Friday, May 24, 2013

Life is ironic...

I've been thinking a lot lately about irony. As a teacher, it is actually a concept that we try to help students recognize in writing, and sometimes it can be difficult to explain. The "pat" explanation is that irony is an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been expected. Students, understandably, can have trouble with this. Let's be honest, a LOT of people have trouble with this. 

Then, about a week ago, the photo above came across my facebook page and it really started my hamster wheel turning. 

Today as I waved goodbye to my students at the end of another school year, irony was again on my mind. It was the last day of school, and the first day of summer break! For many of my friends, it was the last day they would teach and the first day of their retirement! 

Saying goodbye to our kids one last time.

The LAST day of one thing always brings the FIRST day of something else. We often lose sight of how what is the ending is also the beginning. It's a wonderfully ironic event....the ending is actually the beginning! Why, even the ending of life simply marks the beginning of eternity.

All of a sudden I started to realize it's not just life that is ironic; by the world's way of thinking, we serve a God that seems to be an expert on irony. 

He uses the weak to defeat the strong. (2 Cor. 12:10) He chooses surrender as the way to win. (Matthew 16:24-27) When we become "slaves" to Christ, we experience true freedom. (1 Cor. 7:22) He brings the OIL of joy out of the ASHES of mourning. (Isaiah 61:3) He uses the foolish things to confound the wise. (1 Cor. 1:27) He uses giving as a way to provide for all our needs. (Malachi 3:10-12) And He brings LIFE everlasting out of the grave through the sacrifice of His own Son. (1 Cor. 15:21)

Ironic, isn't it. To give us hope, the Bible directs us to go down a very strange "road" that begins at the town of Suffering, then takes us through the little towns of Perseverance and Character before we ever reach our destination of Hope. (Romans 5:3-5)

Yep, to the world, my God might seem to be ironic. The world has as much trouble figuring things out as my students have had trying to understand the irony found in O'Henry's writings. This isn't surprising. The Bible tells us that the world can't accept the things of God because it sees them as foolishness. (1 Cor. 2:14) The world desperately tries to explain and figure out....but it can't. It's a bit like an ant trying to explain space travel or brain surgery. No matter how smart we are, we can't come close to the infinite wisdom...and infinite LOVE...of God. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

As I said, irony has been on my mind a lot lately, especially this one thought - some say that realizing you don't know everything is the beginning of wisdom. Ironic isn't it. Those who are most certain that THEY know what to do and can handle it all, are the least likely to have the answers. (This could explain a LOT when it comes to some of the decisions made in government - by BOTH parties! The problem is that we keep putting "smart people" in charge!)

I'm sure you can think of a lot more examples of irony in scripture. The cool thing about irony is this, it doesn't mean a contradiction, it simply means that it wasn't what we expected. Glad I serve a God who is a master of irony. He just keeps taking what looks like a mess to me and turning it into a miracle.

2 Corinthians 12:10

New International Version (NIV)
10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Matthew 16:24-27

New International Version (NIV)
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

1 Corinthians 7:22

New International Version (NIV)
22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.

1 Corinthians 1:27

New International Version (NIV)
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Malachi 3:10-12

New International Version (NIV)
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says theLord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

1 Corinthians 15:21

New International Version (NIV)
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Romans 5:3-5

New International Version (NIV)
Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings,because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,who has been given to us.

1 Corinthians 2:14

New International Version (NIV)
14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Isaiah 55:8-9

New International Version (NIV)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 61:3

New International Version (NIV)
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

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