Everything I’m running into recently is saying the same thing to me. I’m reading two books at once, unrelated to one another. One is scholarly and the other may be written by a ‘goof ball’; I don’t know yet, but they both shout the same message. We just got in Jason Gray’s new song, “I Will Find A Way,” (comes out on his new cd this month) and it says the same thing, talks of Jesus’ incarnation. Jason has sent a link to the site that has the text that was the inspiration for that song: Walt Wangerin’s “An Advent Monologue.” (I think that it’s in Walter’s book called Ragman.) Anyway, it’s very rare that everything going on around me seems to suggest the same message; I just thought it strange and strange enough to talk about in this newsletter.
Things are just weird. I see so much evidence of God in everyday life, and at the same time I see so much aggressiveness against the Love of God around me. Sometimes I get a kick out of how people view my Faith. I mean friends and relatives that simply think that I’m just stuck in tradition and locked up in yesterday. I know my gray hair doesn’t help dispel that image, but I just know what they’re thinking as we talk: ‘poor thing, sad really!’ Now, that disappoints me a bit. I’ve spent many, many years evaluating, reading, studying : pages and pages, tape after tape, DVD after DVD, trying to settle in my heart this Faith that I’ve hung on to for so long. It was in April 1963 that I came to the place of not being able to dismiss the Gospel in my life any longer. Even back then, people didn’t give believers much credit for their Faith. I remember people calling Faith a ‘crutch’ that silly folks needed to get along in the world. I mean, it was just my ‘inability to cope’ that led me to be ‘religious’. Yep, ‘only very weak people really believed! They had no choice, the poor simpletons.’ Now, I wouldn’t mind that people think I’m silly if they at least gave me a little credit for having completed a complex and critical search, but, No! They have to put me in a basket where people of Faith are just unaware and unlearned. But I don’t feel that’s the case. I’ve been willing to ‘not believe’ if I can just be convinced; but in all those years, I just can’t come to the same conclusions that unbelievers can so easily come to.
But none of this is new; it’s as old as when the message began. Remember what Moses wrote about in 1Kings 19:18? Elisha was complaining to God that all had lost their way, turned from God, but God assured him that He still had 7000 Israelites that had not bowed the knee to Baal. Feel like Elisha sometimes? So little hope and so few believers- that sounds just like today, but it was thousands of years ago at a time of little hope and little understanding and hardly any obedience to the Word of God. All was seemingly lost. However, now as then, we should have hope, even if the ‘poll numbers’ look bleak. Israel, God’s chosen, just didn’t get it even after being delivered from the secular grasp of Egypt. Following Moses, the Prophets declared their messages about God and Israel with little hope. The number of believing people in the whole world was down to just a handful. It was a terrible moment for Faith. Those Prophets were, for the most part, outside the religious community, not part of the in-crowd, rascals mostly, numbering only a few. They kept the Faith for hundreds of years, years that were certainly discouraging years for Prophets. Well, that is unless you’re a Prophet that knows and believes that God is with them no matter what is going on around them or to them. These were men and women called by the love of God to share His ways, His heart. They were not people inspired by their surroundings to Faith, rather they were men and women inspired in spite of their surroundings. They were inspired simply because they knew and were convinced that God was with them. That is what everything is saying to me now. That’s what keeps coming out of the couple of books I’m reading, the song I’m singing and the experience I’m experiencing.
Seems everywhere I turn that’s the sign I’m getting. God is present with you. Maybe that’s not big enough for some, but for me, knowing it in my heart departmentalizes everything else into sub-levels of living. God was with Adam, with Moses, with David, and with Paul; no matter where they were, He was with them. The simple fact of His being with them brought their purpose and their futures into view. It does the same for us. Knowing that the Kingdom of God is not meat nor drink but Righteousness, and Peace and Joy in the Spirit of God is the first thing of Grace. My Faith is being convinced of something that is not shaken by what goes on around me. And, it’s something that I do not hold on to out of some weakness, but its very nature strengthens me.
Now for those folks that pronounce ‘poor thing’ over me, there is loneliness in that thought. They have to live with that loneliness within their lives that I do not have to bear. My Faith is not a tradition; in fact I’m kind of repelled by traditions. It has been well thought out, it’s an experienced Faith. It’s not fear that drives me. It’s not simply a lack of searching out the truth that causes me to trust in a 6000 year old message. For all the critics, I’m not hanging on to something because I bought into it years ago and just won’t admit that I’ve been wrong. No, I’m holding on because I truly believe, having been convinced of something worth living for, worth carrying to my death.
C.S. Lewis called it a ‘dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal (Father, Son, Spirit) life’ saying that it was to be played out in each one of us. It was a mingling of God the Father, and the Son and the Spirit in our lives. It is not necessary that it be predictable, not necessary that it be as we imagine, it is not obligated to be understood, it is only necessary that we permit it to take place in us: the delight of the Father’s creation, the son’s dying for us and the action of a living Spirit, who has come for us, blended into our lives. The necessary part is the presence of God in our lives. The joy of having found Him, and in doing so, finding something that is bigger, better, more than wonderful to spend our days with. It’s a big picture God, not just of every moment of our lives but for the whole length of our lives. His gift is more than just the sentiment of a Santa’s gift, it’s a gift delivered with great Passion, a gift that came with a huge price and investment on God’s part. It should not be one that we would take for granted, thinking that He might not stay and enforce it. This gift is called an adoption in the Word of God. That’s God’s way of affirming for us that we’re included in Their lives, which means They’re included in ours. It is a mingling of His Life with our life to the point where you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. It’s a daily encounter with the One who imagined a purpose in our lives when we barely can find our way to the store and back. He can be the GPS of our lives and just importantly wants to be a GPS in our lives. Lewis knew that Joy and God were connected, and the one (Joy) did not exist without the other.
Everything we do is God filled. It may not be that we do everything Godly, but God is present and in us, on us, by us, mingling with our very daily lives. Daily, there may not be any burning bushes, no cloud by day and fire by night. He may not be in the wind, in the fire, but He is a small quiet voice for us. He is with us when we understand and He’s with us when we don’t have a clue. He is present in the calamity and in the Peace. We, as believers, should perhaps take no thought for tomorrow but trust in God; we should know He is with us even if there are only 7000 believers that have not bowed the knee to Baal. I have a quote on my desk that stays in front of me always: “Beginning empty handed and alone frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them.”