seen through the lens of two major corporations, Coca-Cola and Durex. Coca-Cola’s ads are routinely pro-life and, without a doubt, pro-family. Durex is a company that provides a wide range of products, including contraception. One of its commercials features a couple living in chaos due to their children’s crazy antics and unable to find a moment of peace or rest. The premise of the commercial? “Protect yourself.” The author of the article points out that the Coca-Cola commercial shows an experience of joy, but that it is the joy “of a life fulfilled in self-giving love.” The Durex commercial, on the other hand, recommends protecting “what is most important and essential to human life – the search for gratification.”
I’ve been full time in a parish now for almost 4 months, and to be honest every day it becomes more and more clear how much I really don’t know. But as I grow in my relationships with people and walk with them in a new way through their lives, I often come across two conflicting views of God, which in turn influence the way many people view and actually live their lives. So the question becomes, what kind of savior is Jesus?
Is Jesus a cruise director or is he the God of the trenches?
When you go on a cruise, there are always those people wandering around the ship organizing events and making sure people are enjoying their time. I often find people, myself included at times, viewing Jesus like a cruise director: someone who is there to fulfill my every demand and to do everything possible to ensure that I have a nice, easy voyage. If he fails in this regard, it isn’t because I have done anything wrong but because he didn’t do his job. Life should be carefree and relatively easy; my self-gratification is my top priority. After all, didn’t Jesus promise to bring the world life, joy, and peace?
The stories of the men in the trenches during World War I are still some of the most harrowing and epic stories of our time; they’re stories of bravery, courage, and patriotism. Those trenches were places of intense fear and, often, despair. But in the midst of their time in those holes, the soldiers knew they weren’t alone; they always had each other and knew that they could rely on their brothers-in-arms. Thick and thin, joy or strife, those men were there for each other calling each other onward toward ever greater bravery and courage.
So is Jesus a cruise director or is he of God of the trenches? My answer is “yes.” It is true that Jesus came to give a life of joy and peace, and he came to save us from the darkness of sin and death. He comes and meets us where we are but, as the overused cliché tells us, he loves us too much to leave us there. Jesus wants to bring joy into our trenches, to show us that this pain and fear will not last forever. But at the same time, he wants to show us that a life lived for others, a life on the line in self-sacrifice is the life that we are called to live because it is in the context of this life that we will discover what love really is.
It is the Christian vocation to seek Jesus in the trenches, to be changed by him in the midst of the hardships and difficulties of life, and, once liberated, to be pulled by him from the trenches to a new kind of life called holiness. You’re pulled out not so that can run away from the war, but so that can kneel down and, with the grace and help of the Holy Spirit, and by your example and way of life, pull others up out of the war and into a newness of life.
Suffer, dear Christian, and become what you are.