Posts Tagged ‘faith’

“Lazarus, come out!”—John 11:43

Seventeen years ago today, I lay dead in a ditch.

A motor vehicle accident splintered my body, and the injuries were ones of the fatal variety. A sloppily broken neck, a cracked-wide-open pelvis, and a jigsaw-puzzled sacrum were the worst. For a time along that western North Dakota interstate, I was gone. Dead. Not only surrounded by the light and an unearthly, warming peace, I was in them, an actual part them. (Awesome experience. I’ll share it with you if you ever care to hear the story.) What awaits us is beyond our most vivid imagination, yet it was not my time to stay. There is more for me to experience and witness in this existence. One day at a time.

Contained in this journey of 17 years is the fullness of human life, traversing every mountain, valley, and plain the world holds for us. There were months of rehabilitation, and physical therapy that continues. The chronic pain is sometimes debilitating, most often manageable. I make some physical strides and areas of progress, only to find more losses of abilities which must be faced with courage and determination.

This pathway led me through emotional struggles, spiritual crises, hope, despair, joy, sorrow, and the grief of wondering about all I’ve lost and what my life would be like if my body were whole. Through this time, I’ve battled alcoholism, (years of opioid pain medications turned out to be more of a curse than a cure), and through it I have discovered the real and best version of me has always been in there, longing to come forth.

With many trials and challenges I can honestly say this: My life today, 17 years after tragic injuries, knows a better existence than ever before.

Given our human inclination to turn the world in our favor, it is tempting to exclaim, “Look what I did! See what I overcame! Please take note of my courage and strength and honor!” Tempting, yes, but here’s the bold truth:

It’s not about me.

All the triumphs in my life, all of what we flippantly name ‘successes’, have as their source a Merciful and Loving God. It is not my strength or power or courage that gets me out of bed every morning. It is a trust in God, who empowers those attributes in humanity. When we fail, as we are broken, and in the moments we try to fool ourselves our way is better, God remains true, holds us, and beckons us to the Divine Way and Love set before us.

Now, our world is in a state none of us has ever known. Trudging through a host of challenges, one could also succumb to the pitfall of laughing in the face of COVID-19. Such an attitude is neither advisable nor wise. To trust we are held in Divine and Loving Arms means to have the faith to grab on to God’s power and strength and wisdom, so that we may be wise in the face of what may kill us all.

May we move forward in faith, and may we all do our part in this struggle.

It’s not about me. Or you. It’s about a Gracious God.

It’s about us.

One of my favorite movies in recent years is “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, and adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, set in rural depression era South. In fact, it’s led me to re-read “The Odyssey” and enter once again into this classic tale. The main character in the movie is one of three escaped convicts, who travel back to his home in search of treasure.

As in Homer’s epic, these characters have a host of lively encounters and danger filled adventures throughout their travels. The main character, (taking the role of Odysseus) says repeatedly throughout the quest, “Everybody’s looking for answers!” The phrase becomes quite the mantra in the journey.

Everybody’s looking for answers…in some way or fashion. The zaniness of this movie reminded me of that simple fact; we don’t know everything, and we’d like to understand more than we do. It is part of human nature.

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”—Hebrews 1:1-4

The writer of Hebrews gives us a reminder of how God spoke in the past, how God speaks now, and how we might expect God to speak to us in the future. Now that the Son has delivered the ultimate answer of our salvation, we trust that his Holy Spirit will continue to reveal this word of grace and mercy until the end of this earth.

I suppose it’s true—everybody’s looking for answers. The best one I’ve heard is that “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being…had made purification for sins.” The News is just that Good.

Ferris Buehler stated, “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it.” Ferris is right, even if he is a fictional character. Life is too fast, and we need to slow down and absorb our surroundings. We are trained and conditioned to instant pleasure, satisfaction and gratification, and all to seldom do we take the time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, let alone dig into the more important parts of existence. Fast food, fast cars, fast love…we want what we want and we want it right now.  This gives me concern for “fast faith.” If this is how we want our faith, we must be prepared for what we get.

