Faith in the Face of an Axe-Wielding Crazy
I had the opportunity to spend time this evening with two very different, very wise friends of mine. These two friends have helped me to see my life and the world more clearly. I am convinced that God had put them here with me for a reason.
To both of these gentlemen I told my recent-and-not-so-recent joys and frustrations in life. Both of these friends actually care to hear them. I dig that.
My first friend is very much like me. He's just been around for a few years longer. He issued a gentle rebuke to my whinings. He told me - and I'm severly paraphrasing - to shut up and do what I know I have to do. I have to deal with my very real financial pressures, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself and learn instead to work hard and be realistic about what's required of me. Dodging these imminent crises will only prolong the agony - I'm told. He told humbling stories about his father-in-law who struggled a whole lot harder and a whole lot longer than I could imagine. He told me to stop navelgazing and to spend time on other people. This is good stuff. He also paid for dinner. That too is good stuff.
On the way home I got a call from my second friend. He said we should go for beer, and since I dig beer, I consented.
My second friend is very much unlike me. We have very dissimilar struggles in life. We think and develop relationships very differently. We encounter God in very different ways. Funny thing is, we are both reluctant servants of the same Lord. The more we share eachother's burdens, the more similar they seem. My friend shares a story:
When the world began, people lived on the ground. They ate, worked, lived and raised families on the ground. The ground was good. The ground was home.
Then one day a catastrophe! The ground became inhospitable. In fact, It was toxic to the point of fatal. In order to survive, people built tables. They elevated their lives on stilts to fend off the toxic ground. They learned to live precarious lives just off the ground. They learned to eat, work, live and raise families on these tables. They trained their children to do the same, to survive, to cling to the table and to build their own tables. In this manner did history progress.
Into this story steps a crazy character. He claims that the tables are no longer necessary. In fact, he goes so far as to say that he himself would be their elevation. Some of the table-dwellers are taken in by this story and come to believe that their tables are unnecessary. They still live on tables, but they no longer feel dependent on them.
What's interesting is that one table-dweller can't tell if another table-dweller believes the story or not. The fact of the matter is, everyone is still on tables, but the paradigm has shifted.
(Editor's note: It doesn't take an Honours English degree to catch the analogy here. But, I found it enlightening, thought you might too, so I've included it here.)
We then spoke about faith and doubt. My friend asked if I doubt God's existence and I honestly said "No." I couldn't possibly doubt that. God has been all-too-real in the shaking of my life. The fights that I've faced have all the marks of intelligent design and wise intentionality. Sometimes it feels like He's a bloody sadist, but it never feels like He's not there.
The story above, says my friend, continues. Some of the table dwellers who believe the crazyman's claims about "providing elevation" are intent on having certainty that they truly are depending on this mystical elevation instead of the elevation that everyone else (very reasonably) depends on. They ask for faith. What they get instead is the crazy man taking an axe to their table. Now, seriously, nobody wants that. Things get pretty scary pretty quick and allofasudden their table - their safety - is teetering on one splintered leg. It is in the moment before falling that they realize that they really didn't want what they'd asked for.
The fact of the matter is, God gives us what we need. When we ask him for things out of selfishness or naivete, he often delivers. The problem, then, is that we get more than we bargained for. Do we really want faith? Do we really want to be wholly devoted? At what cost?
Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.
This post bubbled to the surface on Thursday, December 16, 2004
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