Thursday, March 20, 2014

God Wrestling

                                                     God Wrestling

I don't like wrestling with God. I always lose. Always.

I've been doing it quite a bit lately. In fact, with the weather, allergies, schedules, and illnesses, the walking exercise has been replaced with wrestling God. It can be done anywhere, anytime. And I always lose.

The most famous God wrestler was Jacob, known in his day as the Deceiving Destroyer. He had a heal-grabbing move that always seem to work. He didn't lose often and even when it looked like he had lost (Laban), he finds a way in the last round to win.

Then he wrestled God (Gen. 32). No winning this one. All he could do was hang on.

Since I've been wrestling God lately it made me think of Jacob. I wonder what they wrestled about. Was it about pride, power, fear, submission, integrity, the past, the future? It went on all night so maybe it was these and a dozen more topics. Round after round, move after move. Jacob couldn't get the better of God, the old heal grabbing moves did nothing. All he could do was hang on.

I've wrestled God over pride, power, position, health, money, children issues, grandchildren issues (mainly distance), injustice and a whole lot of 'why' questions. I always lose but I keep coming back for more. Who else will wrestle with me over these issues with the kind of gut wrenching honesty and confidentiality that God wields? Humans get tired of hearing about that kind of wrestling, sounds a lot like complaining to them. Lately the wrestling has been over the health of my sister-in-law, Kim. Kim is a special needs child. 'Child?' She is fifty-five but operates on about a 12\13 yr. old level in many ways. She is special to the family for other reasons. Nick-named "Chuck" and an expert on birds, dogs, and most animals she is an absolute delight to all. She has also been very sick lately. She has ulcerated colitis and had to have her colon removed. Ostomy bag for the rest of her life...lets get in the ring, God.........

"Look God, I know all humans are subject to the results of the fall. Sin affects every one. But come on, are there no exceptions? You're God! How about taking it easy on refugees from despots, five year olds so they don't get cancer or ninety-five year olds with Alzheimer's and no quality of life?
(No answer)
"Yeah, I know and today I'm mad about Kim. Can't you give an executive order and fix this thing? Hasn't she suffered enough? And on top of that You are wearing her 93 yr. old mother out. How about it, don't they qualify for mercy?
(No answer)
"Oh, I know. I've read the the Bible. I see what happened when You showed up down here. I know what we did to the incarnate Son. I've been taught the standard orthodox theology that You aren't fixing things just "for time" but for eternity. Still doesn't taste right, especially for the more innocent among us. So how about it?
(No answer)
"Come on, can You not say something, do something?"

No answer comes but I often get a distinct picture of a cross in my mind, followed by some kind of heavenly gate, and a tear. I am reminded that the cross and empty tomb are the answers to the sin of the world and its pain. I am reminded that the ultimate healing for all things broken will come in a new heaven and new earth while in this one we will have tribulation. The picture of the tear in my mind I guess is a reminder that these things hurt God's heart more than I can imagine. Did God give these images in my head as an answer? Did I invent these things to give God ''an out?" That is another round of wrestling.

I don't know what else to do. I just keep on wrestling. The older I get, the rest and peace between rounds is longer, sweeter. Maybe I'm just getting too old to wrestle as hard as in my younger days. I have noticed that between rounds God is not in an opposite corner, He is right here with me in mine.  Who knows, maybe I'm in His.

So, I just keep on wrestling with Him from time to time. Like Jacob, about all I can do is hang on.  I guess that is a part of faith. Like Jacob, who got his hip thrown out, I will lose, I will limp. I trust people who are limping spiritually. I know they are fellow wrestlers of God. I know we all lose. But it is an odd kind of losing. If you go enough rounds and keep on hanging on, you will still lose to God, but in His kingdom somehow losing becomes victory. Go figure.

Losing to win,

Wednesday, March 5, 2014



Imposition.  Its Ash Wednesday and it doesn't sound right. I look it up. Okay, imposition means to apply or place but it is usually used with the idea of force, to compel as by an authority; to obtrude or pass off on someone. Do I really want to compel, force, or pass off on others the ashes? The Latin roots help. The word imposition has its roots in the Latin word imponere meaning to put on or to place.

So the ashes are placed, they are applied. But to what end? The ritual isn't mentioned in the Bible, not even hinted, yet millions of Christian receive the ashes to their forehead or hand yearly. There is nothing in the ashes that brings you closer to God, how can ashes do so in light of the blood of Christ and the presence of His Spirit? But they can remind; they can point; they can bring a tactile sense of a spiritual reality. In these ashes are the reminders of mortality but in the sign of the cross they help us see the promise of immortality for true repentants. In these ashes are the black grit of the dirtiness of sin and the remains of a burning desire in God's heart to win back the fallen and raise from the ash heap of sin, new life.  In these ashes are the sooty reminders of what was once alive (palm branches) is now burned, changed and yet re-purposed.  Through the cross Jesus takes our burned out lives and re-purposes them for eternity. When the ashes are applied one feels the grit, but not the guilt; one feels the sign of the cross but without His forsaken-ness, one remembers His journey but receives His joy.

It is easy enough to point to the calendar and say, "Easter draws near, let us think and prayerfully reflect on the price, the sacrifice, the sin Christ took (mine) and the death He died (mine) but also the coming joy of a broken tomb." To prepare for Easter what is really needed is the Bible and maybe a calendar. But some may want to feel the ashes, feel their grit, feel the cross drawn on their foreheads as it helps them think, reflect, and pray. No, there is neither magic nor miracle in ashes no more than a plastic cup with crangrape juice and a tiny stale wafer. Yet, they point, they remind, they help us feel, they help us think and help us thank.

Imposition. Late at night the mirror sees it all.  I must wash. The hands become black with ash. The washcloth is smudged. The sink runs black. The mirror sees. The mark remains for a time on the skin as I stare back at the mirror. "Jesus, was it an imposition? The birth, the life, the loneliness, the blood, the pain, the death?" The skin is clean, scrubbed, exfoliated. "Was it an imposition, Lord?" A scripture comes to mind. Hebrews 12:2, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

The ash stained cross on the forehead has faded now. I sense the ones in my heart have too.

Lent 2014