While driving around today, I found myself stopped at a traffic light with a motor cycle in front of me. Oddly, my first question wasn't, "Why in the world is someone riding in 20 degree weather?" No, that question came later. No, my first observation was the bumper sticker on the back of the motorcycle. In bold, black letters upon a yellow background was the word "LIFE."
If the sticker's intent was to communicate a message, I wasn't sure what it was. Is this a part of the "Life is good" campaign? Is he proclaiming a commitment to a pro-life way of living? Does he really, really like the Milton-Bradley board game? I don't know. I just know that, for this daredevil cold-defying motorcycle rider, "Life" is something really important. Important enough to put on a bumper sticker.
But the other odd thing I noticed is the way the sticker was placed. You see, motorcycles, being the size they are, don't have bumpers. So he'd put this sticker on the back fender, and to make it fit, he'd had to turn it sideways. The words ran up rather than across. He's celebrating life...sideways.
Well, that's the only sort of life there is, isn't there? No matter how much we dream, plan, envision and hope for the "perfect life," no one has one. There are disappointments, hurts, blemishes, sins and wrong turns in everyone's life. Everyone. Even those people you envy who seem to have achieved perfection...well, they're either hiding something or they're dead and living in glory. This world is broken, and for all of us, there are times when life gets...sideways.
If you were to study the lament psalms, those prayers that are meant for when life gets broken, when life runs sideways. And there are more of them in the psalms than songs of praise. Those psalms, we remembered, give us language to pray when we don't know what to pray. They give us words to sing when we can't sing. And those psalms remind us that it's the broken times that allow us to appreciate the good times. It's the darkness that helps us celebrate the dawn. The psalmists always, always, always gave thanks even in the midst of brokenness because it's there, more than any other time, when God's power is clearly seen.
Life...sideways. It's not a bad place to be. It's not a place we would want to stay, but if we're alert, if we are able to pray and praise God even when life is sideways, then we'll find our relationship with God deeper than before, deeper than it would be otherwise. If your life is sideways right now, I want to encourage you: be like my motorcycle-riding friend. Defy the winter, step out into the bad weather, and see what God will do. Praise God even when life is sideways, and you will praise God even more when life is right side up because you will know what God can do.