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Previously, in Joel’s blog, we (a guy named Hafiz, to be precise) suggested that “complaint is only possible while living in the suburbs of God.”

I like that for many reasons . . . most of which I’m not going to discuss right now.

The thought that’s stuck like an earworm in my neocortex is that proximity to God is not necessarily the antidote to complaint, but may in fact be its prerequisite. I’m not saying that God inspires complaint. . . . Um, okay, I guess I sort of am.

A fundamental discontent stirs as we awaken to the presence of the Holy One. When our discontent responds in gratitude and hope, I believe it manifests in an increasingly insatiable desire that propels us toward Him, that motivates all of the illogically, incomprehensibly sublime acts of faith.

On the other hand, the awakening is also a realization of everything that’s wrong–with ourselves, with the world, with life as we know it. We feel many of the same core emotions; it’s just that sometimes we’re looking the wrong way.

The best I’ve been able to work it out so far is that complaint is the buttward approach to the Throne of Grace.

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Let it rain, let it rain
Open the floodgates of Heaven
and let it rain . . .
(Pocket Full of Rocks, “Let it Rain” from Fascination)

60% chance of showers in DFW, I’m walking from the train station, listening to Fascination and “Let it Rain” is up. The sky is dark and there’s a cool heaviness in the air.

Singing along, ‘Let it rain, let it rain. Open the floodgates of heaven . . .’ Considering the distinct possibility that I might, literally, get soaked before I make it to the office, I laugh and whisper under my breath, ‘But, hold off just a sec, could ya?’

Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain. I love thunder and lightening and the way thick, dark clouds completely transform the landscape—both visually and in their burden’s release. I have happy memories of walking through the rain, the precipitation sometimes so abundant that I’m completely but happily soaked within seconds.

But, yaknow, sometimes it’s just not convenient.

A lot actually, but maybe mostly by extension and it’s not much to look at. Rather, it’s too too much to look at.

And a few other scattered thoughts on this day:

I have been troubled–deeply troubled–by the Crucifixion from when I first perceived it. I am, I confess, still puzzled and disturbed to think that Justice and Wrath and a Father God could require it. At some level, faith compels me to understand the Father’s love in this awful, ugly moment–this cruel silence at the center of history–but it is a thin strand of faith, blind, indeed, and confused and frustrated. But nothing so consistently moves me as Christ’s sacrifice and, I suppose, in the final analysis, that the willing Son convinces me of His Father’s goodness.

I remember when I was a student and custodian at a Christian college that we all wondered why we, of all people, should attend classes, clean toilets and mop floors on what one could argue is the most holy of all days (rivaled, perhaps, by celebration of the Resurrection but certainly surpassing it in sobriety). Even the philistines take a day off from their trading and pursuit of Mammon to honor our Lord. And there we were at work. Then it occurred to me that Jesus worked on this day, perhaps harder than He ever had. And my complaints seemed more than a little silly.

That’s probably plenty from me. I’ll let Donne finish this post and, I hope, inspire a Godward reflection or two–or, truly, even if you don’t believe or serve a transcendent God, behold and consider the Man.

GOOD-FRIDAY, 1613, RIDING WESTWARD
by John Donne

Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and Thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.

If you don’t know yet, my daughter is amazing. I’m so thankful for her. You should read her blog.

Here’s her latest.

In responding to what she wrote, I stumbled on some words that I like, so I thought I’d repeat them here. They fit.

As much as I’ve accused Him of not taking account of my frailty, it turns out, after all, that He has–He is still holding me and I am still here to be held.

Which is not to say that I no longer doubt, because I do; or that my anger has entirely abated, because it hasn’t. Despite grace–ouch, that’s truer than I’d like it to be and maybe I’m rolling with the self-revelation–I’m still quite a bit of a mess. But He is still God. And His being God matters more.

As I’ve thought about coming back to this, it’s occurred to me repeatedly how unfortunately fitting, how ironic, how sickly sadistically portentous it was to have launched off in the direction I did.

If only I’d known.

God knew.

Isn’t that what we say? Isn’t that what we believe? If it were a different kind of thing, we’d call it a joke. But to call it that–it being what it is–might make it sound like God’s a cruel bastard.

Maybe it is a joke. I don’t think I think that God’s a cruel bastard.

But consider that the Father is fatherless and the Son, well, they always wondered about Him, didn’t they? And, if you’re a believer, you’d have to say His Daddy wasn’t the man His mama married, wouldn’t you? I’m just sayin’.

As for the cruel part, again, ultimately I don’t believe He is. At least not most of the time. Sometimes I wonder. Maybe there’s a part of me that always wonders. It would be dishonest (and maybe a little melodramatic) to say that it’s what I believe; but it’s equally dishonest to deny that I often–especially lately–feel it.

O me of little faith.

I had added the following to the preceding. I decided to take it back. Not because I don’t mean it, but because I think I rather prefer the original as it was. Even in the blogging, I think I could do with a little less editing . . . or at least with a little more segmentation. And it’s all good. No one’s reading anyway . . .

It occurs to me that since this is the only thing I’ve posted here so far, I shouldn’t leave it uncommented. Someone might get the wrong impression. But what is the right impression? Do I, of all people, have any friggin’ idea what that might be? That, I would say, is partly the point (and much of the point of Jesus’ interactions with his friends on the boat–both the time that He walked and the time that He slept): I don’t know. Oh, how I don’t know. Volumes could be written about the depths of my unknowing. I suppose that’s what I’ll do.

Can’t You see we’re drowning here?
And don’t You care?