Wow! Sorry for the heat in that last post. I feel as though I am obligated to write something super encouraging this time around.
The only thing I've really got is this, though:
God's love is sufficient.
You don't even have to say for this or for that. It's just sufficient.
And I swear I have the hardest time believing it out of everyone, but I hope that I'll be able to bank on it when everything goes down.
Sorry that isn't much, but it is a beautiful truth.
I'm apologizing in advance for this rant.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
This verse makes me sick. It really does. Sorry (and I really am sorry if you like this verse. You can. It doesn't hurt my feelings).
It makes me vomit because of how people use it like some theological band-aid for very real, human problems.
So you are sick and dying and you haven't got a job and everything you want is out of reach. Let me help you with that: God knows his plans for you. Thanks.
I would probably punch someone in the face if I was really struggling and someone tried to apply this remedy to a loss I have had.
I have to believe that my faith is applicable and relevant. I've wasted too much time to believe otherwise. And I also believe that throwing this verse on the fire of sin and suffering is like offering candy to a starving man when you have milk and bread in your backpack. You might kill him, because he might hope for all the wrong things.
Because a lot of people place the word "prosper" squarely in their terms and forget that God's view of the word may only mean eventual salvation. Should he bless me while I am here, praise him. If not, may I be as faithful as Paul to admit that grace is sufficient.
Sometimes, Lazarus is meant to die, and that was still God's plan even if you were not on the same page.
I can't believe I haven't written about love yet! That's really strange to me, because it's summertime now, and everyone is walking around in the heat like they are going to fall in love tomorrow. Not only that, but I really enjoy music, and I think 75% of all songs ever have to do with love. That just seems to be what people are looking for, you know?
I feel as though I have no mandate to talk about love, but I'm going to anyway. I haven't had much luck with love, you see. I remember when the only girl I've ever dated in my short life walked out on me because I didn't use the word, among other things. She told me I had run out of time to tell her I loved her, so that was it. I was really sad, but I'm alright now; that was a while ago.
I remember when she said this that I asked her what love was, and she couldn't tell me. I did not think it was fair for her to demand my love when she didn't know what it was.
Which led me to think about what love means for a long, long time.
I'm choking on cliches, but I have found myself completely unable to define love outside of God. Or, at the very least, love in its purest form is exemplified by him.
Because after thinking, the best definition I have come up with is this: Love is when you have been with someone long enough to know who they really are, with all of their crud and after passion has faded, and decide that their innate worth is priceless even with these faults.
And the only way I know this is because it's how God figures with us.
I've been having these dreams lately. Or really, they are probably fears.
I'm imagining that I am old and grey, and possibly dying, and I am regretting not living for myself.
Not that I am a selfless person now, but that there is an endless duel between serving self and serving others. It is wearing me out, in all honesty. I would like to acquiesce to every desire of the flesh sometimes, not even for the sake of slaking of my selfish drives but so that there is no internal conflict within my tired heart.
It all reminds me of an old Ray Bradbury tale in which all of the men on a spacecraft are cast out into space and left to die.
I gripped the leather harness. It was an object of comfort, really: consistent, steady, true. It had been misted with the Great Mediterranean Sea in the West and and further East than the Jordan. Aram had gotten to the point were he did not mind it, even though it signified a journey must be undertaken. He shook slightly to settle the harness along his muscled back.
The steady harness was unlike this Yahweh: irrational, foreign, anything but consistent. He was full of promise one moment, and pronouncing judgments the next.
The sun was now just starting to rise. I could feel its warmth, but my heart was pumping cool blood through my veins, and I was weak as though I had been telling lies. "It isn't far, Aram," I said as I rubbed behind his ears.
The donkey made a little sputtering noise as if to say It isn't me who's worried about this.
We set out an hour later, and we had passed the road to Shechem by midday.
Kenan had come with us. He had tried to show me the lambs that were young and unblemished, and I could see the confusion on his face when I told him we wouldn't need them. But that was the thing about Kenan: soon after, he nodded and questioned me no further. And as we walked along these dusty roads he did not let my apparent lack of preparation trouble him. I surely love this servant; he is like a son to me. I do not think it was by chance that he had finished his weekly duties early and was therefore ready to accompany myself and Issac.
The land began to roll about, as though to prepare us for that terrible mount ahead.
I don't suppose Kenan understood his role in this story, because I never told him. And perhaps I am making more of it. I may have gone through with these plans anyway had Jared or Shem come along. Surely, though, Kenan helped enable myself to perform such a confusing deed. Kenan understood my authority, and did not question it, although oftentimes (and I readily admit) I lack the foresight or wisdom to make prudent decisions. I cannot suppose that he figures I have some master plan. I am not sure why he trusts so much, truthfully.
