My grandmother used to say “It’s not like it was in my day” and I would roll my eyes and think “thank God.” Now it is me who looks at the world and thinks “Times have changed” Children self -harm or expect the world on a dish; people work themselves to a standstill; everyone wants to be a winner; there are more people living in poverty; climate change is a familiar topic; mental ill health is out from under the carpet. Knowing the limits set by age, by ability and by opportunity is a life lesson well learned.
In God’s world is perfection – but God accepts failure. God gave creation to people whom he knew had failure inbuilt. Crops fail if conditions for growth are not right – and although human beings can enrich soil and care for livestock, none of them can order when and where the rain will fall to produce the optimum crop or allow the beef to fatten, or lambs to be produced. And some of the climate is in our hands but some things have to be left to God.
While our young people struggle from birth with overenthusiastic expectations, there is competition between parents to produce the best child; schools expect them to do so much before they begin. We are not humane, dignified and compassionate in our competitiveness! Job is the story of a blameless man who suffers all the same, but never seeks to blame anyone else; the writer of our Hebrews lesson writes about the goodness of God. We live in a world of “not just yet”; a world which God made to perfection but riddled with flaws; the biggest flaw of all is human beings. Four or five thousand years after the biblical Exodus, there is still slavery, still exploitation, still refugees. We still want more than we need, still own more than we have room for.
But this is not God’s design for the world. We live in a time of not yet because humanity has not reached a level of self-control and wisdom that allows God to reign. This is a time to accept what God sends and not blame anyone else; for us to review the way we are teaching our children life is hard, and there will always be winners and losers. Life must be lived, and there will always be consequences.
Micah asked “What does the Lord require of you? To love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with your God” If we could all aspire to do that, we might close the gap between what God intends and this world of not yet. If we can be acting with justice and love; if we can learn humility in our successes and honesty in our failure; if we can teach children that life is for living and learning, so that they feel worthy of the love God gives, then maybe the Kingdom of God is not so far away. It is within our ability to be what God made us to be. God does not ask us to do what we can’t – only to do all that we can to transform our part of God’s creation from a world of “not yet” into a world of “almost”
Revd Barbara Bennett