There comes a time in all of our lives when reality takes a turn.
It happens when the doctor says there is nothing more to be done, or when the dream really does die, or when the worst possible scenario we have pictured in our minds comes true.
This is when it becomes painfully evident that we are not invincible. We understand, suddenly, that we are separated from the violent reality of death only by a whisper's width. We are, as it turns out, not characters from storybooks. There is no predictable ending, no comfortable routine, no pretension of safety. There is nowhere to go but forward, and forward is a scary place.
This is the territory of the hard truths.
I am finding, in this place, that the idea of angels playing heavenly harps and streets paved in gold is no longer able to satisfy my ravenous soul. I am starved by my humanity and I need a God who is here in the trenches with me. Bumper sticker faith is an insult, a joke. I cannot be soothed with enraging platitudes like 'Let go and let God' - I want the flesh and blood Jesus with the scars in his palms that I can trace with my own fingers.
Thankfully, God's character is robust, his power extensive. He is a beautiful and radiant God, but He's also a skin-in-the-game, not-afraid-to-get-dirty God. He is the One who sees our jagged lives and isn't afraid of our rough edges rubbing against Him. And Jesus, His Son - He could have chosen to stay in the territory of white robes and harps and heavenly hosts, but He didn't. He stripped Himself naked and meek and entered this world to stare it down in all of its violent reality.
Jesus did not squirm away from the hard suffering. He fought it, with a cross and three nails and a total dependency on God. He is the Lord who fights for us and with us; He is the Lord of Armies.
"In this world you will have trouble," Jesus says. "But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33.
In this territory of hard truths, my understanding of reality has shifted. I'm no longer holding onto my fantasy of a mild and unperturbed existence. Jesus said it, clear as can be - as long as we're in this world, we will have trouble. But when this life feels nearly unbearable - that is when we learn to long for Heaven. When we realize that we are more like soldiers than rom-com characters, we put down our flowery faith in exchange for something more durable. And when we find ourselves wondering how we can possibly face this new reality - that is when the Lord of Armies becomes flesh and blood to us, to fight alongside us until we get through the gory battle and make it, one day, to the other side.