Hence, back to “The Bible, part 2”, History Channel’s mini-series. It was about what I expected. As I wrote last week, I greatly anticipated this series as I am a fan of visualizing the stories and seeing them come to life. I’m still disturbed. Each story we’ve witnessed thus far portrays the character’s as somewhat troubled, yet they come up light when reviewing their faults and shortcomings. Even more so, beginning with the portrayal of Abraham, we discover they are blessed because of their faithfulness. In other words, this series would have us believe that the more faithful we are, the more God will bless us. Sounds good, but it is oh. So. Wrong. Indeed, when we read through the fantastic and sometimes confusing biblical narrative, we’ll discover this perspective to be quite the opposite. Bass-ackwards, in fact.

Some difficulties from last evenings chapter in the saga–there were too many troubling puzzle pieces, but I’ll offer these; A full half-hour on Samson? Seriously?! Sure, we need to gain some perspective on the period of the Judges, but a full quarter of last night’s installment? Then we move to the tale of David, which is of course so very rich and colorful, yet I’m irked at some blatant omissions. The Robin-Hood-type display with David on the run from a loathsome King Saul was wonderful, yet we continually find David with Uriah at his right hand. Where did they get this? Not even close. The only reason the show’s makers must have written this in is to heighten the well-known story of David’s adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Which of course, is horrible. Yet, David’s myriad other sins are conveniently omitted.

Here’s a list:

Number One) We gain insight into David’s marriage to Saul’s daughter, Michal. What we don’t see is David locking her in the palace, to ensure she never has a child, who would then have a claim to Saul’s lineage.

Number Two) Saul’s next son, Ishbaal, (or Ishbosheth), claims his father’s throne for the northern tribes. He is assassinated by David’s men. David then executes the assassins, hangs their bodies outside Hebron and cuts off their hands and feet. The message to the northern tribes is this, “Look what I did to the those who killed the king’s son. I brought justice!” The result is that the northern tribes take David as king. He’s shrewd, yes, but let us not diminish or white-wash his brutality.

Number Three) The taking of Jerusalem is a marvelous story, one in which we again find a very brutal, vain and bloodthirsty David. They do indeed enter the city through the watershaft, (sewer), but not before the city’s inhabitants taunt him, screaming they could defeat David even if their army consisted on the blind and lame. It’s a scene reminiscent of the French taunting King Arthur in Monty Python, “Holy Grail”. At David’s command, his forces slaughter the blind and lame as a message to his detractors, “Don’t mess with me”. When Solomon builds the Temple it is law that the blind and lame are not allowed in the Temple, a long-standing reminder of David’s hubris and cruelty. No mention of this at all in History’s showing.

Number Four) Saul’s son Jonathan has a lame son named Mephibosheth, whom David takes in to his own home. Now, this sounds altruistic at first blush. Be not fooled. The young man has a claim to Saul’s throne, and is therefore a threat to David. Our new king can now once again make certain that Saul’s line will die into legend.

There is much more to come, but we’ll see what next week’s installment brings.

All this brings me to my thoughts about “fast faith”. There is cause to wonder how many of “The Bible’s” millions of viewers will take this as the story of the Bible. After all, it takes months, years maybe, to read the biblical narrative in its entirety. Why not get the whole thing in ten hours or so of very entertaining television? Not to mention the very sanitized picture of these biblical characters, and their faith that appears supersized and greater than normal. This places us in the position of figuring that we either can’t measure up to the folks in the Bible, or we’ll only gain God’s favor by what we do. This gives me the same feeling I get about a half an hour after eating fast food. Ick.

Oh, I’ll keep watching. I love the cinematography, the images, the stories and the wonder of our spiritual ancestors. Just don’t wrap it in styrofoam and put it in a paper bag.