Three weeks before I wrote “Faith,” the most recent post here on Common Life, Jennifer and I saw an ultrasound room’s light flick on, the machine shut down, and the picture you see above land in our hands. A week after I wrote “Faith,” we returned to the same room, the light was kept off for several minutes, and no picture was printed from that day.
Faith is confidence in the ability of some external power, namely God, to bend all things toward some better end than what naturally occurs. It is openness to—and ultimately, dependence upon—the ways and wisdom of God as a new power for daily living. It is the vital connection to life and reality itself while all things within and without would drift toward wreckage and ruin.
My confession is that Jesus is the one who satisfies faith as I described it. I confess that the purpose of life is not to forestall death, prolong life, pursue pleasure, or find myself, as it were. In every effort to find myself, I have found myself more mystified and alone, more helpless and undone. I have needed some trustworthy word from an outside source to find me under the heap of ill-fitting clothes I’ve worn. I have needed a new source of power for daily living and the healing of relationships. Even suffering and loss and terrible disappointment can push me toward the satisfaction of my faith, which is a tree rooted in my chest somewhere safe from storm and fire. Because Jesus is Lord over all such forces, in the great and terrible and awesome wisdom of God, they are at times permitted to pass into our lives for the express purpose of getting us closer to the unending and overflowing life that is accessed in Jesus. They are given just enough power to be rendered powerless in achieving their own intended ends. Faith in Jesus is the great subversive conspiracy against the march of sin and death. This is a mystery I don’t claim to fully understand, but I have lived with Jesus long enough to trust Him.
I have faith that Jesus does such things better than all rivals, and that Jesus alone responds to this universal problem with the healing we seek. Amen.
I’ve come to really enjoy Mark Galli’s weekly meditations on culture, which attempt to advance a “beautiful orthodoxy” (as the Christianity Today editor often puts it). Galli aspires to this with humility, admitting that our best efforts tend to be shaded and partial. Even still, we mumbling, stumbling Christians ought to help convey God’s truth to a watching world. So it matters that we think about things—everything, in fact—seriously.
To the point, I don’t think Galli is taking our day’s “visual tsunami” too seriously. It sure seems like a true diagnosis when he writes:
One thing I have noticed is this: images help me feel quickly and with relative ease—and for this I am grateful. But a steady diet of images seduces me to stop thinking. Critical thinking isn’t everything, but when one is assaulted with images day after day, and when images (in the form of television, movies, and Instagram) pull me away from reading that makes demands on me (and thus can change me), I worry that I will end up breezing along in the jetsam of culture instead of living with freedom and intention.
He then admits, “These reflections are clumsy and hardly do justice to the writings that explore in great depth the relationship of word and image, much of which I find hard to fathom frankly.” Read the whole (and brief) piece here, and let me know what you think of his observations: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/february-web-only/surviving-tsunami-of-images.html
As a Christian, I savor humble and honest commentary on this broken and beautiful world without the rancor or neurosis of the loudest and proudest talking heads out there. Jesus spoke a lot about his own true judgement of things and the need for deeper healing than we’d care to admit (John 5, Luke 11-12…), but he spoke without malice or damaging criticism. “It’s not a coincidence that Jesus is named the Word,” Galli remarks. Though Jesus is heralded in the book of Hebrews as the “radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint [or image] of his nature,” the insta-gratification of our visual culture should tell us that to fully understand Jesus, the Word, he must be listened to diligently and read intently. We’ll then see him as he is with eyes of faith.
This is a post that talks about Donald Trump, but it’s not about Trump. He’s not a curio piece or slow-collision car wreck to stare at. That’s easy to do, and I have had to regularly remind myself that he’s mere “flesh and blood,” and it’s not with him that I am to spar. When my dinner-table conversation with Jennifer begins parrying at length with whatever ingratiating things Trump said or did that day, I gotta stop myself. Or Jennifer wisely calms me down. “He’s a small man,” I have found myself thinking (or saying out loud) as something kind of like a prayer. So this post isn’t about Trump. I can’t give him center-stage like that, because I’m heading to a conclusion that isn’t about him. And isn’t his prominence less about him and more about those supporting him? As a Christian, I should focus on the bizarre/expected?/sad reality that many, many other Christians are big fans of this small man.
Continue reading Listening to the Good Shepherd in the Days of Trump
Charging at the waves with a glass in my hand, as Aaron Weiss so deftly put it, pushes up against the unparalleled feelings I have felt thus far. It seems some days I would charge into the wild joy I felt, knowing life was inside me, made by love. Charge like a wild mare I would and then collapse into a wall of despair as if all the wind had been swept from my lungs. Can any pregnant woman relate? Maybe any woman can relate. And so begins the recounting of my first trimester.