The God of the Third Way
God reaches us where we didn’t even know we needed to be seen
This Lenten season has brought a freshness of anticipation and wonder to me like none other I can remember. Yes, it has been marked by repentance and introspection, but with knees bent and palms turned up to heaven in contrition, I can’t help but strain my neck to see just what my Father will do next—what incredible way he will demonstrate again his divine wisdom and great love towards us.
Our God is a God of the Third Way. We can storm our minds for wisdom in our need; we can consult other resources and people for best and godly practices, but God is a God of a surprise, consolation, and beauty that transcends even our noblest human ideas. He provides a way beyond our conceptions and reaches us where we didn’t even know we needed to be seen. I’d like to share one recent story of our Father’s way.
At the lunch table last week, my friend Marian confessed her internal struggle and grief over her mother’s health problems. Her mother, who has been told by her doctor that she will not walk again due to a broken leg and debilitating osteoporosis, insisted to once again have her shattered bones x-rayed. This meant another long trip to the doctor for Marian and her mother to hear the same results repeated. Several of us discussed with Marian what might be the best way to handle her mother’s insistence and denial, and how to mediate between her mother and the doctor. We listened to her grief with real concern and responded as best we knew how.
The next day, I asked Marian how the appointment with the doctor was. My spirit was stirred by the glow of her face as she told a story none of us would have expected. The doctor, who could’ve dismissively rolled his eyes at a woman who needed a simple medical reality spelled out for her once again, set aside a chunk of time to gently and graciously explain that, no, she would never walk again, but also how she, in fact, has so much to be thankful for: she still has her leg, though the possibility of amputation had been very real when the break initially occurred. Marian watched as her mother’s countenance changed into one of true gratitude as the doctor told her she would not have to worry about amputation anymore. And as this man patiently cared for Marian’s mother, a nurse came in with a tub of warm water. The nurse quietly crouched down and began gently washing Marian’s mother’s broken leg. She washed off the dead skin that had built up under her leg brace. She lathered cooling lotion on the woman’s bathed skin. Marian’s mother’s tough exterior softened as she looked down at the nurse and said simply, “I like you.”
Marian’s mother will continue to suffer the pain of broken bones and disability. But the God of the Third Way entered into that situation as none of us would’ve been able to conceive. He touched this hurting woman in a place of need even more fundamental than we knew or thought to go. The God who made us knows how to reach us and he mercifully deigns to do so; he satisfies us with his love.
At Easter we get space to ruminate on our transcendent God and the Way he has ultimately paved. We needed salvation from our sin. And God was not stuck in the routes that we would’ve seen before us—the route of justice and punishment, or the route of mercy. Our Father gave us the third way—the way so far above our ways: Jesus Christ. The life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ blew through our understanding, fulfilling both justice and mercy in one act, and offering to us an eternal Life of our Father’s third ways—a Life that is here now for us to drink in deeply.
As we reflect on God’s salvation this week, we’d love to hear how God has provided his third ways in your life.