Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Poem About Suffering

Why is it allowed that a child would suffer
Some sort of chronic disease?
That sallow skin would be wrapped around cancer
Within her body devoid of ease?

While mother cries
And the corners of eyes
Fill with diamond drops,
We look to the sky
And wail and cry
Asking “Where is God?”

Does it stand to reason that a Being
Benevolent in nature would permit
Such evil striking young and old
That some may die, others in mourning sit?

Some say “trilemma-
God’s dilemma”
While others bow to weep.
Others confused
Bearing wounds
Just wander in the depths of grief.

So many turn from Christ as King -
Claiming him inexistent -
Unwilling to fathom that love may just live
In Him toward Whom they’re most resistant.

Those that weep
When they’re bereaved
Are not the only ones;
Would comfort be gained
By turning in pain
To a Father who also lost a Son?

Others contend that there is no good, powerful Father
For One such would never permit the tragedy we saw,
But arguing He breaks a moral standard (goodness)
Demands His existence because it requires a Law.

In a moment
Of vicious torment
We can understand the value of Life.
Suffering’s a tool
For us who are fools
To be conformed to the image of Christ.

And there is none so intimately conscious
Concerning the dagger drove by great loss or anguish
Because He took the punishment for our sin, a mauled body,
A separation from God, unable His form from sin to distinguish

Suffering shows
As God knows
That we needed that sacrifice.
Pain’s a symptom
Of rebellion
A megaphone screaming “seek freedom from vice.”

How do we respond to the suffering plaguing
People around the world? Will we strive to heal to the point of dying?
Throwing up our hands saying, “where is God striving?”
Not realizing He did EXACTLY that… Himself denying

Two words kept:
“Jesus wept”
Shows His discontent
Determined to heal
With love that’s real
And action consequent

And because of the Cross the world will be redeemed.
Reality will once again be consummated in glory
Death shall have no sting, sin no power
In wake of the true redemption story.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Physical Things in Heaven: A Divine Dilemma?

This morning I read a verse in the eighth chapter of Hebrews that really got me thinking. It read that certain things on earth, particularly the tabernacle of ancient Jews, are earthly representations of heavenly things:

“They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” – Hebrews 6:5
At first the shook me a little bit. Here’s why:

If earthly things are a “shadow” of heavenly things that would mean that some sort of tangible or physical reality must exist in heaven.

But isn’t that less glorious than the heaven I’ve believed in? Heaven is supposed to be a transcendent reality, spiritual, with no strings attaching it to this lower, polluted plain. Right?

Well, I realized that that was my preconception, and that supposition caused me to question what I was reading. But if you ask legitimately, you tend to receive.

I asked myself, “What warrant do I have for devaluing this scripture because it shows that the spiritual does not exclude the physical?” I found I had none. I was falling victim to the same false dichotomy that led Gnostics to believe that matter was evil and needed to be escaped. They could not see that is was sin, a moral ailment with spiritual and physical ramifications, was the evil that needed to be killed.

There is nothing unholy about a perfected reality. In fact, it’s validating. It provides significance for certain things on earth, and alludes to the Genesis statement of creation being “good.” The existence of a heavenly cup does not delegitimize heaven’s existence, it shows that physical actions like eating and drinking are good and should be exercised with responsibility and joy with the assurance that something so much greater, yet similar, exists in eternity.

C.S. Lewis depicts this in his short novel The Great Divorce. In almost a Platonic sense, the present is shown to be vague reflection of the more real, more solid divine existence.

Islam is often criticized for the Qur’an’s carnal depiction of the afterlife – namely that certain faithful men are rewarded with virgins for their enjoyment, and I thought that the New Testament heaven may fall into the same criticism. But the Christian heaven depicts our connection with Christ as the ultimate union: we are wed to Him. The spiritual/physical elements present are good because it is in that solid plane that we act out our devotion, gratitude, and love toward God and others.

That revelation rendered my dichotomy fallacious. There is nothing inherently “de-motional” about physical things. The premise that the spiritual and physical exist in tandem renders existence in a sense “amphibious” (to borrow a description from Lewis’s Screwtape Letters).

This grand restoration of things will make them whole. It will supplement reality with a weight of glory lost in the Fall.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

In-N-Out Doubt

Last week I said that personal doubts have actually been used to benefit my walk with Jesus. Today I want to share a specific instance as an example.

Two summers ago I was in a suburb of Las Vegas attending the 2008 NFL (National Forensics League) National Speech and Debate tournament. One big excitement about heading west was the chance to frequent In-N-Out Burger, perhaps the most addictive and delicious fast-food establishment in existence.

On a particular food-run to In-N-Out, I purchased two double-doubles, a carton of milk, and a cup of water. The OCD part of me was compelled to ration my milk between the two burgers, which meant that I alternated drinking from the water cup and the milk every few bites.

I was drinking from one of my straws and enjoying what I thought was milk when I looked down and discovered I was actually drawing water through the straw. I was surprised – my preconception that it was milk had actually served to dupe my taste buds for a number of seconds. I had seemingly experienced drinking dairy without partaking of it in reality.

This is where it gets interesting.

My mind jumped to the theological. If it were possible to feel milk-drinking because of a preconception, what if the times I have felt that I experienced God’s presence were due only to a mixture of religious conviction and desire? For brief seconds, my heart stood still (the ropes were straining, as I said before) as I pondered the possible ramifications of the question.

Then I took a breath.

And thoughts began to weave together. Although I had imagined I was drinking milk when I was actually slurping H2O (thereby deceiving myself) the only reason I was able to conjure those feelings was because I had tasted milk in reality beforehand. If I had never had milk before, I could not know the taste/feel combination to produce in order to dupe myself.

When these thoughts were extended to the arena of doubt I was battling in, I understood that it was possible to manufacture an experience with the Divine. In fact, some people probably do quite often. However, I would not know what feelings to conjure in order to simulate a supernatural encounter unless I had previously experienced one in reality.

Granted, this reasoning is not flawless. We could manifest what we think a numinous encounter should be like. But how would we know what that is? Furthermore, even granting that caveat in no way renders God’s existence impossible.

That being said, the brief exchange of argumentation in my head that night served to calm the qualms I was thrust into. I learned not to panic when doubts arise, and that there are legitimate answers when they do.

My thoughts came in, and out, at In-N-Out. I finished my burgers and shared with a friend what had just occurred.