Art and Faith II

Slightly revised reflections from one of my first attempts, nearly 10 years ago, to craft a blog post.

Previously PUBLISHED ON April 11, 2010

I believe my faith has moved from “truth and principle” as the driving force to a picture of “God initiates; Ron responds.”  I’m leaving behind: Ron does A, B and C … so God will do D.

Love grows.  Strong initiator + eager responder.

We have serious questions about each other.  Why suffering?  Why unexpected death, illness, financial struggle, relational struggle?

Scripture looks less like truth and principle and more like paradox, irony, with beautiful relational interplay’s.  And Oh?  Did I mention mystery?

Communion shifted from somber reflection on sin and failure to:

What is it about bread?  So plain, ordinary, often accessible, that, when brought to Christ, yields a kiss, a healing, scales falling from my eyes?

“Hunger and thirst, O Christ, for sight of Thee

Came between me and all the feasts of the earth.

Give Thou Thyself the Bread, Thyself the Wine

Thou, sole provider for the unknown way.”

~Radbod of Utrecht~

I notice a shift from “I choose,” (that Arminian[1] shadow placing undo power and hubris in my hands) to “I respond.”  Response means I’m watching intently for God’s creative new initiations (do you hear the chimes dancing in the wind?) and readily responding, often secretly, to His whispers, crumbs, presence.  Hey!  The good news is not truth nor principle as much as the Person behind it all.

Now, that ushers in art!  Art is a way I can explore this person.  Art is the means of my discovering how wonderful I’ve found Christ to be.  The passions run deep and strong.  Passions that look like a Cellist weaving and swaying, eyes closed, as music fires like neuronal transmissions from his fingers and bow.

No more dulling my pain, suffering, confusion, or blasphemies.  I remember Christ, the suffering servant, I notice alongside me.  Art lets me catch the hints, the glimpses.  For the moment, that’s enough.

O, how can I write about this?

O, how can I praise with new words right for these moments?

Editors note 12/1/19: Ten years have passed since thinking this way and I’m not so sure “Ron responds” hasn’t shifted so sometimes it looks like: “God initiates; Ron squirms, questions, demands, screams, bawls, whines, shakes his fist, crosses his arms and stomps his feet, then comes to the end of himself, lays his deadly doing down, and learns to trust.”

[1] Arminianism, a theological movement in Christianity, a liberal reaction to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. The movement began early in the 17th century and asserted that God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are compatible.

 

 

 

 

Big Mama Staggers, Collapses

I could see it in her eyes. No glint. Her ears drooped. No perk.

Big Mama staggered a few steps, muscles twitching, brain reeling, struggling to make sense of it and then, stumbling forward, collapsed. “What’s happening!?” Yesterday’s furious dash through cattle loafing-shed alleyways pursuing me and her newborn calf Blossom, dissolved into a life-threatening tragedy. The fight to regain control, to stand and defend her young, to simply be a fruitful milk cow now seemed futile.

Twenty-four hours after birthing Blossom in a snowdrift, Big Mama’s clamoring for her life.

Diagnosis? Milk fever.

Prognosis? Without intervention? Death.

We’ve all had tragedy strike abruptly. Acute pain. Debilitating emotional, physical or relational pain. Perhaps even worse, chronic pain.

You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.’ (Jeremiah 45:3, NIV)

Our questions, our accusations, roll out from deep places in our soul, like those expressed by our spiritual forefathers:

“What’s wrong with me, God?”

“What’s wrong with you, God?

“What’s wrong with your people, God?”

 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
(Psalms 88:3-5, NIV)

Then comes that sacred moment, that Deep Breath of Remember. Smack in the middle of our asking, “Why won’t you fix me, God?” comes that reply, “I have suffered for you, died for you, your sins are forgiven.”

“What!?” In that instant, we recognize that beneath the severity of our pain or unbearable circumstances lies a worse condition. Our sin. Our daily sin.

Our eyes lift to Jesus. We make the great exchange. We join Him in a daily rhythm of repentance. We roll our sins onto our only remedy, pierced with nails. We listen to His promise of forgiveness. We hear Him call our name, Beloved. We discover it’s our suffering and our sin that brings us back to Him, reminds us of our constant need for Him, the One who suffers with us. 

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (KJV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6 (NIV)

Prayer: Jesus my savior, I lovingly gaze on You. O suffering servant, look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Amen.

Photo Credit: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/163/19.cover-expansion