As you might be aware, I started this blog as a way to help me get my act together. Part of getting my act together included writing both here and in other places but part of it was also to develop a habit of setting apart some of the day to just have God and me time. It’s funny how hard that actually can be, but the more you do it the more you enjoy it.
This morning, however, I was in for a shock. I pulled out my guide, settled in with my breakfast and opened it up. I realize now that I misread the words at the top of the page, but in a bleary, first-thing-in-the-morning haze I looked down at the page and took a double take at the words on the top of the page. “Welcome to Hell” it said (or seemed to). With my experiences in the recent past, my first reaction was, “Thanks but I believe I have been a citizen for a bit now.” I proceeded to skim the rest of the page, figuring that this would be one of those mornings where you do it just to check it off of your list and move on with the day. Funny, though, I might have been ready to leave my coffee talk with God but God wasn’t done with me.
It was as though he said, “Hell? Really, mate? (Yes, God tends to speak like a Brit to me. It’s more posh, plus I watch a large amount of BBC America) Yeah, it’s seemed dark recently to you, but hasn’t it gotten a bit lighter of late? Did you forget that there might be an opportunity on the horizon? More importantly, hell is lonesome and didn’t you realize you weren’t alone in all of this. Yeah, I might just have pushed you to some minor crashes around some key people. Wake up, man!”
And, properly smacked in the back of the head by the hand that created the world, I smiled a bit. I started going over in my head the verses about friends and the stories about friends. David and Jonathan, best bros ’til the end. Paul and Silas, missionary duo par excellence. True, there are the spectacularly bad friends there as well. Job’s friends meant well, God bless ’em, but were utter rot (sorry, BBC is on in the background). Jesus’ pack all decided to take a nap and ran away when he needed them most.
That, thankfully, has not been my experience. I have found myself surrounded by loving, encouraging friends. You’ve let me ramble like so much verbal diarrhea, seen me cry (often when I didn’t even suspect it), comforted me, encouraged me, and reminded me that this is all part of the process. You all know who you are and I can’t say thank you enough. I’m in debt to you all and I am happy to count you as friends. You have made experiencing a dark night of the soul not as dark and a good bit shorter.
Today during Sunday school, my brain started off on its own track. Now this in itself is nothing unusual. When you’re borderline ADHD an hour long class tends to be more than what my little brain can handle. I drift in and out picking up extra bits so that I can keep up with whatever is going on along with still running on my own related channel.
Today we tackled a tough section of 1 Peter. A large portion of the class was devoted to what exactly the section meant and how it applies to our Christian walk (the typical Sunday school stuff). My brain, however, was more along this line:
“Hmm, honestly, I think Peter could have written this a little less confusingly. It’s confusing even in the Greek. You know, this just goes to show that, while he was a great spiritual leader, this guy really was a fisherman at heart. Peter’s great. Blue collar guy. One of the boys. I think he may have been a bit ADHD. Always jumped the gun. Passionate. Probably could have phrased things better at times. I’ve always related a good bit with him. Definitely not a Paul. Paul was a bit anal retentive, I feel. I’ve never liked reading Paul all that much. He’s too cyclical. Man, I just wish he’d get to the point. I’ve known my share of Pauls. Known my share of Peters too. You know, I bet if Peter were alive today, he and Martin Luther would get along. Granted Martin Luther would have to be alive today too. I bet they would approach their everyday theologizing the same way – around the table with a few guys and a few more brewskis. Paul’s much more likely to be corkmaster of a wine club somewhere. It’s cool that God does that sort of thing though. Using the beer drinkers and the vinophiles. Did I just make up that word? How many folks would be shocked that I was comparing the theoretical drinking habits of the apostles in a baptist church? Where was I? Oh yeah…”
I’ll save you the rest. I do agree with myself though, shocking though that may be. I am constantly amazed at what God can do with the poor slobs he chooses to use. It really does take all kinds, for as many different uses. It gives me hope that there is a special group and a special ministry for me. Peter couldn’t reach the same people that Paul did. Paul’s crowd would have had Emerson, their steward, tell Peter that he needed to use the servants’ entrance. Peter’s folks would have probably been making faces behind Paul’s back. Still, both Peter and Paul were willing to let God use them in the way he wanted and to the people who would receive them. So, I’m willing. I know that I can’t go toe to toe with the apostles but thankfully God used a lot more folks than just 12 guys to get his message out there.
