Monday, March 11, 2013

Musings in the Sand

Do you want to know one of my favorite moments in the bible? Well, even if you don't, here it is from John 8:2-11

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV)

I love this passage because I want to know what he wrote? What was he creating at that moment? What nugget of information was he working out in the sand? (I love the versions of the bible where it says he wrote in the dust.... because man was made from dust, there are a lot of theological metaphors rolling around because of that version)

As I have speculated and speculated over this passage, as have many thelogians, I am caught up in the "what" he was writing. However, as I have thought more and more about it, it isn't about the what. If it was about the what, the writer of John would have told us what he wrote but he didn't.

I believe it is more about the "that" he wrote, than the "what" he wrote. THAT he wrote is a powerful image. It is a call to action. He was about to teach, he was asked a "trap" of a question and he starts writing...effectively creating and generating new thought, new ideas, or whatever it was he did. But THAT he did it when he did it is important. Amidst a difficult circumstance, Jesus started musing in the sand.

In that moment Jesus was hit with a theological inspiration - "Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." The generation of this theological amazement immediately caused something to happen that blows my mind. In that moment of divine inspiration Jesus simultaneously changes hearts and shapes culture. His question cut to the core of those who were condemning this girl. It also shaped the way they would perceive judgement from then on. How do we know? This quote, "Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." is one of the most quoted from the bible when talking about judgement and condemnation. If there was ever a moment of culture change, that would be one of the big ones.

Jesus simultaneously changed hearts and culture at the same time all because of divine inspiration he received because he started musing in the dust. When we are confronted with a difficult circumstance, I pray we all take the time to draw in the dirt.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Goal of Suffering

In the book of Romans, Paul says that we should rejoice in our sufferings, even glory in them. Suffering, in the end, produces hope and this hope will not dissapoint us. When I struggle, I surely think of hope but it is a hope that the suffering will end soon. I'm not convinced that is what Paul meant for us to hope for. Paul speaks of the glory revealed during suffering, that suffering is a refiner's fire and that we are being perfected and that somehow, glory will be revealed. Perhaps this glory will be seen by us, perhaps by others, perhaps through us? Our hope is in the glory revealed, but this can only come with a shifting of the mind about the nature of suffering.

Suffering will happen directly to us and sometimes it is uncomfortable and sometimes it is truly unbearable. When one is in intense physical or maental or emotional pain it is nearly impossible to see outside your own situation and all you might be left with is "Why me?" or just plain "Why?" These are honest questions and I'm not sure if I can give a satisfactory answer theologically or otherwise. But I do know that the promises of the bible say that every amount of suffering is for some reason... God collects our tears and counts the hairs on our heads...this is a God of tremendous detail even though at times of suffering He seems so far from us. Though he isn't far from us. A God capable of that amount of detail...a God that asked Job all of those questions, must be highly aware of all that we are dealing with, even the infinitesimal  worries of our heart.

So what do we do with it? Truly, I believe the suffering is the goal. I don't mean that we should purposefully place ourselves in a state of suffering expecting to have the glory revealed, but we must be alright with the fact that our suffering might be the only part of the glorification process revealed to us. Only later in heaven might we get the answer to the "Why?" of suffering. We have to come to terms with that. As we suffer for our art, our work, our family, our friendship, we also share in the glory that the suffering produces. That very same glory may not leave us unmarred by the suffering...Paul too had a thorn in his side, but the suffering is never for naught.

The toil we deal with in situations beyond our control, and the suffering we bring onto ourselves in our work striving for excellence, become the point. God will turn the suffering into glory, we will become better because of it, the Kingdom will be glorified through our pain and struggle. So, stand fast in the is for grace that we might share in the toil of Jesus, knowing that we will also share in His glory.