Monday, August 30, 2010

heart heart heartbreak

I would be sad because you left me all alone.
I would be sad because the lies that you had told.
I would be sad because I got left by a girl that I adore.
I would be sad because the love I had before. - The Avett Brothers

I meant what I said when I said I would settle down with you
although I know it's not something that you were asking me to do.
And I know we are young but we won't always be, so marry me;
lets not be that predictable young couple changing, moving on.

Heartbreak.  Inevitable.  Undeniable.  Instrinsic.  There is no way to both breathe and avoid it in your life.  Yet we spend most of our days, our waking hours, our efforts and energy trying to distance ourselves from it.  Even the risk of having our hearts broken, the mere prospect, is so awful as to cause us to rearrange our lives, reconfigure our choices, to ensure we would never face such a sentence.  Still we fail.  It catches up to us all.  We don't deny its power, we deny it is an essential quality of life.

"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me."

Christ's prayer spoken with His face in the dirt, alone in the Garden of Gethsemane looking for any way possible to remedy our sin.  Jesus in no way denied his fate.  He knew the pain he would endure, the torture that would be inflicted to mete out God's punishment.  He was willing to endure it.  For the joy set before Him, He did not waver.  It was the heartbreak that gave Him pause.  To suffer the pain that we had merited by our waywardness was a difficult task.  To face the heartbreak of His Father as He turned from the sin that weighed down on the back of Christ even as he clung to the cross, I have to imagine that was what brought Him to His knees in the garden.

But I can tell by watching you that theres no chance of pushing through.
The odds are so against us; you know most young love it ends like this.

In the midst of my trials in the garden of my life, I must admit I never respond so graciously.  I shake my fists in the air and rage against the stars that would dictate such a fate.  I blame God Himself temporarily forgetting that my arms are too short to box with God.  Forgetting that He has endured far worse from my hands and only desires my good in the long term.

God is not the author of heartbreak.  He is the author of love.  But you cannot have love without heartbreak.  There is no such thing.

God subjected Himself to that pain before any of us.  God was perfectly content before creating us.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were in perfect community, in perfect Love before the world we know was spoken into existence.  But it was out of the overflow of this love that God decided a perfect universe would be made somehow more complete with us in it.  It was out of this love that we were created.  Among our first acts to thank God for the inexpressible gift of somethingness out of nothingness that we responded by breaking His heart with our disobedience.

And yet I'm angry at God.  The weight of the evidence leads to an easy suggestion about which party should be truly grieved by this deal.

I meant what I said when I said I would rearrange my plans and change for you.

In the course of His ministry on Earth, Christ and his disciples happened upon a blind man one day.  His disciples, ever taught and never learned, immediately turn to Jesus and ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Christ responds patiently, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."  He tells them, "I am the light of the world."  He heals the blind man and sends him on his way home. 

I am sight.  Without me, you are all blind.

There is no bargain we can cut with God to avoid heartbreak, no deal that He would prefer.  It's as natural as a wildfire.  An Austrailian grass tree is a very special kind of tree.  Subject to the conditions of wildfires, they can become damaged but not die.  After the fire has finished, the trees are known to push new leaves and bloom brighter than they ever had before.  In fact, some Austrailian grass trees only bloom after a scouring fire.

Only the heart set ablaze by pain that knows the depths of the contrast joy provides.  It's only in contrast to the darkness that light gives meaning and purpose to our sight.

You know me; I've always been the kind with easy confidence.
Confident enough to honestly believe that nothing out there stopping me
especially not someone who's not loving me.
Now listen here I told you I could live on without loving you.
I was bluffing then, but it seems that just might have been the truth.

That doesn't make dealing with pain any less hard.  It still hurts just as much even to the enlightened mind.  But our suffering, even when its meaning is opaque, is not without purpose.  If we are to believe the words of scripture, temporary pain is producing in us a glory that is incomparable to what we had before.  Hope dilutes sadness and spreads until even depression is changed into a new substance entirely.  Bleak worlds are colored by hope.

As Paul writes it to the Corinthians in his second letter, "For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory."

Well my dad told me, "One day son, this girl will think of what she's done
and hurting you will be the first of many more regrets to come."
And he said, "If she doesn't call, then it's her fault and it's her loss."
I say, "It's not that simple see, but then again it just may be."

