Saturday, November 09, 2019

You Can't Give What You Don't Have

"[X] is very damaging to the witness of the church." Put anything in there you like. It could either be true, or it might be false. I know what's even more damaging: not being in the Church. This is the thing that drives me crazy about a statement like this from an evangelical: the referent "church" is empty; the speaker knows what she means. Perhaps some of the hearers think they know. The reality, however, is that there is nothing visible to which "church" actually refers.

At a practical level, imagine your exhaustion at having to answer for every single person who claims the name of Christ. Imagine believing that major questions of ethics--even dogma--were matters of liberty! And then, gentle reader, do you dare wonder why religious non-affiliation is on the rise? When people get tired of searching for truth, sometimes they give up.

Frankly, without a way to know that any one thing is supernaturally revealed,--or a matter of morals connected to it--it's at once fruitless and manipulative to say, "We can't just play church; we gotta be the church!" How will you know when you've succeeded?

The door is open.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Restore To Me The Joy

I think that one of the things that happens when things are going well is that we become overconfident. No wonder there are so many "influencers" about! If you've got money, and something to say, a platform is nearly inevitable. In the end, it won't matter if what you say is true; someone will give you money and affirmation, even if you should be washing your own face, instead of telling people to wash theirs.

I lost a certain clarity to my life, or at least the shape of what I thought it would be. I wasn't prepared for how invested I was in the certain shape of a dream. Maybe I'm trying to say that I've been an idolater, though it didn't seem that way at the time.

It's easy to take joy in the pleasures of life when the blessings seem to rain down. You can talk a great game about understanding how fleeting it all is, too. How easy it is to even extol my alleged single-minded devotion to God!

Then a true cross comes.

True suffering that can't be dismissed or denied enters in; you lose your balance, as any reasonable person would. Maybe you even wonder if your life is even worth living. Even to an extent that would scare your loved ones and friends.

"My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?" Abandoned. There is no one singing your praises now. Maybe I even begin to think that anyone who ever had was lying. Maybe I am a fraud. Maybe I always was. If you get here, oddly enough, you're in good company.

Jesus is waiting right in this place. It doesn't make sense, and yet it makes every sense. If I think no one understands me, or loves me, I'm factually incorrect. And this Jesus intuitively understands this dark place. There was nothing theoretical about that for him.

It's truly unexpected to find that Jesus wants to be with me. He wants me here. And it's not some grudging dictate from the Father; he knows me in every moment, and it cheers him that I am with him.

I may have no joy as I'd thought of it before; the pleasures of a day may seem drab and false. I know that smiling or laughing now has this quality of belonging to someone else. I do know that suffering has become a door. I anticipate that goodness and true joy awaits on the other side, but truthfully, I can't see that far.

Any place without Jesus is a void; any place with Him is a paradise. I'm no less misunderstood or wounded, or even angry, as I walk through the valley alone. But with Jesus, there is some part of me that is not confused or lost; I know my purpose. My purpose is to go wherever Jesus goes. We go together. When we finish the journey, loss will be gain. I believe it, and so I go.