A month, eh? Well, a lot's happened in that month. I know I've said (or, if I haven't, it's a bit obvious by my Facebook statuses (stati?) and snippets* that I've been working on a new story. It's got a couple overarching themes and a couple underlying ones that, God-willing, will all tie together somehow.
That's sort of what snippets are about: sometimes to play, sometimes to discuss underlying things to see what kind of feedback I can get. Two primary texts for this set (thus far this thing is three books long with a potential short story collection that may or may not happen, all for fun) come from Isaiah 42 and Psalm 45 (if you think that's weird, I had a good friend ask me yesterday how the verse "Now these three remain: Faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love" ties in).
Honest answer: We'll see. I'm also pulling from Ephesians 6 and several passages on the spiritual gifts--oh horrid child I am.
But one thing I'm really exploring in the package of a 19-year-old girl (who, for no explicable reason, I irrevocably love) is the very nature of a Church Brat. The Christian Bubble Child.
Truth is, there's more than I can use. I'm not interested in the kid with all the Christian T-shirts and the guy with the school of fish on his car or the woman with fifty thousand pieces of cross jewelry on her neck, wrists, and ankles at any given moment.
No, I'm interested in that kid who is so desperate and hungry for the Lord they can and have eaten everything in sight in their quest; that soul starved to the point he doesn't know he's hungry anymore; those men and women who dread the ritual but fear forsaking their own God; those of us in search of mercy for ourselves but unintentionally blinded to the half-starved souls of others, who can't see the sun because of its rays.
One thing that struck me about a year ago (or a little less) was the nature of the Pharisees themselves. On the one hand, you do have the generic, callous, legalist type out to kill Jesus any second.
But John tells us about another group. This kind feared men over God, but they were not of the same vein as the others. Please remember, Jesus is overcome with grief in Matthew 23 (don't believe me, read the last paragraph, or the section where he says he 's longed to take the city under his arms, to hold these people who will not be held and have compassion on them). He doesn't rebuke Nicodemus' after-dark, secret meeting with him. And Scripture records that he loved the rich young ruler (who may or may not have been a Pharisee, but he illustrates the point). I could probably also speculate on the lawyer who asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, or why this group of men kept following Jesus regardless of their supposed hate. (All I'll say here is, I don't make a habit of following people I that strongly disagree with all over the country.) Then you have Joseph, who took care of Jesus' body, and Gamaliel, who, being the teacher of some guy named Saul of Tarsus, I have to wonder about given his advice in Acts. Hey, I'm just saying.
At any rate, Jesus said it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. So, naturally, I'm curious why.
Or, maybe, fearfully, being a church brat, I already know. I remember clearly, though not the date, I was sitting in church before we got the new building when it hit me:
"You mean, You can love even the Pharisees?"
Sometimes, that resounding silence is actually God giving me a knowing, almost sarcastic smile, as if to say, "Is this a rhetorical question?"
So, said resounding, smiling silence (I swear, he did) echoing in my soul, I asked, "Even me?"
The smile grew bigger. The silence became to me like a warm embrace, when no answer is needed and no other questions need be asked, and all is sweet consolation and compassion.
That was a year ago, give or take. And ever since, I can't hate Pharisees. I certainly don't disdain my fellow Church Brats. Instead my heart breaks.
"A bruised reed he will break;
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out;"**
"He is my sun and shield."***
He knows, beloved church brat brethren, how jaded our hearts get; how much our quest for Him makes us forget our neighbors, how easily drivenness becomes shackles of perfectionism; and how starved, in the end, we are for his mercy.
"Cease striving," he says. "Come to me."
I was reading in Jonah this morning (yes, the Chronological Study Bible will throw you all over the map) and Jonah's longing for Mercy (despite his want of judgment on his enemies the Assyrians) comes like this:
"Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
But I will sacrifice to you
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord."****
You know, that's the final stanza from a prayer composed in a whale's gut. But in the end, God's question to Jonah is two-fold, and it's the second part I'm honing on right now: Why shouldn't God have mercy on these people he created?
"You search the Scriptures in vain thinking that in them you will have life, but you won't come to me, of whom the Scriptures speak." *****
Still he says,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23)
We do all these things to get his attention, and still he says, "Come, reason with me; commune with me between the wings of the cherubim."
And he has come.
He has come.
The Light has come into the darkness.
The Prince of Peace has shattered the grip of Death.
The Lord of the living and the dead has come.
The God of the universe has heard our prayers.
He quiets us with his love.
And he says, "Cease striving, and know that I am God."
A bruised reed he will not break;
A smoldering wick he will not snuff out;
for he is our sun and shield;
he is the strength of our soul
and the delight of our hearts--
The God of Justice is our Deliverer.
Cease striving. The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come."
*Snippet = very short scene, mostly dialogue, that may or may not be actual story