Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World

Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World
"You had better be a round peg in a square hole than a round peg in a round hole. The latter is in for life, while the first is only an indeterminate sentence." – Elbert Hubbard

Lent Reflection 4: Keep On Moving!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lord, I’ve got to keep on moving
Lord, I’ve got to get on down
Lord, I’ve got to keep on grooving
Where I can’t be found
–“Keep on Moving”, Bob Marley

It just so happened that as I was reflecting on this week's lectionary readings, a post about Bob Marley showed up on my Facebook feed with the lyrics to the chorus of his song "Keep on Moving." Obviously, the song is about something entirely different, but the chorus fits well with my thoughts about Samuel's commission to anoint the next King of Israel in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. This is a scripture about transition; it speaks to the issue of change; change in response to failure which is something that none of us enjoy dealing with. 

I can relate to Samuel. Obviously the text is a bit ambiguous here and we don't really know exactly why Samuel is grieving. It's a posture that doesn't quite fit well in the panoramic view of this story, so please grant me a little latitude. I imagine that he is grieving over his friend because he didn't live up to his expectations. Perhaps, there was a bit of self pity going on here as well, because Samuel was intimately involved in Saul's coronation. Maybe, Samuel's bearings were being shaken here. Surely he had heard from God, didn't he?  Didn't he choose the right man? But look at what's happened! 

None of us like change. More than that, we certainly don't adjust too well when change is connected to some controversy or failure. And it's so easy to get bogged down in self pity and take upon ourselves the woe-is-me syndrome. The wilderness is fraught with all sorts of pitfalls.

The problem with being bogged down like this is that we fail to keep moving forward and the danger in that is stagnation. The wilderness is meant to be traveled through; thus, the lenten metaphor of being embarked upon a journey.  Here, the words of Marley's song become important. "Lord, I gotta keep moving on..." This should be our wilderness mantra. When we stop moving forward, stop progressing, stop learning, stop being productive, we can find ourselves in danger of stagnation, which will ultimately lead to death. And there are many things along this journey that can do this to us. 

God tells Samuel to get up, compose himself, and head to the house of Jesse. God has a plan, a man who is waiting in the wings that Samuel is suppose to anoint as the next King over Israel. When at first you don't succeed, try and try again is the message of this story. I don't want to get into the nuances of the narrative (I've never quite understood Saul's rejection), but obviously this would prove to be the right decision. David would ultimately unite the Israelites and lead them into what is known as their golden age.

Samuel responds with fear. I get it, I really do. God knows I've been there! You fail or you get hurt and you sit there licking your wounds and it feels good to rest and try and forget about what put you there. It feels good to weep sometimes and harbor your frustrations. In fact, sometimes stepping out of the game altogether seems like a worthy proposition. Samuel was old, he had done his job, anointed Saul because he thought that was the right thing to do... I can hear him now: "the chips fell and it's not my fault. God, you can clean up the mess! I did my part, now leave me alone! You are going to get me killed!"

Getting back up and going back into the game and doing what God has asked us to do can be very scary. How do we know that our next choice will be better than our previous one? We don't. I wish I had a better answer. I wish I could tell you that everything you are faced with and the choices you are asked to make will always make sense. I wish there was some formula that we could all employ that would guarantee our success all the time. But, there's not. 

We can't help but fail at times. It's a part of the process. We will experience times of grief and regret and all those negative emotions connected with failure and hurt.  Sometimes we can't help but pause because the devastation overwhelms us. But God always has a plan. When at first we don't succeed, try and try again.  Keep moving on... 
God never quits. This fact saturates the entire message of the bible. God fails over and over again. His plans get messed up and his people don't do what he wants them to do. He chooses this man and he gets disappointed and then he moves to another, only to see him or her crash and burn. But God never gives up, and neither should we. 

Lent is about reflection, introspection, self assessment, taking stock on one's life and our place in the world, the church, our job... But its not a place to stop. We got to keep moving forward. When we fail, we got to get up and keep going. There's a king to anoint, a promise land to possess, giants to slay. Sure, we might get banged up along the way and sometimes we'll sit down and weep. But, not too long. Success can not be measured in snapshots. It's the entire game that matters. May God help us not only to play well, but to have the tenacity to stay in the game!


Shery said...

Overall, the message of this post was very encouraging - motivating, even. I am in the process of getting up out of the ashes myself.

However, what did cause me pause in your post is the statement, "God fails over and over again." This is not something that I can swallow. The very statement seems to roll around in my mouth like a bitter lozenge causing crinkled wincing facial expressions.

My failures are what put me in the ash heap. If God fails (especially over and over again)then back to the heap I go. Life is hopeless for me if that is the case. Being a "girl", I want a romanticized hero that can ride in on a white horse and save me from myself. I have always viewed God and experienced Him as just this.

So, since that's the only bone I found, I'm happy to spit it out and eat the meat of the rest of the post. Thanks for sharing.

C. M. Keel, Sr said...

You said: "Being a "girl", I want a romanticized hero that can ride in on a white horse and save me from myself. I have always viewed God and experienced Him as just this."

Perhaps your notions of God need changing? ;)

I certainly understand what you are saying, and it is tempting to change that. It would be more palatable to say that "people fail God all the time." I guess it is a matter of perspective. But, the most important thing is that regardless, God never stops. He keeps investing in us, knowing that he's not going to reap a huge return at times. His tenacity should become ours!

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