Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Light to those in darkness...

This weekend I was able to spend some time with my family. It is so hard to only be with them for a weekend, but it was so good to truly find some rest with them, in the midst of the chaos that they often feel. Just sitting on our deck at 6 30 AM with my mom and coffee was so relaxing for me. And I kept telling Jake, as he was frustrated by back pain and the fact that he couldn't do more to hang out with me, that I had been watching him lie in a coma for 3 months. He has made huge strides since then. Now I am sitting in my dorm room chugging coffee as my roommate sleeps.

My dad's last blog was about the trials... what they develop, what comes out of it. That passage from James 1 does still not give us the "why," though. I do not think we can ever expect to know the why. For whatever reason, we simply live in a world where darkness and pain and evil are integral parts. I am still wrestling with the why, however, when I fee like God is simply adding pain on top of pain, and so on. Why would he allow more?

I have been reading some interesting stuff on post-modern philosophy. It is fascinating to me how, over the last few decades, thinkers have been able to come to a place where they can talk about religion again, after coming out of a tradition where "God is dead," and where faiths seemed so harmful to humanity. In fact, some thinkers retain this tradition, but go on to discuss how Christianity is in fact unique because it focuses not on pious religiosity, but on what is termed "desacralization." This is directly modeled from a serious understanding of what the Incarnation means. The transcendent God became manifestly human, and not only that but died as a human, and not only that but died in all sin as a human. The sacral God de-elevated himself for us. (Out of this, different philosophers go in different directions. But the point is to model the way we conduct ourselves as believers after the Incarnation - to spread the Kingdom to the worldly, to find redemption in the broken, to incarnate ourselves in other people's "lowly" lives).

I say all this because I think it is essential to understand the love that the Father has for us, and how in fact suffering is an idea that is essential to wrestle with if we consider ourselves to have faith. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 1, Zechariah, an old man who had been waiting to see Messiah, sings a beautiful song which says this at the end:

"...because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Christ offered himself to be in our brokenness, to give us meaning in suffering, to show that suffering was actually the new way of heaven, a cathartic process for his kingdom to come, a way that hurts but is full of love, compassion, and tenderness.
It is in brokenness that space for the Spirit is made. But how does this work? The Spirit is not a band-aid that makes everything better. Not a solution to emptiness. I have had my fill of Christians who tell you that if you feel empty to just fill yourself up with Jesus and you'll feel better. What does this even mean? The Spirit is more like a friend in the midst of deep wounds, a companion while we feel empty. Maybe the Spirit is literally manifested through the things of this world. A friend who spends time with you could be being the Spirit to you. (I think that the spiritual and physical are not as distinct as we often think!)

The Spirit is present whenever someone is able to envision the Kingdom, to see how things are meant to be, and to seek that renewal.

I do not say all this as an answer to pain. I simply want to depict for you how our God has proven to want to be with us in that pain. If we try to theologically figure it out, we run into a transcendent, un-knowable Deity of the universe, who can do all things and knows all things and yet sits idly by as he watches his precious creation suffer. But this is not the God we believe in. We believe in the God who quite literally took our suffering upon himself, by becoming one of us, by throwing himself down into the deepest pit of despair, to show us that he loves us and to offer a hope of restoration. Christ's existence, death and resurrection in this world continually grants a fresh vision, hopeful existence, meaningful incarnation to a world wrapped in darkness. All people can breathe new life, live and breathe the incarnated word, as they continue to feel cast down and broken. But the hope that Christ offered is that we are not alone in our suffering. We are in fact loved and cared for in the midst of it, because we are existing with the Spirit of the one who entered the deepest, darkest suffering and brokenness. Christ died forsaken by God. What a paradox. That the transcendent God of the universe threw himself down into the pit of despair in human form.

Remember the pit of despair in "The Princess Bride?"

Rob (Jake's brother)


Sharon Shenk said...

I LOVE your sense of humor!
AKA another one of the "Prince's Brides"
AKA another part of the "Bride of Christ"

Sharon Shenk said...

I was reading a blog by Jason Salamun and it reminded me of you, Rob. You might like to share thoughts with him:

"May we have eyes to see the gospel in all things.
Each Christmas we celebrate the incarnation. When God broke into human history and left heaven for the messiness of earth.

When we Christians become escapists from culture and divide everything by what’s good and bad, we forget the incarnation. We forget that he set an example of what we are to do. We forget the words of Jesus in John 17:15 when he prayed, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Jesus entered our story in order to change the story. He has called us, his people, to do the same. How will anyone know what’s good news if we refuse to engage a world full of bad news? Our call is to be shaped by the gospel and then shape our culture with it.

In the everyday, we can see examples of the incarnation.
The friend who sits beside her friend in a waiting room while she awaits word on if the tumor is cancerous.
The big brother who plays toys with his baby sister in her room.
The church who throws a block party at a trailer park full of kids who are often forgotten.
The dad who could easily stay late at the office but chooses to be at home with his children instead.
The teacher who could teach in a cushy private school but instead teaches in the troubled public school.

If you want to change a story you must enter it first. This is what Christ did by stepping into human history to redeem it and what we do by stepping into the stories around us."