Wednesday, May 04, 2005
One, Two, Three
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)
Faith? You're crazy. Faith is for idiots and losers. I deal with facts, and figure them out for myself.
Well, maybe God is crazy. He was crazy enough to send his love to us in his Son. He was crazy enough to keep track of me for years as I ignored him, waiting for the moment when the idea of faith could become something other than fantasy. His love was fierce enough to protect me from some really stupid things.
When the time came to change or die, faith wasn't really that hard to come up with because of that background. How much coincidence does it take to become no longer coincidence, but the finger of God? I can figure things out for myself, even faith.
"Without faith," it is said, "it is impossible to please God." The corollary is that with faith it's just about impossible to displease him. I just sort of took hold of Jesus' coattail and tried to hang on.
Faith, it turns out, isn't the whole story. It's one brick in the foundation.
God started giving me intimations of hope about a year ago, and ever since then life has been difficult. I don't want to hope. Hope is just one lie after another. If faith is for idiots, then hope is for suckers. People who buy lottery tickets and start planning what they're going to do with all that money. People who are just one step away from making the big deal that never happens. I prefer to deal with what I can hold in my hand and make something with. No hope is needed. Just go out and do things. If I can't do it, it doesn't get done; there's no point in waiting around hoping something will change.
"Ah," God says, "but that's just what you've been doing all of your life. Hoping something would change."
"Go away. Hope is a lie. I don't want to hear it."
We played tag for a few months. You want to see the Snark-O-Meter get floored, just mention hope in my presence. I become, um, irritable. Snarky. Owly. It is hard to deny the truth, however, and as much as I've wanted to just kill hope off completely, pull it up by the roots and replace it with solid stone, it just didn't happen. Perhaps it's mechanically impossible.
God is right. I never really did give up. I could have walked out of that first Mosaic meeting unchanged but instead hope flared within me and I once again jumped aboard the change train. But it was a leap informed by truth and faith, so I told myself I was dealing with facts.
When the going really gets tough, though, hope is about all there is. God really is serious about this life-change stuff. He's serious enough to show me exactly what he's doing and why. He wants me there, he wants me paying attention, he wants me to follow him and there's no reason to do so if there's no hope. I tried to reduce following Jesus to walking along a path from solid stepping stone to stone.
Many of the steps are into darkness. Unclear, confusing, terrifying, inevitable, unavoidable. I can not know. I don't know enough. I'm not God. If I were a good guide for myself my life story would have been much different, but I'm incompetent. The problem is that I've taken that incompetence and made it the guide for my life. Make do, work around, if it can't be changed then live with it or do without. God won't allow any of that.
All those old ideas are like unbaked bricks in a foundation. They fail under pressure and thus the failures come at the worst moments. History, secular and church, is filled with examples. Life finds the weak points and they explode. Like one of my sand sculptures, when parts start to fall they take out everything that depends upon them. Modern Christianity tends to suggest that people just keep moving fast enough to stay ahead of the problems, but eventually we get tired.
I'm tired. I'm tired of running. God knows this, which is why he's been being so nice to me in the last few days. And yet niceness sends me running again. Niceness leads to hope, to a desire for more soft things in my stiff life, and that's danger of the highest order. God whispers to me to slow down, to quit running from him. He's been getting more forceful lately, as I try to distract myself from these horrendous internal changes. Reminding me that he's there and that he cares.
Well, maybe not of the highest order. Second highest. There's still love on that short list.
"Don't quit," he said last night. The sense was not that of a command, but of a request, a hope, a kindness that I could do him. He wants me to go on, even if it's by little tiny steps and with my eyes averted from anything but his robe. "Just don't quit."
I'd like to quit. It's a lot of work, walking with Jesus, and I'm not even doing very much. I talked with a few people I knew at Mosaic last Sunday, and they were all busy with their plans. I tried to stay out of the way, being both shy and post-sculptural. Yet I can't quit. I know where life comes from, and hope really would die if I really turned my back on God again. That's truly dangerous. We're getting into serious things these days and I need to hold his hand even more tightly than I've been doing heretofore.
And as long as I keep looking at Jesus the path is possible. Most of what burns up my energy and makes me snarky comes from trying to run. You can't be blessed very well when you're running. It'd be like going to a drive-through for food and then expecting them to run after you to deliver. Staying put is hard. He's God! He knows everything, he made the universe, he should have nothing to do with me.
But Jesus took away my filth and keeps it away. God looks at me and sees his own dream of perfection, not my dirty daily reality. God can't have anything to do with sin, so he doesn't have to. His plan is perfect. I just have to stay still long enough to accept this. It's hard. The roots run deep.