Aug 062009
 


Recently I was at a Bible study listening to a discussion about recent archeological digs and how they prove that the Old Testament stories were real. It may have been suggested that Christians who believe that these stories could be figurative are not as Christiany as fundamentalists. I was uncomfortable. So when I got home that night, I wrote this and sent it to some members of my Bible group, who I love.

Dear Friends,

Okay, I admit it: I don’t know if the Old Testament Stories are literal or figurative. I know that they could be literal since God can do anything, but I think it’s okay to be uncertain. Here’s what I’m not afraid to say: it doesn’t matter to me. If one day an archaeologist discovers that Noah’s ark was really a row boat, it won’t shake my faith. Regardless of whether those stories HAPPENED, I know that that those stories are the TRUTH. I know that the fall is the truth because I live it. Every day I am Eve, as I assert my independence from God and decide to go it on my own. Every time God calls, I am Jonah, running away from Him and then begging for help when I get stuck. My entire life I have been Paul, persecuting God and then begging Him to transform my weakness into something worthy. When faced with any big decision, I am Samuel, asking God for sign after sign while knowing in my heart exactly what He has told me to do. For decades, I was Esau, trading my divine inheritance for fleeting worldly pleasure. Daily, I am Sarah, praising God one minute, and then laughing in the face of His promises the next. And far too often I am Peter, losing my faith when the waves arise, and denying my savior. I believe the scriptures because they are the true story of my soul, the truth of me. And I know, since I have never revealed the truth of my soul to anyone, including myself, that this story could only have been written by my creator. Every time I read the Bible an alarm goes off in my soul because I am being confronted with myself, with my sin, and that’s hard, but it’s also a relief. At least I am known. At least my deepest darkest secrets aren’t actually secrets at all, but simply the painful truth of the human condition. I am not alone, I am just a sinner, like everyone else. And so the alarm is loud, and jarring, and makes me uncomfortable, but it’s sounding off to save me, like alarms do . And as it’s sounding, I am reading on, and I learn that a hero is coming to rescue me. And when He arrives, He picks me up and reveals the unbelievable news that I am not going to get what I deserve, after all, because He already has. And then He silences the alarm in my soul, leaving stillness and peace. The scriptures are a love story between my creator and me…the perfect love that I’ve been yearning for my entire life. He created that yearning in me, and He fulfilled it.

So why don’t we just tell our stories? Why are we worried about “proving” something we can’t see, touch, hear, taste, or understand? We can’t prove anything that’s not observable and repeatable, but we do have the capacity to believe, love, and share. And this must be God’s purposeful design. If he created us to seek him and love him and put our trust and faith in Him by our own free will, how could he possibly allow us to PROVE, beyond a shadow of a doubt, His existence? If God’s existence were proven, love as we know it would cease to exist. Because at love’s core is faith, and choice, and risk. Love’s beauty lies in the fact that we chose it, without demanding proof. But just for the sake of argument, if I’m ever on a witness stand and required to prove my God’s existence, I’m not going to start by reviewing the latest archeological dig. I’ll say something like this:

Twelve years ago I was so strung out on booze and drugs that my hands weren’t steady enough to hold a book…and a few years ago I published one. Eleven years ago I was a cheater about to be expelled from school, and last year I opened one. Ten years ago I was sitting in a jail cell, drunk and doomed…and today I’m sober and free. Nine years ago I was lying in an abortion clinic, and this morning I am waiting for my three precious, perfect babies to awake. Eight years ago I was struggling to get out of a toxic relationship with a man I might have married, and this morning I’m watching the most generous, kind, selfless man I’ve ever known prepare breakfast for my children. Less than a decade ago I sat in a basement believing I could do nothing to escape other than end my life, and today I believe I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Today I can’t keep up with my list of dreams because they keep coming true so fast. And I know, like I know I love my kids, that the trajectory of my life was altered the night I fell to the bathroom floor and whispered: HELP JESUS, IM SCREWED. AND EXHAUSTED AND SCARED. YOU ARE MY LAST RESORT, SO IM GONNA GIVE YOU A SHOT. That’s all, I think.

So the reason I believe in Scripture and in Jesus is not because of historical accuracy or archaeological finds or this sermon or that dissertation. I believe because I was BLIND and now I SEE. Because I was a PRISONER and now I’m FREE. And if I can feel the wind blowing on my skin while you are proving that the same wind doesn’t exist, then I guess all we can do is shrug, for now, and keep on walking, together.

