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A happy paradox

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God loves us in our insufficiency, and that makes us sufficient.

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Written by jazzslider

July 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

Posted in Religion

Dusting

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The strange thing about dusting is that it never looks all that necessary until after you’ve started. The other day Jamie and I discovered this when we decided to clean up a bit in our living room. When there’s a thin layer of dust all over everything in the room, you don’t notice it as much. But when you dust off even one shelf, table or picture frame, all the rest of the dust in the room becomes immediately apparent. It’s like transforming an entire room into an abandoned warehouse with a single spritz of Windex. Of course, it was kind of like an abandoned warehouse to begin with; it’s just that it was hard to see the problem.

There’s a somewhat frustrating spiritual object lesson here. Following Jesus often necessitates facing down failings and weaknesses in ourselves which we’ve always just sort of ignored. It’s not that frustrating at first, because most of us seem to get the opportunity to start small; a sin here, a weakness there, the rest unnoticed. But when one or two of our habitual sins get wiped up, the rest of our soul starts to look exponentially dirtier. Get all the petty theft out of the way and you start to see the covetousness; get all the murder out of the way and you start to see the anger; start trying to do scary things you were never even willing to try before, and suddenly the cowardice and faithlessness that were inconspicuously there all along become far more apparent. Just like with the dust, the problem isn’t usually that we’ve got more problems than we started with; it’s that it’s easier to see the problems we always had in light of what Jesus has cleaned up.

I suppose that’s another interesting paradox…you never really know what your problem is until someone else comes along and fixes part of it. I’m referring in particular to Jesus, since He’s the only one who can really deal with our problems; but other close friends can help a bit as well. Especially the ones that aren’t impressed by us.

Of course it’s easier to run away from that, but the problem is that if nobody ever gets at least close enough to you to show you your faults, you never really get to see who you actually are.

Written by jazzslider

May 18, 2006 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Religion

Tagged with , , ,

To whom shall we go?

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I’m living a very different life these days than I’ve ever yet lived. A year ago I was a mildly disillusioned college student whose girlfriend had recently started wearing his academic scholarship on her ring finger. I lived with five other guys in a house that could only be called “The Mansion” on account of its extreme un-mansionliness. I remember struggling a fair bit with the things I was learning in my philosophy classes; my faith took a bit of a beating in there and although it came out alive, I can’t say I was always happy about it.

Things are still difficult at times, but for wildly different reasons. These days I’m a freshly married, usually clean-shaven college graduate doing temporary jobs that have nothing to do with his degree just for the simple fact that, without such work, my family will go into financial struggles. I suppose most people wouldn’t be shocked about that kind of circumstance, but that scholarship my wife is wearing spoiled me more than I realized.

Following Jesus in all this is a complicated deal; all my old spiritual habits have short-circuited for the worse, and there have been times over the past few months that I’ve found myself not particularly wanting His company. It doesn’t make much sense that things would get that way, but the human condition is such that it happens pretty much all the time. We’ve got to be pretty messed up to want anything other than the God who, a couple thousand years ago tonight, was betrayed with a kiss unto the sacrifice that saved all of us ingrates.

You know what’s funny, though? This kind of thing is all over the Bible, and I’m not sure I ever caught it before these last few months. In John 6, Jesus says a bunch of really difficult things about His intended sacrifice, and lots of His devoted followers just flat jumped ship. So He turns to His disciples and asks them if they want to go too. You know what Peter says? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Lord, to whom shall we go… It’s almost like he wanted to leave too but he knew full well that there isn’t anything better.

Or David, in the 139th Psalm…

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light become night around me,”
Even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.”

It doesn’t make much sense that we should want to flee Him; He is our only strength, our only support, the reason we exist. He loves us immeasurably more than we can possibly imagine, and yet we flee Him! Both David and Peter knew full well the emptiness of life outside the Lord, and yet there it is, bold and hideous, that same desire to flee that I too often feel in the midst of everything that’s difficult about life. Why do we so often desire emptiness over fulness, strife over healing, bitter resentment over the infinite love of the Almighty?

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Eternal life as described in the Bible isn’t a future state; it’s not what starts when we die, it’s what starts when we believe. Cf. John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” Jesus has the words of knowing God, the words that bring us to the life we were created for, the words that heal our brokenness and revive our dying, empty souls. Peter and David, though both possibly frustrated by the inescapability of God (given the latter’s often-difficult ways of bringing us to the abundant life He has for us), both also knew how ludicrous it was to even want to flee Him.

This, to me, is fast becoming the most intriguing paradox of the Christian life.

Written by jazzslider

April 14, 2006 at 2:14 am

Problem Solved

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Adam, after several years of philosophical training: “Can God make a rock so big that even He can’t lift it?”

Jamie, after several months of teaching high school English: “Do you really think God is that stupid?”

Written by jazzslider

March 30, 2006 at 10:47 pm