"Yet not as I will, but as You will."

Christ concludes His prayer in the garden.  Accepts His fate, draws on God's strength even in the face weakness, and endures the cross. 

In the final analysis, heartbreak is not a reason to lose trust in God.  It is a reason to trust Him.  We see the heartbreak that he endures at our hands.

It's not a proof that God does not care for us.  It is a proof that He does.  Even from the cross, Christ petitions God on behalf of His murderers, namely you and me, "Forgive them for they know not what they do."  We almost never do.  But we should know that we can follow and trust the God who endures such heartbreak on our behalf no matter the heartbreak we must endure ourselves along the way.

I would be sad...

Friday, August 20, 2010

i need some meaning i can memorize

I got a hunger and I can't seem to get full/I need some meaning I can memorize/The kind I have always seems to slip my mind - Bright Eyes

How is that a person can image God?  How can we walk as Christ walks and live as He lives even as we continue to reside on this earth?

These are the essential questions I am struggling with the most these days.  And I have found some insight from an unlike source: Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens is the among the most unlikely sources of Christian inspiration because he is a well-known atheist, indisputable contrarian, and all-around crank.  But he's brilliant and a great writer.  He's also recently wandered further into the limelight as he was diagnosed with cancer and many evangelicals began to start movements to pray for his death bed conversion to Christianity.

I have recently picked up his book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, mostly because he is a great writer and dogged contrarian, both of which to some degree I also aspire to be.  I was in no way surprised by his skepticism towards the Christian faith as he repeated sneeringly refers to believers as "monotheists."  In his angrier moments, he fires flaming arrows at the heart of the brand of Christian theology as comfortable and worn as an old pair of house slippers.

How much vanity must be concealed--not too effectively at that--in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan?  How much self-respect must be sacrificed in order that one may squirm continually in an awareness of one's own sin?  How many needless assumptions must be made, and how much contortion is required, to receive every new insight of science and manipulate it so as to "fit" with the revealed words of ancient man-made dieties?

Not eaxctly the lighter side of atheism.  More the grizzled and vaguely angry veteran, Hitchens' most poignant critique of Christianity is not Niestchke's grand proclamation that God is dead but rather that Christianity itself is a dead religion.  In the same way that Latin as a dead language is incapable of producing any new words, Christianity is vacant intellectually and incapable of producing any new thoughts or insights.
Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago...  We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday, sometimes ratched up to screaming point so as to ward off the terrible emptiness.

Is it true?  Are we ready to declare new thoughts about theology and God as impossible?  Are no new formulations of the Christian faith possible?

Regardless of our answer, we live in too many churches that act as if it is.  But if there is nothing left to be done, nothing new to discover about God, no new insight to be gained about His intentions for the world, then what is the point of the Christian life?  In the literal sense, what difference does it make?

What might have been the most startling aspect of the chapter for me was a story that Hitchens recounts about selecting an appropriate scripture to eulogize his father at his funeral in a chapel of the Church of England.  He picked a passage from Paul's letter to the Philippians (chapter 4, verse 8), "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and ifn there be any praise, think on these things."  He then explains his selection by saying,
I chose this because of its haunting and elusive character, which will be with me at the last hour, and for its essentially secular injunction, and because it shone out from the wasteland of rant and complaint and nonsense and bullying which surrounds it.

And with that Christopher Hitchens, the most unlikely of sources, gave me as good of an insight into scripture as I had heard in months.

So why aren't we thinking new thoughts about God?  Why aren't we gaining new insights?  Mostly because of fear.

Don't believe me?  Just watch when someone tries.  Take, for instance, an author such as Rob Bell.  In his book, Velvet Elvis, he questions the centrality of doctrine in building a strong Christian faith by describing the Christian life as a trampoline and doctrines as the springs that hold it together.
This is where the springs on the trampoline come in. When we jump, we begin to see the need for springs. The springs help make sense of these deeper realities that drive how we live every day. The springs aren’t God. The springs aren’t Jesus. The springs are statements and beliefs about our faith that help give words to the depth that we are experiencing in our jumping. I would call these the doctrines of the Christian faith.

They aren’t the point.

