Wednesday, November 03, 2004
No Shortcut to Reality
(my own as well as my perception of those of others)... but even more HOPE.
I don't want to indulge it because it's already been dashed from me enough
times, why risk more devastation?"
Why, indeed? For all her protestations of inarticulateness, Debbie has
accurately described my exact feeling. Who would want to hope one more time
when hope has only led to manipulation, disappointment and dead promises?
Following Jesus turns into a sort of hoping against hope. Promises and hope
are central to His message but they are cloaked in all the church's
history. Hope is only valid for those who follow the rules. You reach for
the carrot they offer but the stick twitches it away, just out of reach.
"You must do it exactly in the way we demand or you'll never get there,"
and no matter how hard you try, how you purify yourself to their standards
the carrot is always beyond your fingertips. These are the representatives
of God on earth. Can God be any better?
You can add in all your personal history. Years and years of promises made
and immediately forgotten. "Oh, I said I'd do that? I'm sorry. We'll do it
tomorrow." But tomorrow never comes. Years of tomorrows that are just as
sad as today go by and the land from which hope might grow is not only
desiccated but sown with salt and weedkiller. If anything remotely
resembling hope does manage to sprout you treat it with deep suspicion and
try to uproot it, in the belief that if it resists being uprooted it might
be the real thing.
Hope is truly fragile. It is easily uprooted, and another dream dies.
"Yet I can't get rid of the nagging feeling that some HOPES are put there
by God? This brings up an issue for me that I think we have very much in
common. Trust. Trust Him
anyway, even though you are afraid. Ugh. Easier said than done."
I wonder what happens when hope truly dies. I think that's what I was
facing last year. I'd hopped from hope-stone to hope-stone through the
years but each was good only for a short time. Years went by and the
population of hope-stones got thinner. Oh, there's no lack of stones out
there in the landscape, but most of them are phony. The more loudly they
announce their presence and offer a promise of a way out the less likely
there is to be any truth in them. Step on those and you're stuck in a
one-viewpoint world, required to shed any ideas that don't fit. So, I stood
on the last good stone, and it was sinking.
Why didn't I just give up? I don't know. Best guess is that, as Debbie
suggested, some hope (maybe all) comes from God.
Hope comes from God. Check.
Faith comes from God. Check.
Truth comes from God. Check.
Messes come from Larry. Check.
Lies come from the world. Check.
I can't do anything for myself. Check.
Only God offers salvation, the God of the Universe reaching down to us.
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Check. Double
What's the point? He who saves his life will lose it.
Life and breath are a gift from God. Check.
What do I bring to this party? Nothing? I'm the chopped liver at the
banquet, only of value as a vehicle for God's spices.
Oh, I'd like to believe I had something to offer. Why am I here? Why should
I bother even trying to hope, if I'm just here as a puppet?
Maybe that's why hope must come from God. I'm sunk in this world, my vision
strongly affected by what I've learned through all the years I've lived
here. I know hope is an illusion and love just a funny story they tell in
movies. I know this to the depth of my being. Facts. The only way to see
anything different is to be picked up bodily, kicking and screaming, out of
what's familiar and placed into a new world. Or, perhaps, put back in the
old world after having those years of experience peeled off, as Eustace
experienced in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader."
In the past, trying new things would stand in for real, substantive hope
and change. A subset of distraction, trying new things and running with
them as far as I could. It worked for a short time but didn't address the
deep issue. I wanted deep change, needed it, but any push in that direction
was countered by a center-seeking tendency. Don't rock the boat or it might
sink. Don't stray from the path or the wolf will eat you. Follow the rules
or no one will like you at all. Don't upset God or this last refuge will be
Is there any reality to what Jesus offers? Christian literature is full of
examples of people losing faith, God seeming to turn His back on people.
How does that square with His promise never to leave me?
Refuges turn into jails if the refugee has no choice. God has a very
difficult task on His hands. He has to take people who have no faith and
teach them how to believe, and many parts of the road look a lot like that
horrible world we're trying to get out of, that hopeless dark muddy place.
There is no shortcut. The sand sculpture I made two days ago was a very
good piece produced under difficult conditions. I couldn't have done it
without the experience of the 22 years and 400 sculptures before it. Some
of those sculptures were failures, dropping into my lap with a soft thud.
Others stood but still failed, being nothing like the mental image and hope
I had for them.
After one year as a follower of Jesus, I guess I have a lot still to learn.
There are many days ahead. I'm lonely, tired, and sick of it. Yet the only
way to learn trust is to live it, depend on God and His word. Do I matter
to Him as anything other than a biological mechanism to do His work? Well,
look at the evidence. There's not much need for hope in a machine.