Love, G

Aug 102009
 

Evil is like the clown in the “jack in the box.” We know it’s in there, we’ve seen it materialize again and again, we’re even waiting for it…but our hearts still stop every time the music ends and its head pops up. The morning after the Virginia Tech shootings , our hearts hadn’t yet started to beat again.

On the morning of April 17, 2007, the day after the massacre, I was at the gym doing crunches next to two men who were discussing the tragedy. The men stood shoulder to shoulder, eyes on the TV coverage, legs spread wide and muscular arms folded across their chests, like football coaches on the sidelines. One was grey, maybe in his mid-sixties. The other was young and tall, and I recognized him as a gym manager. I heard the older man say:

“Do you believe they all just stood there and let themselves get shot? “

“Yeah, man. It’s nuts.”

“None of them rushed the guy. None of them even tried to get the gun. They just hid under tables. Cowards.”

I don’t remember the thought process that propelled me, but suddenly I was standing face to face with the gray haired man.

“Excuse me, sir. Am I hearing you right? Are you criticizing the victims of the shootings?

He stared in surprise for a moment. Then he sneered and said, “Are you talking to me? Who the hell do you think you are?”

I looked past him through the gym windows and saw Tech flags flying from several cars in the parking lot. “Do you realize that this gym is probably full of people who know the victims?”

“Nobody’s talking to you, little girl …go away.”

“No, thank you. I can’t believe that you are standing here crucifying kids who were ambushed by a man with a gun. But I assume you have been attacked often, which is why you’re able to criticize.”

“I’ve served in the military longer than you’ve been alive little girl. “I’ve been shot at more times than you can imagine.”

“Well, since you actually signed up to be shot at, were waiting to be shot at, and were HEAVILY ARMED in case you were shot at…I’m not sure that your experiences were the same as being ambushed in English class.”

Suddenly the man took an aggressive step towards me and thrust his large palm to within six inches of my face.

“I said get out of my face little girl.”

“Take one step closer and I am walking to that phone to call the police.”

Laughter from the old man. Blank stare from the beefy, vapid gym manager.

“Well…God Bless you sir,” I said, without sincerity, and then I turned away and started walking as steadily as possible to the locker room- where I hoped to start breathing again. But when I had made it to within a few steps from the locker room, a very angry voice boomed across the gym:

“DON’T YOU BRING GOD INTO THIS. DON’T YOU EVEN SAY HIS NAME. YOU DON’T HAVE A CLUE WHO GOD IS.”

Shaking with shock, adrenaline, and self righteous fury, I turned and walked back towards the old man, stopping when we were two feet apart.

“You know, sir, my God said “blessed are the meek and the peacemakers,” and “Judge not lest you be judged.”

I imagined Jesus beaming down at me from heaven and holding a big “THAT’S MY GIRL” sign.

But unfortunately, I continued: “You are right, you bitter, pathetic, old man, I don’t know the first thing about your God.”

 

And then I imagined Jesus hiding his sign and flopping down into his throne with his head in his hands.

As I walked away once more, the manager finally spoke up to say to noone, “What the hell is her problem?”

When I got back to the locker room, I climbed into the shower and started to shake and cry uncontrollably. I laid my cheek on the cold tiles and whispered “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, God. I’m sorry I didn’t turn the other cheek. I’m sorry I made things worse. I’m sorry I yelled at an old man. I’m sorry I made such an ugly day even uglier. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

And then I sensed an invitation to remember the last time I had cried.

Earlier that morning, while it was still dark, I crawled out of bed and turned on the TV to see if there was any new information about the shootings. But since all the networks were running the same pictures and interviews over and over, I felt voyeuristic and hopeless, so I turned it off. I picked up a basket full of dirty clothes and as I carried it down the stairs to the basement I felt a sudden, overwhelming wave of sadness and exhaustion. I sat down on the bottom stair with the basket in my lap and started crying. I just cried, I don’t know, because of the moms and dads and sisters and brothers who were waking up and just because of all of it. And I prayed “Please, God, give me something to do today. I don’t know what, something tiny, just anything. Anything to make me feel less helpless.”

And then I put the laundry in the washer, and went back upstairs to pack my gym bag.

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