God, Logically Speaking

I am logical. When there is a problem, I look for the cause, and then I look for a solution. Last week, I was once again surprised by my own insignificance. This is not a nice, glittery, happy-birthday kind of surprise; it’s more like when you’re eating blueberries and suddenly you bite into a really bitter one and your mouth goes all puckery even though you have had bitter blueberries before. It felt like a problem to me. So, I am logical. I look at humans, at the way loving makes you vulnerable and the way people will always fail you at some point, and I think ‘how could I avoid this hurt?’ And it’s simple. I just won’t love more people. Then it won’t matter if I don’t matter to them.

And it works, for about a week. Then I get lonely, which is a different kind of hurt. At the end of this week, the husband and I go down to Texas to visit his family. While we eat sandwiches, I tell my father-in-law that I can’t find any purpose in existing anymore. It’s not that there’s nothing good in my life, nothing to love, nothing to look forward to. I just don’t see the point in it. And are you really just supposed to open wide your heart and be okay with getting hurt again and again and again? He’s very kind and he asks me questions and he listens well. He is a good blueberry. But then everyone leaves and I am left alone with myself in a house that doesn’t smell familiar.

So I go outside, and I sit on the swing in the fairy corner of the yard, and I listen to classical music, and I try to find peace. I close my eyes. I breathe. I listen. I pray. Talk to me, God.

Will He, though? When does He ever, to me? It’s my fault, of course. If I remembered to pray every day, if I read my Bible more, if I was less lazy, more intentional, better…

I’m not finding peace. And my toes are itchy.

I swing more, breathe more, listen more.

When the husband comes back from his knife-sharpening party and joins me, I do not sing songs of welcome. I say hi. He says hi, and gives me a book. Trust or Control. Tina sent it.

I already read it, I say. Before we were married.

He didn’t know if I had or not. She asked if he was married and gave it to him for me, so he brought it. And it’s hot out here. He’s going inside.

I don’t stop him. I swing a little more, listen a little more, and then I follow him in. In some areas, my conscience is well-developed, if a little slow and soft. When I’m left alone, it never takes me very long to remember that I want to be supportive and loving and interested in him. He is a good blueberry too.

After I am supportive and loving and interested in him, I recline on the couch to read the book through. Again. I might as well, I think logically. My afternoon stretches empty and I have nothing against reading books twice.

So there, says God, very quietly and very loudly at the same time. You asked.

Also, possibly I don’t let you feel people love you because you’re not counting on My love first. Possibly you get hurt because you’re giving them power that should be Mine.

That’s logical, I say. Thanks, God. I know You’re bigger than my logic, but I appreciate that You speak my language to me. That when I ask for a sentence, You send me a book.

And I find the peace. It’s a gift.

Thanks, God.

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The Twin

joshua-tree-national-park-mojave-desert-rocks-landscape-73820Picture this: your world has just been shattered. And you did not see it coming.

Well, maybe you kind of did. You’re not stupid. Things weren’t going exactly well, but they were going magnificently. Something larger than life was happening, right before your eyes. You’d heard the prophecies all your life, of course, but you’d never dreamed you would live to see them be fulfilled. But you did, and you had a front row seat. He was your best friend. It amazed you, filled you with wonder.

But it didn’t blind you. You knew not everyone was pleased with him, not everyone believed in him. You knew some people, powerful people, wanted him dead. But you couldn’t imagine living without him. That was why, when he insisted on returning to a town where they had tried to kill him before, you told the others, his other friends, that you were going with him anyway. It was dangerous, yes. But you decided then that you would rather die with him than live without him.

But you didn’t die in that town, and neither did he. Instead you saw the strongest miracle yet, and for a moment, things looked better. It seemed that the people really realized who he was.

And then everything fell apart. They took him, and before you could think what to do, they killed him. And to twist the knife, it’s one of your own who betrayed him. And you can’t understand it. Somehow, you feel like he let you down. Like he let this happen to himself. Some part of you believed that he could do anything, and yet they killed him.

A week before you said you would rather die than live without him, but now that he’s dead and you’re still alive, you find yourself less willing. You’re scared, all of you. They killed him. You’re his closest friends, his strongest supporters. The ones who believed in him most. Won’t they come after you, too? So you lock all of your doors, and you sit and you wait. It’s a paralysis, cold in your heart, freezing your bones.

It’s dangerous to stay all in one place, might make you easier to find, but you gather as often as you dare. You need each other. No one else understands the pain and the despair of losing him. Everything you hoped and planned, shattered, ashes in your mouths.

But then one day you come in to find them all already gathered. They crowd around you, words falling over each other, trying to tell you something impossible. He’s alive. They’ve seen him. Talked with him.

But there’s no way. You saw him die. You know it. Dead is dead. Yes, he raised Lazarus, but he was alive then. And bringing someone back from beyond the grave – that’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You don’t doubt their sincerity, but they can’t be right. Most likely Jehovah sent them a vision to comfort their hearts. Which doesn’t seem quite fair, because your heart could do with some comforting as well.

They’re insistent, every single one of them, but you’ve never been one to take up an opinion just because it was popular. It’s clear that they really believe their message, but you, well, you doubt it. And you tell them so. You’ll believe it when you see it. When you touch those wounds that tore open your heart. And not a moment before.

And then he just shows up. Really, truly him. The same man you followed and loved for three years, but different somehow. Bigger. More joyful. He lets you touch him but he reproaches you a little for thinking you have to see him before you can believe. Not everyone will have that privilege, and they will be blessed for their faith. And as you look into his eyes and listen to his words, something ripens and blossoms, something that has been growing in you ever since the day he first told you to follow him. You fully and absolutely realize, at last, who he is. There is no room for doubt here.

“My Lord and my God.”

 

It’s not the end of your story. He has fulfilled his mission, and now yours begins. Your task is to tell his story, to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. And you do it. You live many years after that, long enough to see a new kingdom rising. His kingdom. And at the end of your life, the thing happens which you once feared most, but which you are honored to face now: you die because you are his friend.

But you are not forgotten. Year upon year passes until everyone you ever met has died, and still your name is not forgotten. Down through the ages you are remembered, but not for the reason for which you lived. Not even for the reason for which you died. As far as history cares, there is only one moment in your life that really mattered – those few hours in which you were Thomas, the Doubter.