I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— 1 Cor. 23-9
They were only actors, not actual heroes. They were called to the town of Santo Poco, by what they didn’t realize was an incomplete telegram, to help battle the villain, El Guapo. Assuming that their unemployment had just come to an end and that their fame had landed them a new film, the Three Amigos headed to Mexico, so impressed at the far reach of their Hollywood fame. It wasn’t until the first real gun battle, when Steve Martin’s character was knicked by the fire, that the realization hit: “They’re using real bullets!” “I know! I’ve been shot already!” “This is real. This is real!” Clearly they were not prepared for an actual battle with a real life war lord. They had not signed up for that.
At the end of a long and aggressive cry last night that involved more than just the eyes part of my face but somehow engaged my entire body to the point of making my arms tingle, I realized that I am no different than those characters…I just want to be a star in a movie but I don’t really have any courage or plan or ability to fight an actual El Guapo. I may have admired Pele, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bravehart and Don Cheadle’s character in Hotel Rwanda, but I am not actually a brave warrior myself. I park in the same place at the Y every time I go. I sit in the same seat every week at church. I listen to the same playlist over and over and over. I prefer routine to change, the familiar to the new or different and the known to the unknown. I am an imposter, in costume, with no business being in the middle of Mexico fighting for the protection of Santo Poco from actual bandits and rough outlaw campadres.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.1 Peter 4:12-13
What brought my raging tears? Well, it was something as innocent as the last in a roll of Mentos dropped into a bottle of Diet Coke. Who would ever guess, unless you either saw it on YouTube or have a preschooler, that coke could fly that high in the air? I kept thinking, like the Three Amigos, that I was headed out to participate in a beautiful film where the heroes handily overpower the relatively benign bad guys, all according to a script that could be neatly completed in an hour and a half. When our condo wouldn’t sell so we could easily get to this new neighborhood, when we landed in Uganda to quickly discover we were very much on our own to figure out how to get our new child and entire family back home, when we withdrew our children from private school to almost immediately learn our application to start a charter school had been denied and as we slip further away from any reliable plan or tangible future strategy, our “skin in the game” feels more like having been at a white sandy beach all day without sunblock. Last night, Terrell simply shared a bit of information about something he’s working on that might not go as we’d hoped. In that moment, it was the final straw for me and opened the floodgates of the losses I have felt over the past couple of years, losses that have come by what is beginning to seem like a misunderstood and incomplete telegram from Mexico.
By allowing all those bottled up and previously unidentified emotions to erupt, I am better able to see that I have been holding on fiercely to a scenario of life that I never really possessed nor is actually being offered. I keep imagining that I had a choice between one type of life and another, just because on the outside it appears that way. I am assuming that the grass is greener in another environment and that if I hop back on my plane to Hollywood, my movie franchise will be waiting. I have attached value and strength and security to an imaginary life and feel tormented by my current distance from it. It takes a moment like Steve Martin’s when he realizes he has nothing to return to in California that the decision is made to stay and actually try to help this town fight El Guapo. And then, it allows for the moment just after they have successfully broken into El Guapo’s compound when they realize there is no step two to their plan because they never thought they’d make it through step one!
So, here I stand in El Guapo’s compound, in a neighborhood with scenery I don’t recognize, gang activity I don’t know how to navigate, my children’s future education absolutely uncertain to us, our sense of community more than a little frayed and disconnected, they’re using REAL bullets and we have no step 2 for this plan. But we are not in God’s plan B, nor His second best, nor have we actually lost anything that we’d trade what we do have to get back. I may find myself, like Ned Nederlander, suspended above the danger with my feet stuck in a pinata. But even that will turn out to be part of the master plot in the end. The person and work of Jesus has never gotten off course, has never taken a break, and will never be in need of a plan B. He is working all things together for His very good purposes, and hopefully my heart will start to rest in that.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:2-3