Saturday, December 11, 2010

From the Dark Side

Sometimes God and I aren't on speaking terms...

Oh, God is always willing to talk to me. It's me, really. I get in a funk, a particularly dark mood, and I just don't want to deal with God.

It seems to come more frequently at this time of year. Perhaps it's the festive character of the season. Perhaps it's the unspoken pressure to be festive, and not feeling festive in your heart. Perhaps it's the shortness of the days, and the gray cold that seems too often to describe the daylight hours. Maybe it's the bare trees, and the brown fields. Whatever the cause, I don't often feel this way in the spring or summer, not even in the fall when the trees are reddening from their warm weather green.

Instead of having a heart-to-heart with God, I trap myself in a self-focused loop.

Here's what that loop often sounds like...

God is some kind of deity. He demands praise from his creatures, creatures he sticks in a poison existence. We deal every day with death and decay, and he demands praise. We try to live as he commands us to, and find that we can't do it. No amount of willing it to be true, makes it true. The shiny-happy lasts only so long.

And then someone dies. A marriage goes south. A job is lost. An assault waylays a life. The daily commute gets wrecked by a traffic accident. A drug overdose hospitalizes. A child tries to commit suicide. Eating disorders send another child to the hospital. Unplanned expenses wreck the budget. Family disagreements devolve into shouting matches, and the family flies to pieces.

Why, God, do you screw around with us like this? It seems like the only time you're ready to love us, is when our lives have turned to total shit. Why do you allow this crap to happen? Where are you when the whole mess is flying apart? Why can't you stop some of this stuff? Some of it - hell, stop all of it! You're God, the all-powerful, the all-knowing, the all-seeing. What good is all-that, when you don't intervene?

Wars go on. Murders continue. Divorces and drugs, terrorism and child abuse and abortions and economic collapse persist.

Where are you in all this? Well - where are you?

Yeah... Where are you...?

This sort of psychotic tape loop doesn't last very long. It can't. It goes nowhere. It doesn't have an answer, not one that I can accept, anyway.

The answer that the "me" who's stuck in this loop, would like to hear is that God is going to come down right now and fix things.

That's not the way it works.

God is more devious, if I may call it such, than that.

God is interested in teaching us. God is interested in strengthening us. God is interested in getting back in touch with us; ultimately he's interested in saving us.

This loop can't go anywhere, because the god that I'm waving my fist at, is not the God that lives and reigns in this world.

I have to stop myself from playing this particular number, and step back. I have to force myself to remember the times that God has been there, when I needed help. I have to force myself to remember what it felt like to truly talk to God, and to have him reply.

It has happened, you know.

I've been a fully committed, confessing, practicing, learning Christian now for just over fourteen years. There have been mountain-top experiences, and there have been spells in the deep desert. I've walked along some paths with a ready companion, and trekked through some pretty desolate patches where it felt like it was only me on the trail.

And God was always there. If I didn't see him as I traveled, I certainly ran into him as I came out of the wilderness.

The important thing is, I always kept moving.

That's the heart of the matter, actually.

Jesus told his followers when he first met them, "Come." He told them as he was leaving them, "Go." There was always a journey involved with the Nazarene. Life was a pilgrimage.

That hasn't changed. Life - life as a Christian, at any rate - continues to be a journey. We started one place, and we're going to another. All we have is a compass to show us the direction. The map isn't supplied.

Oh, we have guidebooks along the way. We have plenty of stories from fellow travelers.

It's said that Mother Teresa endured forty years of crisis in her faith in Jesus. She is revered as one of the most holy people in the twentieth century. And she had a "dark night of the soul" for the last forty years of her life. What did she do to deal with this darkness?

Simply, she continued. She went. She did. Her faith, tested as it was by the darkness that she felt enfolding her very heart, persisted in working out her salvation with fear and trembling.

A good tree is known by its fruit, Jesus tells us.

Faith without works is dead, James asserts.

I think Mother Teresa's life speaks for itself. Inwardly tested, outwardly fruitful. What kind of determination did this woman possess to go on in the face of the darkness? What kind of grace did she receive to allow that to happen?

When I'm feeling all down in the soul, all I have to do is stop, step back, and remember. There are multitudes who have gone before me. I have but to think about their example, and I'm better, and ready for another day. And the darkness loses another daily battle.

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