Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Long Haul

   My old Dad isn't doing so good. Healthwise, do I mean? Is he in physical distress? I don't think so, it's more an attitude thing, a soul out of whack. Here's a question, "How do you make yourself want...what you do not want?". What if a guy is just At almost 92, Pop is in the unenviable position of having more endurance and perseverance (physically) than he wants to have!
   Do you recall "the Prudential"? That outfit has a logo, it is an upthrust mountain. As a kid I thought it might be a poorly rendered depiction of the Sandias, outside Albuquerque. Think of a massive ground fault, the upthrust is all raggedy on the one side, and a gradual slope on the other. For today's essay, we could call the two sides of the mountain the "endure" logo.
   Perseverance, endurance, patience, or whatever the correct name of the critter is; it yet retains two sides. So, we pass through trial, we survive a furnace of troubles, we endure fierce temptation. Think of that as the steep side of our logo. It's the hard part. While in the struggle, we "hope to emerge" victorious. But our blind spot here is in thinking that once passed through, it's all easy from there.
   Meanwhile, back in reality land, it is the gradual, the "easy" side of the thing; which kills us. I mean; when was the last time you had a severe crisis going on? Compare that to the constant drip, the long, long series of "little" frustrations and irritants. The "easy" side of the hill is harder! It is in mastering the repetitive, but not insurmountable headaches, which show forth true endurance. They say "It builds character", when they mean that it is a pain in the ass. You will face few (if any) raging wild animals in life, and thousands of bug-bites, it's like that.
   We in the church have dropped the ball right here. We, (or at least I), have confused "tough-ness" with endurance, and such yields an endurance MINUS gospel. Our tenacious refusal to "be quitters" might be admirable...but is it so very apostolic?
   You see, if perseverance (or any other thing) be sheared off from it's gospel moorings, so to run as an independent "good", then it thereby ceases to be good! If anything, even life itself, be considered "in and of itself", it can no longer stand. The center will not hold, the thing cannot support it's own weight.
   Newsflash, this just in! Nothing, nothing at all, was created "in and of" itself. Such a pose is always a false premise. File in memory...
   Consider the suicide, or the would-be one at least. He, like my old Dad; is not afraid to say the truth, and Christians are (by-in-large) afraid to say: "Life is NOT worth living!". Does that shock you? Get over it.  We believers simply refuse to "go there", and insofar as this gutlessness typifies us, we deserve not being heard. Long slope, or ragged edge, neither side of the hill works, as long as we refuse to acknowledge that the never ending cascade of futility, stupidity and pain "of and in" themselves outweighs life! Life, conceived alone, cannot bear the freight. And no amount of "Concern, or involvement in the relationship (gag!)" CAN shift the balance.
   Life does not become "worth living" because we want it to, nor can we force it to be so. Until the Mighty Maker enters the equation, nothing CAN be worth anything. The suicide, and my old Dad are correct, as far as they go, they just don't go far enough.
   The "flavor", the "aroma" of the gospel, is the Man (Christ Jesus) being pulled out of a miserable and horrible death. Until God meddles, death, darkness, and misery is the reality. Outside Him, the bad guys win! The "truth' of suicide, is that life "of itself" is CORRECTLY seen as pointless. The lie of suicide, which even the dying cannot admit, is that nothing, nobody, and nowhere (life itself included) exists "of itself". Reality "by itself" can have no "meaning", but such a reality does not exist. He Who Is, built, maintains, and interprets that which is. There is no "impersonal and abstract" reality.
   He-Himself, the builder of quanta, up-through and including the designer of galaxies, owns everything. He invented "life", (and gave it as THE gift) is jealous over it, having built then "bought back" all of it!
   In this light, endurance in us, whether it "build character" or not; is moot as an issue. But insofar as we do endure, such endurance guides us PAST life, to Him (In Person), and only then, it "can (begin to) count for something". We pass through pain, not to find "meaning in life", but to meet He Who Is...meaning! We do not endure in order to "find hope". That is insane. Yet hoping (the verb) IN Him, we are surprised that the struggle wasn't worse than it proved to be. He is the target for our hearts, and "everything else" is thrown in as a freebie.
   The old hymn's line: "Life is worth the living, just because He lives" is good. I might rephrase somewhat and say; "Life is worth the living, simply because Some-one OUTSIDE "life-itself", yet operant-within-it...lives!".
   Nothing could, nothing ever will "hold" meaning. the Suicide is correct. But rather, we would add, that about two seconds after you cap yourself, you will realize how wrong, (as in; completely wrong!) that this assessment is! Meaning doesn't inhere "in" stuff. No, it is whispered, hinted-at, and glimpsed briefly THROUGH stuff. All things "testify" to Him, to He standing ever "outside," and working inside them.
   So, we do endure, and it doesn't much matter if the logo of the Prudential is there or not. We endure outrage and tragedy, and we endure flea bites and hiccups. All of it, for Another's sake, by Another's power, unto Another's glory. We endure nothing...alone. Nothing was built "in or of itself" and nothing was intended to be interpreted that way. He who made ears hears. And He who made hands...holds them. Endurance isn't so much "tough-ness", as it is holding hands at alarmingly long range.
   He holds us in His heart, by looking down at His punctured hands. And so, we "hold on for dear life"!

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