I borrowed two books from a home near my home. Brad loaned me The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor. Geoff loaned me Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb. I am not sure why I wanted to read these together, but they seem to go together. I'll try to explain.
The Crabb book uses stories and scriptures to help the reader see how blessings and a life of ease keeps a believer from attaining the life God would have for us. He gives followers of Jesus permission to have awful things happen, and permission not to understand why they have happened. Crabb observes that, "we love to explain suffering; it makes us think we can avoid it." He warns the reader about dreams and desires, saying that our dreams may not congrue with those of God. Crabb helped me to see again how suffering is not the absence of God, but a chance for us to cling to God when God seems far away.
O'Connor tells the story of a rural prophet and his legacy. The prophet's grand-nephew, Tarwater, resists his great-uncle's instruction and envisions another life for himself. He longs to be connected with another relative, one educated by modernity past the trappings of religion. For half of the story, Tarwater resists the "bread of life," denying a hunger that grows within him. At the same time he literally throws up anything else he consumes. It is only at the end of the story, when all other options are shattered or burned, that the young man is ready to carry the gospel to the city, and to warn God's children of "the speed of God's mercy."
These books continue to read me. I want that hunger that Tarwater resists, the hunger for the bread of life. I want my dreams to either be nourished by the living water, or else dashed on the cornerstone. (O'Connor draws so much on Biblical images in her story that I take it as permission to do so too. I may not make a habit of this as it would be unfair to my family to go gothic at this poing in my life.)
These books humble me so much because I honestly do not look forward to becoming less than the protagonist in my own story. That said, I can't help but note that Jesus is calling me to such. His is a story in which I am not a leading man, but a following man. I may not have a speaking part. My scene may be edited out of the final version, or eclipsed by other players.
But so be it. My story meanders so--it is really only interesting to myself. I don't need to cling to my plans. I don't need to build my skill set. These things will not hasten the kingdom. I want to participate in the story of Jesus, even though I fear what that will cost. Please help my unbelief.