They help us understand the point, but they are a means and not an end. We take them seriously, and at the same time we keep them in proper perspective…

In fact, its stretch and flex are what make it so effective. It is firmly attached to the frame and the mat, yet it has room to move. And it has brought a fuller, deeper, richer understanding to the mysterious being who is God. ...

Even his analogy is one that evokes the image of motion and energy.  The converse is a systematic theology built on stagnant doctrine brick by brick saying that a Christian who subscribes this view has quite a differenct experience of the Christian faith, "For him, faith isn't a trampoline; it's a wall of bricks. Each of the core doctrines for him is like an individual brick that stacks on top of the others. If you pull one out, the whole wall starts to crumble. It appears quite strong and rigid, but if you begin to rethink or discuss even one brick, the whole thing is in danger."

Brian McLaren relates a similar idea in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy.  For him, orthodoxy is not a set concept that is now and forever incapable of being bent and stretched and questioned and reformed.  It is a set of beliefs that are articulated by a community in the process of living out the Christian faith together.
To be a Christian in a generously orthodox way is not to claim to have the truth captured, stuff, and mounted on the wall...That, to me, is orthodoxy -- a way of seeing and seeking, a way of living, a way of thinking and loving and learning that helps what we believe become more true over time, more resonant with the infinite glory that is God.

If you need proof that these ideas are dangerous, divisive, and disfavored, just take a moment to google the names of the previous two authors and see how they are vilified.  For some "conservative" critics, the only new thoughts they ever have are critiques of someone else's thoughts.  As a people, Christians have become more critics than creators.  But in the essential picture of creation, fall, and redemption of the Bible, who is the creative force and who is the critical one?  When we spend all of our time opposing a new way of thinking, just who are we really imitating?

As Galileo put it, I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.  I am always drawn to authors with new ideas because they might be able to help me understand a new aspect of the character of God.  Isn't that kind of the point of learning to know him more?  Is that even possible by only simple repetition of everything I have learned before?  If we cannot accept a new concept or the possibility that God might still have something left to reveal to us, then our faith really is as dead as Hitchens would have us believe.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

date me, brent

So last night, I started a conversation with my roommate Joel by saying, "You know?  I really need something unique to do for my birthday."  After all, it is just over a month away and I am kind of looking around for ideas and available options.  His idea?  "We should do a Raleigh version of The Bachelor with you."  Yeah, haha, very funny.  This is a ridiculous idea that we'll get a few minutes of laughs out of and then be done with.  Oh, no.  Didn't go that way at all.

Because that's when my friend Jamie was brought in on the plot.  And the conversation changed from "What would the Raleigh bachelor give out instead of roses?" to "We could do webisodes."  Pretty soon, an entire elaborate plan was concocted with several stages, a day of challenges, a survey was created, and a Facebook page.  An application deadline of August 15 was set.  That's when it became pretty clear they really wanted to do this.  Like I said, at first I thought it was ridiculous.  But I also figured why not?  I'm young.  I'm single.  I like having fun experiences.  And I'm generally comfortable enough with who I am that I'm not afraid to put myself out there and look like a fool.  (Which seems pretty likely at some point in this process... especially considering that normally the number of girls who I think want to date me and the number who actually do are two numbers that bear little correlation to one another.)  The only sad part will be if no eligible bachelorettes actually fill out the survey.  That will be less than an ideal birthday present.

So ultimately, their plan is to culminate in one lady being chosen to be my date to my birthday party on September 11 with the help of Joel, Jamie and other friends Amy, A.J., and Billy.  I don't have to actually hand out any roses.  There will be less harsh rejections and certainly less sensationalized scandals.  No tabloid coverage, and above all, I won't be proposing to anyone at the end.  (Which is good because I'm not really looking to do that any time soon.)  Just one date with the person they hope to make Raleigh's most eligible bachelor.  Namely, me.

Please like this pageShare it with your friends.  Share it on your profile.  Fill out the survey or send it to a friend.  If I have two responses come in, it might really strike a blow to my self confidence.  This is a joke but it's also really going to happen.  There's no stopping it now.  And if nothing else, it's going to be really hilarious.  And hey, if you're reading this, you (or your friend) could be the lucky bachelorette.