Saturday, September 4

Integrity of faith

"We say, then, that faith must not be inert and alone. Rather, it should be accompanied with investigation. For I do not say that we are not to inquire at all." Clement of Alexandria (C.195, E), 2.446.

I sit here alone, in this home that friends have helped make for me and two of my three children. Time to reflect and ponder the incalculables of this life, this place and the methods and means that have brought me here.

I sit staring at a photograph that was taken four years before my firstborn son, Malcolm, was born. You can't tell it by the photo, but my wisdom teeth had been removed in the middle of the night by an upset Dental officer who was on-call when the emergency happened. One of the wisdom teeth had gotten impacted or something like was killing me.

Anyway, you can't really see the puffed up cheeks unless you really look.

It is a simple photo taken by all the military recruits, not just in the Navy, but in all the other services as well. It is to symbolize the transition from civilian to military, a rite of passage that has happened throughout this nation's history even before it could be documented in such a fashion. I look at that young man, twenty-three years old, and wonder where the passion in his eyes disappeared to, where the hint of happiness drifted away to and where the freshness in his (closed mouth, but still noticeable) smile went to.

You can see it in the eyes of that young sailor, the belief in the system that created the military might that helped protect a nation's birth and its journey through the painful growth years. You can see the patriotism that drove the young man to 'jump ship' on his civilian life and be something meaningful and powerful as a military man.

You can see a little bit of the father in that young man, there's a small photo of him in the corner of the frame (covering a tear in the photographic paper) that was taken at the USO in Hawaii when the father served. You can see the similarities in their posture, look and appearance, even though the periods in which they served are vastly different.

The father served in Korea and Vietnam, the son during Desert Storm.

I stared at that photo for a few hours today at this desk.......

A verse drifts across my thoughts as I ponder that fresh, crazily young man staring at me with a smirk about the absurdity of the photo....(trying not to smile so you won't see the red-bloody mouth). Robert McGee opens his book, The Search for Significance, with it.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

We know this verse, or at least the more largess picture of the chapter of is about the 'ever-present God,' who knows our every thought and the meaning in our words all before we even think to utter them....for we cannot hide from Him, even if we choose to and it is those who harbor 'wicked ways' that fills the psalmist with loathing even as he recognizes the 'possibility' of them existing within himself. He surrenders that hidden part of him to God, to thoroughly investigate and exercise those 'wicked ways' so that he may know 'permanent peace.'

How many of us truly surrender those hidden places to the light of God? How many of us go to our friends, our pastors and our congregations....those places where God's accountability is supposed to exist and pour our brokenness out, our fears and failures? We don't, because we know humanity will disappoint us and the church will destroy us if we don't appear to be making progress in the journey of believing in God, about God and life with God.

Much like that young man believed in the rightness of entry into the US Navy.....
Life has not happened the way that young man once believed it would......he had left that legalistic God presented to him in his youth behind...this was the concrete step into a future he believed he was entitled to, capable of and worthy of.

That was before.........

Much like that young man, reality has set in on my faith. Reality.....those impossibly high mountains that stand in the path that I have journeyed on these almost forty-three years. Mountains of painful childhood, ignorant adulthood and wounded fatherhood. Mountains of broken relationships, isolated love and rejected emotions. Mountains of inept financial management and stupid choices. Mountains that Christ said I could move with a mustard seed of faith.

If they haven't moved, then it would be 'christian' to assume that my faith is non-existent. Never existed, cut off at conception and born deathly still in the hospital of this world......burned in the incendiaries of the corruption it spawns.

After all, the great faithful....those who 'get it' walk confidently in their lives; yes, some even on days other than Sunday and when they boldly proclaim the purposes to which God has called them....they are surrounded by those who would 'help God' along with the plans......they don't want those 'chosen' to sit in the filthy and muck of this world for long.

After all, they can live vicariously through the abilities of the 'chosen ones.' God wouldn't leave someone in the muck and mire and require those 'benefactors' to sit there with them and learn from their sorrows or pains. Nope, if there was faith operating in that darkness, well....the God of Israel and Christians would lift the 'chosen' up and rinse him clean with the blood.

There wouldn't be any need to discuss the 'darkness' or the 'hidden wicked places' that haunt the faithful's condone such utterances would be foolish and unwise. To be significant in the Body of Christ, one has to be seemingly perfect and totally silent about their broken hearts and disillusioned dreams. They cannot experience joy amid sorrow and peace amid chaos. They should know only the joy and blessings of being one of Jesus' saved. remains within me for who Christ is and was, and the authority, power, wrath and love of the God who is His Father and by adoption, my own.

It is that faith that beckons me in this place where God has become silent and the fire burns smaller as the fuel is consumed and darkness encroaches.

It is that faith that has me prostrate on my stomach in the night, pouring my heart out to this God that I know hears, even as I recognize that I don't listen too well.

It is that faith that gets me up each day even as my humanity quails at the thought of another day spent in the agonies of this life.....dealing with 'my stuff',' as one mentor put it.

Sitting in the mire of my muck......

It is the integrity of my faith.

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