Sunday, September 26, 2004


Confidence and Aftermath

Sunlight comes in low over the houses behind me, across the sand, and ends
its long flight by warming my back. In front of me is water, two or three
dolphins, and irregular flights of pelicans. I'm sitting on a small bluff
and it's not long before my hands are in the sand.

I dig and then push the sand over the edge. The bluff is about a foot tall;
the damp sand falls over and builds up in a heap. How much does it take to
get a pile as tall as the bluff? Roughly eight times as much as you'd
think. Normally I'd be packing the sand but here I'm just watching.

Pushing handful after handful of sand over the edge, eventually the top of
the heap reaches the edge. It doesn't stay because as I push more sand onto
it the pile settles. Cracks develop in the unpacked sand, portions of it
slide and it gets wider but no taller. Dry sand would be a nearly perfect
cone, but this damp sand looks more like a lava flow in that the surface
tucks in near the base. The damp sand doesn't flow, but slides until it
sticks against the beach and that stops the sand above it.

The pattern continues. Small subsidence until the pile can no longer adjust
itself that way, after which comes large-scale subsidence, with slides
going all the way to the bottom. There is no foundation, no stability; each
handful of sand causes disturbances to propagate through the pile.

Last week I got to thinking about confidence. This is a strange concept to
me; I've always lived as one on top of thin ice. Confidence was just
something that happened before the ice broke. There was no mistaking that
what I was noticing was a different kind of confidence. God makes promises
to do things, and he does them. That's simple enough that even I can
understand it.

He promised to remake me so I could live his way. He's doing this, and I
have some confidence that his strength is not like mine. He won't just
abandon me when the ice starts to break up.

Cracks have to be tolerated, How else can I grow? If everything is the same
all the time there is no growth.

Life went on. I was acting a little different, more withdrawn, but didn't
think about it. The press of events was a good distraction. A day or two
passed. I started thinking about my role in the process of living as a
follower of Jesus. He's the author and finisher of my faith, his Holy
Spirit has to guide me. I can't do anything without him. So, what's the
point? A robot could do this.

I know God made me as I am, but I've run into the edge of
comprehensibility. Faith may be the step beyond that edge, and I thought
perhaps it was time for me to quit thinking about this and just do what I'm
told. After all, that's what I heard when I was growing up. That answer
didn't feel right; it failed my reality check process but I didn't know
what else to do. So I quit thinking about it. This is a good time to have a
long book.

But God has ways of getting through. Like rainwater percolating through
sandstone, he gradually permeates my soul and whatever he touches is
changed. He uses a variety of means, such as this message from a friend in
my "Email Oikos." She'd been telling me about how a member of her church
gave money to each member to invest so as to make money for a local helping
group. She wrote "It's kind of like 'You are free to do whatever your heart
tells you to do' to love someone else; there is no one quite like you, and
the dreams you have, and the desires you have and the goals you have to
please and love Jesus, are valid, given to you by God, and you are, huh?"

Whatever your heart tells you to do. Like Jonathan and the Philistines,
like David, like Solomon. I've been reading the Old Testament; can you
tell? Anyway, these people were individuals and they even made mistakes.
God punished them for the mistakes, but forgave them, fixed the cracks and
went on. Each of them was an individual, even a strong-willed one.

Another member of the Email Oikos wrote "I like your response [in an
ongoing discussion of experience], but I will have to differ with you on
the experience. This is where you may think I'm weird, but hold on. I
really am somewhat sane...
Basically there are times when experiences assault the desired result of
God. That is when I actually will put the Word on a higher level of truth
than circumstances. What I call this is 'I am putting Truth on the facts'."
We've known each other for about 28 years; in that time she has always
spoken her mind. Definitely not a robot, and yet definitely in love with
Jesus and determined to follow him.

Last night I was at dinner with some friends. I was still withdrawn to the
point where I wasn't even thinking about it. Head full of cotton batting.

And then one of my friends asked "Do you trust us?" This wasn't a bolt from
the blue; they've received the Mosaic stories, and we've discussed what I
wrote. That woke me up, partly as I recognized the danger in any answer,
partly because it was an interesting question.

"I trust you as far as I'm able, which isn't very far. I've drawn my walls
very far out so that if anyone comes over I still have time to do something
before they lay waste the kingdom. But God is changing this; the walls are
becoming thinner and I'm becoming stronger. If someone does come over
they're less likely to destroy me. I've never trusted anyone. It's hard to

Freedom? Early this morning the thought hit me that if God really wanted me
to be identical to everyone, if he wanted to flatten me, pack me down and
make a really solid foundation, he could do it. Easily. One little motion
and I'm whatever he wants me to be. Anyone who can return a three-day-old
body to life can squash another without any effort at all. That doesn't
seem to be what he wants. Yes, he wants a strong foundation but he's
preserving the pieces of me, knitting them together rather than smashing
everything into a homogeneous monolith.

What is his goal? To make me like Jesus. I'll still be an identifiable
individual. Singularity. Step over, go on. I don't understand how this can
be, but God has demonstrated that he is trustworthy. He made the first
move, taking the risk that I'd say "No." He will do what he has said he
will do, and beauty increases in the world.

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