Friday, March 16, 2018

Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

Friday 3/16/18 5:49 AM
Over the course of the last couple of years I have experienced what I call a crisis of faith. I have doubts about things that I once had great confidence. These doubts arose in part because of circumstances that were difficult to explain, and I began to ask that age-old question of God, “Why?” My quiet time of reading scripture and reflection also dwindled, either a consequence of or the cause of my doubt.
In his book That the World May Believe, Hans Küng suggests that questions of faith are not like riddles or crossword puzzles that, once solved, everything becomes clear and simple. He writes, “It is completely different with faith. Here we have, not human truth which men can state and understand, but God’s truth, which goes far beyond any statement or understanding of man’s. The faith never becomes clear. The faith remains obscure. Not until we enter glory will it be otherwise … Until then there will always be more difficulties coming up, more doubts coming up: there are bound to be. Doubt is the shadow cast by faith. One does not always notice it, but it is always there, though concealed. At any moment it may come into action. there is no mystery of the faith which is immune to doubt.”
I understand that doubts will always be there. What troubles me most is the fact that things in which I once had great confidence and assurance now seem to be up for question. Küng suggests that the shadows of doubt have always been there. I just hadn’t taken notice; they were concealed. I liked it better when the doubt was concealed. This living in the shadows of doubt is difficult and troubling to me. I want to live beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ravished by God

Thursday 3/8/18 3:28 AM
There is much talk in today’s society about sexual harassment in the form of unwanted attention. Numerous famous men in positions of power or in the public eye have recently been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior and have either been fired or have resigned their positions. There are also those have been accused of date rape, where a woman was either given some sort of drug or perhaps had passed out from drinking too much alcohol and then raped while they were unconscious. I have never understood that type of behavior but this morning I wondered about if that is the way I think about intimacy with God. I want to experience the full extent of his love while doing nothing at all to nurture an intimate relationship with him.
My psalm this week is Psalm 65. It describes how God cares for me by providing forgiveness for my sin, by harnessing the power of nature so it does not overwhelm me, and by providing for my physical needs with an abundance of nourishing food. This loving and caring God desires a relationship with me, but he doesn’t force himself upon me. Rather, he invites me to have a conversation with him through prayer and the reading of scripture. It seems that, to some extent, I can choose the intensity of the relationship by the amount of effort I put into getting to know God.
In his book My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “When a man is born from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve that life or nourish it. Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished.” In his book Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner mentions that, when speaking of God, John Donne wrote, “Ravish my heart.” Buechner then responds, “But God will not usually ravish. He will only court.”
I think I am a bit like Donne. I want to have an intimate relationship with God, one in which I experience the full extent of God’s love. The truth of the matter is that I am often unwilling to put in the necessary time and effort required of an intimate relationship. God invites me into an intimate relationship, but he will not force himself upon me. He wants a willing partner, not one who is unconscious.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Husks and Trappings

Thursday 2/22/18 3:14 AM
Yesterday a former student quoted the following from Aurora Leigh, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.
When I read the quote, I thought about how I see patterns and designs everywhere I look, in bushes, clouds, trees, mountain ranges, swirling winds, topography, and so on. The patterns usually suggest some sort of mathematical expression or equation, which often contains the most elementary ideas and functions. Like some mathematicians before me, I see in these simple equations the fingerprint of God. I am one who takes off my shoes and contemplates the wonder of it all, basking in the simplicity of complexity.
Today I read a quote by Phillips Brooks that suggests the same idea from a different perspective. He writes, “The greatest danger facing all of us … is that we may fail to perceive life’s greatest meaning, fall short of its highest good, miss its deepest and most abiding happiness, be unable to render the most needed service, be unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of God – and be content to have it so – that is the danger. That some day we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with the husks and trappings of life – and have really missed life itself.”
This week I have been busy with the husks and trapping of my life, writing tests, correcting tests, attending meetings, writing letters of recommendation, preparing lectures, teaching classes, and tutoring and counseling students. I have spent long days immersed in my work but unaware the presence of God. I need to guard against becoming so busy that I fail to see the meaning of life and the things that bring abiding happiness. Lord, keep me cognizant of your presence with me and of your image that is borne by all people so that I do not miss out life itself.