Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Length of a Jetty

My fingertips are cold but not as cold as my heart. How can there be so much noise yet it seems like there’s a deafening silence – tinnitus, white sound that drowns out all sounds of joy and peace but I can still hear the clock ticking and the traffic outside.

Where is God in all this? When all the reasoning and words of encouragement have settled like house dust the air is clearer and lines and angles of the furniture and window frame are sharper and clearer. When chattering has ceased the sound of the house moving and settling reminds me that the earth moves.

It doesn’t just remain static while humans take care of their busyness and God’s creatures go about theirs. The earth moves – very slowly, definitely, irresistibly taking no heed of our short and hurried lives. But I’m getting older and as long as I’m alive I will be swept down the river of life along with the detritus that brushes my shoulder and muddies my view. And the landmarks become memories as new horizons entice me and eventually pass by into history.

God is the constant. He moves at the speed of light yet in 25 billion years he hasn’t moved one inch. He is everywhere yet he is always here. He is nowhere to be seen yet his glory is revealed in the mightiest of volcanoes and the most delicate of flowers. He is the constant that defies verification, the black spot in my vision - when I look straight at him he disappears - the hobo that moves on as soon as you have him settled.

The earth moves and I can’t see it, it creaks and I can’t hear it. I leave this plot of ground motionless as I hurtle on towards a goal that eludes me only to come full circle to that plot of ground that is wiser than I. Whether I sit and let the world go by or try to defeat time as it laughs at my folly, I will end up in the same place.

I will lie down to sleep with unfinished business and in the blink of an eye I’ll be back at the coal face, my hands still grey with coal dust from the day before, my pick just where I left it, a foot further but still a mile underground. I carry my burdens like a haversack. Even when it’s empty I won’t take it off because it keeps my back warm.

You don’t know what I carry in my bag. When the flask is empty and the sandwichless cling film flits about, the lies and dark secrets still cling to the inner seams making sounds like flasks and empty crisp packets. They need very little space and can live on crumbs.

But God the Father knows me inside out. He waits like the earth and moves like the wind. He counts my efforts as nought against the backdrop of eternity yet he counts every hair on my head. He leaves me to dig my own holes and winces as the spade hits another stone as he recalls nail on hammer pinning flesh to wood. He waits impatiently for me to unbuckle my burden and lay it at his feet; but wait he will though it has been an eternity.

I am no Job – he was a righteous man – but we all, like sheep, have gone astray. If only I had misspent my youth - I would have learned and been wiser. But I am learning wisdom the hard way and I am yet a student. I may yet learn the length of the jetty when I have overreached it’s end by a foot.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thankfulness

What can I thank God for?


Preamble: A little background so you can see where I’m coming from, then you will better understand where I’m going. I had a rough day yesterday and sunk into self-pity wondering when my god-awful life was going to turn around. Yet a few days earlier I was encouraging someone to be thankful (it’s funny how you are taught your own lesson). I am slowly learning that good things happen when I am thankful and my life goes down the pan when my head is in it. It’s not magic or even peculiarly biblical.

It’s good to thank God when you are happy, successful, content and life feels good but life’s pleasures can be deceitful. And it’s easy to forget God when prayer is routine rather than necessary; when you are crying out for others but have no obvious needs yourself.

The world is so deceitful that it will allow you to see its deceit to a depth that will satisfy your self righteousness and guilt and reward you for your apparent honesty and contrition. To this end you can hear sermon after sermon about the deceitfulness of wealth and what the world has to offer and be satisfied that you understand. You may convince your friends and be a shining example of someone who loves the Lord and cares for others, a standard for others to model their lives on.

But the heart is deceitful above all things (even the devil dresses as an angel of light). If you are poor you should delight in God because it is he who makes you rich; if you are rich you should delight in God because all you have can be taken away and your true wealth will not be touched. If you are poor don’t despise the rich because only God knows their hearts. If you are rich don’t despise the poor because God gave you your wealth. Think of yourself with sober judgement and take pride in what you do, not your position, because God can bring you down with a single blow and make you an object of scorn and derision. God has given us all the gift of life. To each one of us he has given gifts that we should administer in faith and faithfulness. God has given his grace freely and without condition to any that will call on him. For all these things we should be thankful.

God isn’t waiting to bring you down nor does he take great delight in bringing you to your knees to teach you humility. He is for you and not against you. He wants to build you up, not break you down but he is more interested in the state of your heart than the state of your bank balance. He can fill or empty your bank account but to fix your heart he needs some cooperation and a thankful heart is the easiest to work with.

Thankfulness is not the icing on the cake, it’s the grease that stopped it sticking in the baking tin.