Thursday, May 02, 2013

Taking this World as it is

The original form of the "serenity prayer", attributed to Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, goes like this:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

I highlighted a particular phrase in the prayer because it has been wrestling with me lately.  This is much harder than it seems at first glance.  If you are like me, you want to say to God, "Wake me up when it's over."  Most of us live this way and we don't even know it.  We live in a form of unconscious retreat.  It beats feeling all the things living in this world makes you feel.  So, we join the rest of the sleep-walkers out there, walking through life with a kind of numb facade made up of how we want others to perceive us, how we want to feel, and how we want things to be.   But that is not where Jesus is.  Jesus is among the awake... and it is lonely there.  To stay "awake", to face this world as it is, to be around people every day and face fully and completely all the feelings being around them provokes... it is a lot.  It is much easier to stay asleep and tell mom to wake you up when it's over.  

To take this sinful world as it is, to me, means the following:  you walk in this world with a sober acceptance of the fact that you walk among people who will not meet you as you are, not connect with you directly, throw smoke screens in your face, reject you, abandon you, try to placate and please you, pretend with you, go limp on you, demand of you, and essentially do anything they can to avoid having close, meaningful connection in every encounter and yet you do not retreat, you do not numb yourself oute, and you do not bury yourself and hide.

That is what Jesus did.  That is what God does and has done.  That list above -the rejection, the abandonment, the fake pleasing, the pretending, the demanding, etc. -that is what we have done to God ever since the fall of man.  And we wonder why God takes this so personally?  We wonder why God gets angry?  We wonder why God refers to us, his "bride", as adultresses and whores?  It is because we were made for connection with Him... and yet we are all asleep, busy busy with nonsense and our talking in our sleep, too preoccupied with everything else to care.  And then we just imagine away this God and imagine a god who is just as asleep and numb as we are... doting on us with gifts when we ask, smiling with a half-stoned grin from up in heaven, perfectly content with us living our lives completely disconnected from and uninterested in Him, never really wanting or demanding to have us. 

Sound about right?  Maybe its cool to be spiritual a little bit, but why does the Bible show God as being so jealous?  What's all this talk about Him having His Son die for us to absorb His wrath?  What could all of that be about?  We haven't done anything... we just are trying to live our lives... asleep... to Him.  Hmmm...

"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means 'God with us')."  (Matthew 1:23)

"No one has ever seen God; but the only-begotten God [Jesus], who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known." (John 1:18)

Could it be that God wants to be "with us???"  Could it be that God wants to be "known???"  Could that possibly be behind all of this business as to why He sent His Son down here, to where we are, to rescue us and reconcile the break between us?

But back to us.  If you live around others and don't feel pangs of hurt or anger every day, sometimes countless times a day, you are numb.  If you just feel anxiety, you are numb.  If life is a party, you are numb.  If you don't "have time to feel" because you are "too busy," you are numb.  You are asleep.  You aren't taking this sinful world as it is.  You ran away a long time ago.  Your soul is asleep to it.   And I don't blame you.  I am only recently discovering what on earth this means.  I don't judge you.  Almost every fiber of me still wants to go back to sleep, and often I do.  It is easier, for sure.  But Jesus isn't there, not really.  And to drink your potion and fall back to sleep, you need to fall back to sleep on Him.  "Sorry, Jesus... I'm going back to sleep.  Wake me up when it is over.  Been nice hanging out for a moment."  

Or... we can live where He lives... taking this world as it is... facing and experiencing this world as it is without running...  Jesus lives on the hard side, not the easy, sleepy side.  But do you want to wake up?

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