Archives For doubt

Life is Good.

Chris —  October 3, 2011

Life is Good.

It’s true that life is tough. And when you realize that it’s tough, it gets a little better. It’s hard not to get lost in the darkness. Suffering is immediate rich and important in a way that our small daily joys pale against.

Which is why it is essential to remember that life is good.

As I was leaving the Emmanuel Orphanage in Delhi, Lakshmi, a six year old girl with piercing blue eyes clung to me and cried “Uncle, Uncle!” She, and all those around hre had been abandoned and persecuted their entire young lives, but they still knew how to love deeply, in a way I struggle to remember. Life is good.

I know a guy who begrudgingly gave the keys of his car to a single mom he barely knew for two weeks. They are good friends now.  Life is good.

A friend of mine has often thought that he could ever get a “good girl.” He felt like the only ones interested had different values and would treat him poorly. Then he met a girl, and has been attached to her at the hip ever since. Seeing them together is life seeing something that was always meant to be. Life is good.

Another friend of mine went to a foreign country to work with an NGO. His work was interupted when his teammates were captured, and he had to spend to next few months there negotiating their release.  As heartwrenching as that was, he also sees it as the most important thing he has ever done. He took a furlough to recover, and is returning calmer, closer to God, and more excited about discipleship than ever. Life is good.

I get depressed sometimes. This summer was one of those. In the midst of that, I got a small, unexpected gift that helped shake me out of my myopic viewpoint. Life is good.

The scriptures teach when God created the world he called it good. When he created man, he called man really good. Then, sin wrecked all of that. Twisted and misshapen, like a fun house or a computer photobooth. But when we look behind the brokenness, we get to see that there is a heart wrenching beauty to it all.

The scriptures teach that this is not the way it was meant to be. Life is meant to be good. God has restored, is restoring and eventually will restore in full.

In time, the heartwrench will be over, and all we will see is that Life is Good.

According to one Oxford professor, the Ancient Christian Codices are fakes.  So much for being the greatest archeological discovery of all time.  As fun as it is for us Bible/Archeology geeks to imagine the implications of such discoveries, the fact is, we’re better off without them.

You remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark when he pulls out the picture Bible and explains to the government officials why the power of the Ark of the Covenant?  For a moment, you might think that Indiana Jones is a man of faith.  After all, the believes in the power of this artifact of ancient Yahwehism, but the movie shows us otherwise.  Jones is an adventurer, who we find out, also believes in the pagan powers of Indian witch doctors, the Knights Templar, and (regrettably) bulbous alien crystal skulls.  Jones has good reason to believe in this panoply of supernatural artifacts: he’s seen them, touched them, and used them to defeat his enemies.

This stands in stark contrast to Abraham and his descendants, whose life was based on faith in what he had not seen.  Long after retirement age, he moved his entourage across the continent, because a voice told him he should.  He believed he and his wife would have a son in their mid-nineties.  He believed that even if God called him to sacrifice his son, the child would raise from the dead.  Again and again in the scriptures, it is said of Abraham that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

The problem with an “Indiana Jones” style of faith is that it reduces God to one more ancient magical artifact, no different that bulbous crystal alien skulls.  Having something tangible to grip on to eliminates the need for faith.  This type of faith is limited by ones own ability, or that or the witch doctor or magic talisman.  It is also a tool, to be manipulated by one’s will.

God, on the other hand, is no tool. You cannot manipulate him or force him to do your will.  Where Indy sought power, Abraham was just along for the ride.

It’s kind of sad that the codices were fake.  It would be cool to have ancient extrabiblical proof of the teaching of the resurrection.  However, the fact is that one more piece of proof is just another tool to put our faith in, instead of God.  In the mean time, we’ll have to settle for what we already had (the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2:5-11, among other things) and the promise of Jesus “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

A small book, made of lead pages the size of credit cards may be the biggest archeological discovery since the Dead Sea Scrolls.  According to researchers, the books were found in an area of Jordan thought to be home to Jewish Christian who fled the fall of Jerusalem in 70 BC.

The researchers are quoted as saying:

‘As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck,’ he said. ‘That struck me as so obviously a Christian image. There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city.

‘There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem. It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls.’

One fascinating element, that seems to be overlooked by researchers, is what this tells us about what early Christians actually believed.  Popular skeptics like to argue that Jesus was just a teacher, whose legend grew, and was codified centuries later.  However, if the books are authentic, it means that there is concrete evidence of the teaching that Jesus was divine, was crucified and raised from the dead.

I Finally Met Henri Nouwen

Chris —  March 30, 2011

I’m not sure how I’ve gotten this far in life without having read the works of Henri Nouwen. Now that I’ve finished Spiritual Direction I have high hopes of devouring much more of his wisdom.

Nouwen (1932-1996) is what you’d call a “pastor’s pastor.”  He served as a Catholic priest, a teacher at Harvard and Yale, and most notably, as a caretaker for those with severe handicaps in a L’Arche community.  Despite his considerable success Nouwen struggled his entire life with a true sense of vocation, sexuality and depression.  He is most known for books like Wounded Healer, and his focus on the scriptural image of the Prodigal son.

Spiritual Direction is a collection of essays, speeches and notes published posthumously.  They deal with the deep questions that must be answered in order to listen to and follow God’s call.  Along the way, he shares about his own struggles.  Probably the most powerful are his thoughts on the “spirituality of the body,” where he shares about his struggle to commit to God amidst questions of vocation, aging and sexuality.

It’s hard to capture why it’s important to read Nouwen, so I’ll leave it with this quote:

“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to Love God.  I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life…and avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself.  I have failed many times, but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me.  The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by God?”

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.