So, one of my favorite authors recently posted a question that I’ve been pondering for the past few days: Will there ever be a time when we will lack free will?
Free will is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It allows us to actually love him. True, the world could potentially be perfect if there wasn’t the pesky little problem of people choosing to do wrong. The problem with that would be that the entirety of humanity would be reduced to slightly glorified automatons and love that you are forced to express isn’t really love. Is it?
So, we definitely have free will now, but forever? After we enter eternity, there is supposed to be an absence of sin, of tears, and sadness. Life, as we’ll know it, will be perfect. How, though? If God leaves us with free will, wouldn’t that open the door to eventually at sometime someone choosing evil? That wouldn’t very well be Perfection. It would be a constant state of Perfection-on-the-brink-of-destruction. Which honestly is too wordy to exist in. Still, if in order to ensure perfection, God removes free-will would we then just be glorious puppets for the rest of eternity? Would that be Heaven? It gives me images of floating on a cloud with a slaw-jaw drooling grin that lobotomy patients can have.
How does it all work out? I don’t know if we’ll know the answer this side of Forever. As far as we know, God could just meet us at the Pearly Gates with some metaphysical ray gun and blast us on some sub-atomic level altering us forever from the desire to do evil, while yet retaining the power of choice.
Too big for me to comprehend, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like poking at it.
I’m going to just go ahead and say it. I hate running. Actually, most things that could be called exercise fall into the hate category. Don’t give me the whole “Hate is a pretty strong word. We shouldn’t hate” kick. I know hate and this is the closest equivalent word in the English language to how I feel about running. I’m sure the Germans have a really great word for my exact feeling, but I’m sure it’s too guttural, has about 37 umlauts, and would take up an entire line. English will have to do.
Back to running. I tend to only run when not doing so would mean a drastic shortening of my life span. Still, on occasion, I suffer from severe lapses in judgement. A wonderful example would be when I decided that for once in my life, I would healthy. I would take control of my destiny. I (feel free to insert inspirational music in the background here) would become a runner. Most of this completely uncharacteristic desire came from the encouragement of a good friend of mine. He ran, enjoyed it, and I felt that perhaps if I joined him on this endeavor, I too could become a better person.
On the morning I was supposed to begin my transformation from a gelatinous mass into a fit human being, I rose early with the knowledge that one does not simply wake up a great runner. One has to work up to that. I was content to be a moderately untalented runner in the beginning. I was going to run for a half a mile. Off I went, with a happy heart, some beat up shoes and a pocketful of miracles. There was a hole in my pocket. Say what you will about my physical state, but as I rounded the 1/4 mile mark, my body rebelled.
It was as if my body finally snapped back into sanity. “What are you doing with me? You know we don’t like running. We had this discussion back in 8th grade. This isn’t fun. All right. Fine. If you’re going to do something I don’t like, I can turn that around. I seem to recall your forgetting to stretch. How about a few cramps?” My muscles suddenly developed the amazing mutant ability to snap into a million knots. My stomach, in protest to not being fed anything before this little jaunt, decided that the nearest front yard was the perfect place to empty what little contents it had…repeatedly. I actually lost the ability to see and my heart apparently relocated to my ears. I managed to make it home. I also managed to stick out running for a week; actually getting to about a mile and a half. Strangely, my body stopped trying to kill me. My running career ended, however, when I went for a run with my friend. I still wasn’t ready to go with the big dogs. A bit over three miles was more than my body could handle and, after an experience similar to my first day, I hung up my running shoes, probably for good.
My particular place in life right now feels very similar to my first day of running. I know what I’m going through is for my own good. Somehow it all has meaning, but at the moment, I feel a bit like retching. I’m stressed, confused, discontent. I feel guilty for being discontent. I can’t help but wonder if I’m holding off because its what God wants or because I’m too scared to step out. I’m in some sort of training, and I know if I keep pushing through I’ll make it but, good Lord, I swear I’m going to die on someone’s front lawn before I get through. I know that the Bible promises to rise up on wings like eagles but right now, I think I’ll curl up in the corner of one of the pits Psalms mentions…or lift my eyes up to the hills. Help is supposed to come from that general direction.