An Act of God Happens

Remember The Far Side? A one panel comic that ran for years and years. Many talking animals, plump people, and situations that were the exact opposite of reality. There are two Far Side comics that I would call my favorites. I’ll still laugh just thinking about them – maybe I’ll be motivated to find them and thumb-tack them to the wall of my luxurious cubical.

The first comic has the caption “Prehistoric microscopes” and has a picture of two cave men, one is leading a mammoth underneath the optical portion of a gigantic stone ‘microscope’. The second caveman is sitting on the top of the ‘microscope’ with his entire head inside the viewing part and he is declaring “Yes, it’s a mammoth.” It is such a ridiculous picture and declaration (get it, like he’d need a microscope to know it was a giant mammoth?) that I laugh every time. Even now. Unfortunately, that comic has nothing to do with this blog entry. Just wanted to share.

In my second favorite, I don’t even remember if there is a caption. It is a picture of a long black-board. At the far right there are a group of scientists celebrating and high-fiving each other and one saying something like “We did it!”. When you look on the board you see, starting at the left, all sorts of equations and symbols. Same on the right. But in the the middle there is a break with the words “An act of God happens.” How over the top. For this group of scientists, they just explain away everything in the middle with an act of God. Wish I could have written math proofs that way in college. There would have been more time for beer.

The Bible sometimes seemed like that to me. In the last couple months I’ve developed an appreciation for all the things that the Bible does not say. Consider Noah. We are not told too much about what happened in his life between receiving his call to build the ark and God closing the door. Certainly not a lot considering it spans over 100 years. What do you think the conversations were like between Noah and God as Noah was hammering nails on another hot, dry desert day? I am pretty certain that Noah had to come to a very good grasp on just who he believed God to be.

Think about Hosea. Again, I am sure he has a lot of interesting things going on in his mind as he goes to purchase his adulterous wife from her captors. We are not let into his internal musings, the Bible just relates that Hosea “bought her for fifteen shekels…” Almost as if obedience were that easy, which I’m sure that humiliating act was not. Example after example, even with the disciples. The Bible is remarkably silent on Peter’s inner struggle after denying Jesus, but I’m sure it was never far from the front of Peter’s mind.

But, since the Bible often does not relate the details of the struggles men have had following God, as we read I think we often sanitize the Bible characters and their stories. They were told, thus they obeyed. I’m sure there were many times of no-questions-asked-obedience. I would just ask if that was realistic to assume as Abraham is asked to sacrifice Issac. Or if we should just assume Peter slept soundly after denying Christ. There is huge emotional and spiritual struggle and the Bible just doesn’t tell us details of the process.

Maybe that contributes to some of our mask-wearing. Abraham asked no questions, so why should I? Hosea did not complain, so I’ll keep my mouth shut. Even with Paul, who is often brutally honest about himself, we tend to gloss his struggles over and have made him super-disciple while forgetting the laborious process for him to get there. He wasn’t born-again that way.

I wanted to live up to the calling I had received, and if I couldn’t be like Paul (or let God work that process in me), I was at least going to act the part! That’s what God expects! That’s what people are looking for! Please affix my mask!

On Easter Sunday a couple weeks ago, I did the welcome piece from stage for my church. It was an interesting bookend, because on Good Friday the year before I had resigned from my pastoring position because I couldn’t live the act anymore. My actions and my hurt were out of control. So much has happened in the last year. I’ve wrestled God. Wandered farther away than I would ever advise anyone. Became a pastoral cliche; now I’m a cliche (don’t mean cliche in a negative way) of reconciliation and grace. Just like The Far Side comic, “An act of God happens” somewhere in that year – a true miracle, a ‘second conversion’. As a result, I am able to finally confront who I am, who God is, who I should allow Him to be, and the impact of who I was on those around me. It has been a painful and stunning process. One that will continue for the rest of my life. I think when you truly allow God to break you (which is the way He wants it) and put you back together, He allows the cracks and scars to remain as evidence of the process.

If my story were written in the same style as the Bible, verse 45 of the book of Me would say “He wrote his letter and fled.” Then verse 46 would continue “The next Easter he attended services in the temple courts (work with me) with his wife and daughter and they watched him welcome people as a changed man.” Only now, rather than saying I understand what happened in the meantime, I’ve experienced it. My perspective has changed and the Bible characters are now not just words on a page, but people who have struggled just like I do. That is what God loves, using the weak to shame the strong, and that is just what I want people to see in me – no mask, but the result of an act of God.

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