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

Comfort From Unlikely Sources

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This will be short, but worthy of a post in my mind: 

Luke 7 tells us of the story of the woman of "ill repute" that approached Jesus in a Pharisee's home. She's weeping and we find her sitting at Jesus' feet, washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair. What a beautiful picture! I woke up thinking of this today. Where it come from, I have no clue! Not like I've spent a lot of time reading scripture of late. But, it has impacted me deeply.

Sometimes, we feel lost and helpless. The people we expect to reach out to us do not, and it hurts. Trust me, I know. But there are times when those we least expect, those of "ill repute" if you will, who step up and lend a helping hand. That is a humbling thought; one worthy of our attention. Life doesn't always give us what we want, and there are times we find ourselves in untenable situations, but comfort and hope can come from sources you never dreamed of. I've had many of those days lately, and I know.


Monday, August 13, 2012

I have refrained from writing of late because I've not really been in a mental state conducive for doing so. Those who know me, you know that I have been living in my own private hell: without my wife and kids, life has been more difficult than I ever thought possible. Most times I am angry, overwhelmed in ways that is difficult to describe. I remember the movie Titanic... as the ship sank, people climbed higher and higher to avoid the inevitable. Yet, the ship was still sinking... nothing could stop it. That is sort of how I have felt. Each day I get up, I feel like I climb a little higher, yet the ship is still sinking and the inevitable is unavoidable.

Someone close to me recently told me that she'd tried to commit suicide on several occasions, and even in that, she felt like a failure. She said she felt destined to stay on this rock no matter what. Years ago, in the early days of Christian Contemporary music, there was an artist named Randy Stonehill. I remember him singing a song: "Stop the World, I Wanna Get Off!" And I must admit, I feel the same way at times. Please, no welfare checks, I am okay, and I will surivive. But, I hurt... I guess that is the point??? Who knows...

My oldest daughter recently called me. It was a bad time. She called to encourage me and to tell me about God. This was a kid whose faith was built as she sat in pews listening to her daddy preach, both as a pastor and in revivals. I had not heard her speak of God in 15 years... since I left the ministry, which was traumatic for her. Yet, she called me to tell me what God had done for her. All I could say was that I wasn't sure I believed in that anymore... how do you get to that point? It hurt her and while I tried to fix it the next day, I fear it was to no avail.

My current living arrangments necessiate that I go to the church. What a condrum for me! This is not an ordinary church, I might fair better if it were. This is a little holiness/pentecostal church that is much smaller,  but exactly like the church I grew up in. I sit there, service after service, and I hear familar songs, watch people worship in ways that is both familar and foreign. They are sincere, and I gave up judging worship styles and trying to figure out what was right, better, or legitimate a long time ago. But, I must admit, it troubles me greatly at times. Sometimes, I wish I could believe like they do for a moment.. one more time, ya know?

Most times I sit there angry, unapproachable, and rarely sober. I must admit that it is one of the most difficult things I've endured in recent days. I try to be respectful and make it through the whole service, but there are many times I have to simply walk out, unable to take anymore... In all these weeks, however, I do not think I have yet to walk in or out of that church that the words of the Psalmist hasn't resounded in my ears:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
   and by night, but find no rest. (Ps 22:1, NRSV)

I find it fitting that the gospel narrators put these words in the mouth of Jesus as he metaphorically hung, suspended between heaven and hell. In all of sacred writ, spanning the broad spectrum of religious diversity, I do not think you can ever find words depicting the depth of human despair and pain more so than those penned by the Psalmist. I must admit that I find the whole idea of God, scripture, prayer.. all those devout things that those of us of faith do, to be daunting at best of late. But, I have to admit, as well, that those words resonate with me more than any thing over the past weeks and months.

While those first words are familiar to us, the whole chapter depicts a man seeking to retain his faith. Following those words of anguish, the Psalmist cries: 

Yet you are holy,
   enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
   they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
   in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
(Ps 22:2, NRSV)

I have spent my whole life searching, trying to believe, retain faith in the face of unbelievable odds. I wish I could connect with the Psalmist here... Myth, legend, I don't care what you call it. I find it to be stories of human hope and belief; a belief in something bigger than the despair that saturates the first verse. I am tired of feeling forsaken, of being lost and not knowing where this will all end. All the horrific portraits of despair penned by David has been my lot, and oh how I wish I could find his faith again. 

I recently remembered a story about Daniel as he was given more than he could take. Chapter 10, tells the story. First time I remember preaching the text, I was 12 and preaching a revival in Hobucken, NC. Daniel sees a vision that is too much for him. He languishes for 3 weeks... no food, no water.. he lies on his face, day after day. His lot was more than he could bear. But, hope comes.... Listen, I hate my lot, and I would do anything in this world to fix it if I could. I lie, as Daniel, and I feel like it is more than I can handle. But, help was on the way. How do we discount that?

Isn't that what we as human beings seek? Life is hard, nothing goes right all the time, does it? There are days that I would do anything to fix this situation, and then there are days when I languish in despair and anger... but, oh how I want that faith again. Daniel laid prostrate for days, and then an angel touched him. He was able to get on to his hands and knees, and from there, he is found standing and being encouraged. Daniel prayed, and his prayer was heard. I so wish I knew how to do that again...

I really do not know what the ultimate point of this post is. I wish I had some profound words of wisdom about how an absolute God can and will come and pick us up in our deepest moments of despair. I so want to believe that. I am encouraged by many who have gone before and have found peace.. have found the answer they needed. I don't know.. I just so want to believe again. And to that end, please think of me.