Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reference Points

This post is dedicated to my friends who are struggling right now with everything that is "faith".  Seminary is one of the worst places to be if you want to have your faith confirmed, I'm convinced.  This weekend I had the luxury of going home to Gigantor Church, and I got to talk with my senior pastor for a few minutes.  He must have seen the distress in my eyes, because he said to me, "Keep. the. faith.  DO NOT let them kick it out of you up there."  That was something I really needed to hear, because I've felt really battered and bruised lately, and it can feel like the faith is just being kicked out of you.

So having friends right now who are going through the same thing breaks my heart, and yet, all I can do is pray that they'll come out the other side refined.  And write.

A professor mine wrote to me this spring, when I was really struggling with what I believed, with the truth of God, that "sometimes the Holy Spirit takes away all your reference points", and it's in those moments that you just have to hang on by your fingernails, and wait for the reference points to come back, slowly, over time, as God sees fit.

I do believe though, that even in the midst of these terrible dark nights of the soul, that we are never without the presence of God (in fact, we are probably closer to Him), and that even in the absence of reference points, there always exists a tiny glimmer of that star over Bethlehem.  It might be tiny indeed, faint, reflected and refracted through many other substances, but I believe it's there.  

And this is what gives me cause for hope:
"...the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John"...."the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus"....When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit...."  ~Luke 1: 13, 30-31, 41

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!""  ~John 1:29

"When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'""  ~Luke 7:20
John the Baptist, who while he was still in his mother's womb leaped for joy in the presence of Jesus - the Lord - while Jesus himself was still in his mother's womb; John the Baptist who cried at the sight of Jesus, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world", that same John the Baptist, when the going got tough, when he was trapped in prison about to be executed, looked around at what he could see from prison and doubted his faith. 

And I figure if doubting the faith can happen to John the Baptist - John the freaking Baptist, for crying out loud - it's liable to happen to us.  So we can't let the fact that it's happening at any particular moment in time freak us out, we've simply got to keep getting up in the morning and doing what's been given to us to do.  Because what does Jesus say in response to the questions of John's disciples?  He doesn't give some long apologetic defense of the Old Testament prophecies, proving Lee Strobel-style that "of course it's me".  He doesn't vilify John and ask him what happened to his faith, or say something like, "Look, we've got a lot of work to do around here and it simply won't do to have John the Baptist faltering - haven't you read the script?  If you can't get it together, I might just have to replace you." 

No, what does he say?  He sends John's disciples back to tell what they have seen and heard (because John is in prison and can't see or hear what they can).  "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor."

So for anyone out there - friends and family, random strangers who stumble by - anyone who is stuck in prison and can't see anything but darkness and despair and death and doom, let me tell you what I'm seeing: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  

Hang in there. "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day" - and what I'm entrusting to him tonight is you.

1 comment:

Kevin Haug said...

I personally think some folks in seminary believe it is their personal job to knock every possible reference point we have away. Sometimes they want you to take their reference points. Sometimes they want you to build them back on your own. Unfortunately, rarely do they help you do this IN seminary.

And, unfortunately, the scope of the material they give you to read and digest is far too limited. In recent months, I have read a couple of orthodox thinkers who go against the current flow of teaching in seminary and other institutions of higher learning. After reading I said to myself, "Why didn't anyone ever expose me to this stuff when I was in college/seminary?" The answers I gave myself were not to pleasant. Either these resources were being ingnored by professors or professors were ignorant of them in the first place. Personally, I became just a tad disenchanted by the whole process.

I am thankful for being able to read Timothy Keller's The Reason for God and a compilation entitled A Place for Truth. Both were extremely enlightening, affirming, and faith building. I highly recommend them.

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