Monday, October 24, 2005

Grace on the road.....

Nature seems to have a way of reserving certain special events or prerogatives for herself. There are certain unmistakable things that seem to tether us firmly to the inherent goodness of creation and remind us of just wonderful life is even in the face of the brokenness and evil that we see. One of the most notable examples of this mysterious phenomenon of grace, is the birth of a child and the totally unmerited privilege of being able to co-create with God and bring a new life into the world. There is something about an infant that can incline even the hardest of heart toward at least considering the idea of the divine. And the most atrocious and unfathomable of crimes are almost always those that involve the destruction of innocent young life. Indeed, it is Elie Wiesel commenting in his heartwrenching classic "Night" about the Nazi's dumping truckloads of children into fiery pits (pits that I have walked beside at Birkenau), who says that the sight of such an abomination "put to death" his faith in God. I cannot fathom Wiesel's pain, nor can I presume to "answer" the very real questions that the vicarious experience of his sufferings have raised for me. All that I can say is that becoming a parent has opened a whole new world for me, and has led me into a deeper experience of grace than I ever could have imagined. One particular event in the recent past gave me renewed hope that the very thing that makes the Nazi crimes so atrocious, also makes the light of God's love shine all the brighter in a different set of circumstances.

A couple of weeks ago I was out walking with my daughter Miranda, and we were walking with our backs to the sun. Hearing an odd noise I had turned to look up a sidestreet, and as I returned my gaze to the sidewalk in front of me, I noticed Miranda's sleepy little eyes wincing in the blinding sunlight. When I had turned to look away the sunlight hit her squarely in the face, but when I returned my gaze to our forward path she was suddenly covered in my shadow and able to relax. Almost instantly, I thought about that remarkably hopeful and enigmatic verse in Psalm 91 that says "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the almighty." What a remarkable visual image of that vital promise from the Psalmist, I thought to myself. This helpless little infant being shielded from the scorching rays of the sun by her father is actually me. Likewise, this whole drama of becoming a parent and purposefully taking my daughter out into a very dangerous world, is a large part of what it means to truly rest in the shadow of the almighty. It is an act of trust, I guess, an evidence of faith in the relationship. The rest of the Psalm makes a lot more promises that seem to have returned null and void for a lot people who have not been saved from the "fowler's snare." Or have they been saved in a different way? Was Jesus saved from the "fowler's snare?" These are tough questions for me, and they leave me clinging to those moments in the course of daily life where God seems to be so forcefully present in the midst of the mundane; those moments where there seems to be no separation between the "natural" & the "supernatural," bewteen the "physical" & the "spiritual." It would seem like there is a quality of relationship and a kind of walk with God that can only be found in the shadows of life, in the forgotten and cold places. This is something that the mystics down through the centuries have tried to tell us. But how can you articulate such a thing to another person? Perhaps it is a path that is only discernible when we consciously choose to take it, when the desire to be known overcomes the desire to know? Or maybe it has more to do with truly believing that we can/will step out of the shadows and into the glorious presence of God's light through Christ? Perhaps the psalmist wishes to direct us toward remaining faithful in the shadow of goodness and grace because he knows that only something which is real and solid can cast a shadow in the first place? Even the shadowy places are vital evidences insofar as they point to something that merely blocks the sun for a season? Whatever the case may be, I am thankful to God for speaking to me through nature and the elements.

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