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I don’t know about you (although I’m suspicious) but I’ve been struggling lately, wrestling with my heart and my head. It’s not the kind of struggling that I expected to be doing right now. I’m not struggling between believing and unbelief. Thank God that’s been settled for some time now and I don’t revisit that devilish thought. It’s not about doubting anything related to my Faith. I’m not being pulled away from the Gospel by some great sin or giving up on anything. I’m not losing sleep worrying about finances, health, relationships, kids, family, or friends. No, some days I’m struggling to keep from ‘shouting my lungs out’ about the great love of God that has neutralized all those worries and fears mentioned previously.
We were traveling west on Route 13 a few evenings ago, part of the great migration of people that land at the nearest Dairy Queen, and I was looking at the sunset, just thinking how terrific it was to have the ‘eyes to see the hand-work of God’ so obviously displayed in front of me. My first thought was let’s just get out of the car in the middle of the road and praise our lungs out. My second thought was this is so much like the sunsets I’ve seen in Colorado at 10,000 feet (my high water mark of assessing God’s creation and my favorite place on earth to appreciate His beauty). Well, we didn’t stop the car and I didn’t make a fool of myself by diving into the floorboard of the car and worshipping. But that evening reminded me of how thankful I am to have found a place to keep my heart. In spite of everything that’s going on politically, culturally and especially financially, I’m just not discouraged by all the disturbing bad news. And, I really don’t have a great miracle to share from the past couple days and no immediate testimony to tell anyone about; it’s just the accumulation of years of the Faithfulness of God in my life and the consistent, obvious ‘mingling’ of God’s Life in mine. In fact, in my mind I get to thinking it’s kind of crazy to have found such Peace, used to be afraid that it was just simple apathy rather than the Comfort of God. My brain tries to remind my heart…’stop it, don’t be so foolish,’ but so far my heart wins every time. The struggle I’m talking about is the awareness of simple praise and at that same time, the awareness that my brain is trying to balance that with the reasonable and logical at the very same time. But, it makes for a great car ride anyway.
That confidence is so different than having confidence in things or stuff. Have you ever stopped to think about how ‘ridiculous’ the Faith that we have been given to believe in is compared to all the worldly ‘wisdom’ we find? I don’t remember where I read it, but years ago I ran across someone’s comparison of our Faith and the other religions of the world. We really have such a ‘weird’ belief system with this Faith. Now I say weird with all the respect I can muster up because it’s that uniqueness that makes it so believable for me. I don’t think we could create this kind of Creator. The God we all call Father calls Himself a Friend to us. He’s humble rather than untouchable. No other God stoops, no other weaves His Life into the lives of the creature in a personal way. We have a God that wants to be united with us and even suffered to make that possible. The gods of human imagination are indifferent to the human race. They tower above humanity and toy with it, but they never invest in people’s lives, having an interest in people only to serve their own needs. Our Father is not self-centered, not a taker but a giver. Ours had staggering plans for us, before the foundation of the world He made plans for us. He was determined to enter into the problem and bless us with a Life and fullness of Joy, eager to know us intimately, not only stooping down and touching us but actually stooping low and lifting us up to His Life.
That’s what makes me pause and keep hold of this Faith so securely. It’s so upside down compared to religions. No human’s mind has ever invented such a God. No man has chosen to serve such a God in the history of religions, except, that is, the Christian peoples. As C. S. Lewis said, Jesus is either a lunatic or he’s exactly who he said he is, he must be one or the other. The Christian God is interested in a deep and truthful relationship with us, not just relationship alone, but much more of a union with us. So much so that what is His becomes ours, and what we bring He joins with us and shares this life with us in the present. God is a God of relationship, having Father, Son and Spirit in One. All blended into singleness that advantages the Others, each with visions of companionship with each other, loving One another, caring for One another. That God has turned His (Their) attention to the creature.
In Faith, we believe there was a time when there was no universe, no solar system, no earth, no humanity, and no biology at all. The Christian God, before the whole thing began, was compelled to create all things in the purpose of His heart and in doing so, did it not to toy with the creation but mingled with it. It was a determined heart to create it just this way. The world we live in, with its trouble and strife (and Joy and Peace through Christ), was not plan B. This was The Plan. I might not understand why it’s the way that it is, but it is exactly what God purposed to do. Something about this Creation and us as His creatures is profound, and no matter how it goes here, I truly believe that God had an eternal reason for us going through this thing called life on this dust ball in the universe. I know this for sure, when Adam and Eve fell, our God, the Christian God, instead of judging them and damning them, plunged into the storm and ruin rather than walk away disgusted. Rather than leaving us to the results of that action, to the chaos, misery, brokenness and bondage, our God immediately met us in it, rescued us from it. And, He continues to have that purpose today. And when I see sunsets and know the companionship of my wife and the friendship of friends and the joy of parenting and the moments of Praise and the revelation of God’s Love I know He is in the middle of my Life and sometimes I just want to scream that out!
Ours is a pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45). In that testimony, the merchant did not make the decision he made on the back of religious tradition, it was not about religious duty. He was acting on an encounter that had won his heart. It’s the same encounter that most of us have had as well. Jane and I have two grandsons. They, like us, will have to have their own encounter of inspiration. They will not be able to live on the Joy of their ancestors any more than Jane and I could live on the Faith of our parents and grandparents. Each generation must seek Him. Only knowing Him will set them free from the worry and the fret of the daily headlines, only meeting Him will make them want to stop their rocket cars in the middle of their highway and shout. We are at a crisis point I think in the Church. Our notions about God and our unique encounters with God will be replaced with their encounters. Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection were: ‘Whom do you seek?’ That confronts each new generation and really what Jesus’ question boils down to is this: Is it Life that you want or something ‘less’. If it’s Life that you want, then My Life is all satisfying, fulfilling and without measure. The price we will pay is simply seeking Him; once found, He can, if we permit, change our experience from struggling to believe, into struggling to keep from shouting our lungs out!