But it was his example that propped up some spark of desperate faith to continue on.
We had reached Moriah. "Kenan, wait here." He nodded, and sat facing away from the sun, literally at the foot of the mountain. Aram sputtered again, punctuating the ensuing silence.
Issac was clearly vexed at this point. But he followed me up the trail. It was worn, strangely, as though many had recently passed through. But we had seen no one on our journey.
Issac blurted "Where is the lamb?"
My heart thundered, and my head screamed do not hesitate. So I allowed myself only a moment to think. "Yahweh will provide it himself." I choked on the "provide" just like those times when your mouth and lungs are ready to speak but your tongue thinks you are swallowing and the words get hung up.
Issac stopped walking. I turned around to look at him. I wanted to apologize, but instead I thought of Kenan, and of promises, and of stars in the sky and sand by the seas, and I spun him around and bound his wrists behind him. He had gone completely limp. I do not understand. I cannot fathom how this is being asked of me to be faithful. But perhaps there is some plan.
I hardly remember the next few minutes. But I will never forget when I drew the blade and how the sun glinted in my eyes. I remember the nerve endings firing and my heart protesting my actions. It is funny how the head does not ask the heart for permission to proceed in these testing times (though one can certainly defer control to it). And I remember that short circuit, as though the synapses shrunk away from each other to halt time.
The Malachim stopped me, for those who do not know the story. And really, Issac and myself are the only ones that know it, because everyone else knows the story with the resolve guaranteed. Issac doesn't die. Period. Issac is right here, with us. What a lovely story. But I was really going to kill him. By some shred of faith I was going to give up my world. Issac knows also, and he has barely an ounce of faith but what I have passed on to him.
We settled in Beersheba for the night. Issac was completely silent. Kenan, bless him, remained his normal self, even though he surely knew that something significant had transpired. He is like a child full of faith, confused at what his eyes are showing him but still believing in eventual resolution.
They are both asleep now. I, however, have found it impossible to rest. My hands are still trembling. It is so hard for me to believe that Issac was asked of me, and harder still that I was willing to offer him. It is only possible, I think, because I believe in this Yahweh's authority. It is so difficult, but I offer all to Him. Surely he is more just to me than I am to Kenan, and his promises are better than what I can see with my own eyes.
I had the opportunity to feed some children who had no food at an extended stay down the road from my church. Without school lunches, a lot of kids in this part of town have no food to eat during the Georgia summers.
As I handed out the food, they all said "thank you" to me. I wasn't doing anything, really, for these little ones who had nothing to eat. I am like a rich man postponing my selfish festivities for a moment. I wonder what it would take for me to give at or above my means, instead of out of excess.
hate will get you every time
hate will get you every time
It is a boring afternoon, and at a friend's suggestion I sat down to read The Samson Syndrome. I should say that the book itself was not recommended by my friend, but the rather the noble activity of reading.
I had my doubts when I read the blurb on the cover: "What you can learn from the baddest boy in the Bible." From this statement, I hoped that the author might give some profound revelation as to why Samson behaved in the particular manner that he did (that is, driven by lust and prone to rule breaking), but he offers very little besides citing "testosterone flare-up[s]" or that the ten commandments turned out to be too restrictive for larger than life Mr. Samson. How insightful.
He gives a whole big list of failures, included pushing boundaries and ignoring good advice. I remained more interested in the psyche of these "strong men," but that was all he said. Strong men are simply prone to make these mistakes, and he never explains any of the tendencies but just assumes his statements to be true.
I grew very tired of the author's authoritative generalizations that strong men tend to blah blah blah without saying why. I skipped through the later chapters, but no insights were to be given.
I don't actually know anyone like this Samson character, to be honest.
He wasn't strong; no, he was inhuman. He was larger than life.
So, I decided that I this book wasn't worth completing not only because the author only talked about the behaviors and not the mindset, but because I am not interested in Samson. He's kind of like an animal, a brute of a machine. I don't care too much for him.
In all honesty, I would rather read about some Shakespearian tragic hero of the Bible. Someone who is virtuous but has the potential to commit wrong.
Because I feel as though anyone who actually acts like this Samson guy is still a baby, sipping on spiritual milk that is spoon fed to them by the preacher man. But anyone who is serious about their faith has moved on from this, and a long time ago. And now they are trying to be good soil in earnestness. They are tragic heroes, saints of lost causes, and prone to error but who are, as Aristotle notes, virtuous.
From what I read, the author never even defined the word "strong," even though he uses it for the title of every chapter. The fallacy of the book is that strong can be replaced by sinful, and the book would make more sense.
Sorry if you wrote it, but I do need a different book now.