Friday, July 24, 2020

The ever present "but"

As a child complaining to my parents about having to go to school or eat lima beans or practice the piano or go to the dentist, my parents did not give into my ever present need to but their every reason why these things were salutary.  In the end, they stopped talking and then I succumbed to their will knowing that silence meant I had lost.  I had not lost but they, in their wisdom and experience, had chosen the better for me and in this I had, indeed, won.  Though it was hard to admit this with the taste of lima beans on my tongue or my lip swollen and numb from a visit to Dr. Death.

Silence in the Christian conversation does not mean we have lost.  It means God has won.  That is the thing we learn over time.  It does not present itself well to the impatient so full of himself or herself and expecting fireworks and profundity every moment.  But it is the lesson learned over time.  Silence means that God has won and if God has won, we have won.  We may not like the taste of it in our mouths or the sound of it in our ears or the feel of it in the bruising battles with the devil, the world, and our flesh yet that does not diminish the truth of it one bit.  God has won.

Worship is too full of words in part because we don't want to allow the silence.  We are still too full of ourselves and the belief that we have something to say, sing, pray, or do that will impress the Most High.  We are still uneasy about silence because we would rather have a God who works at our call that to call on the God to work in mysterious ways we may not see or understand.  We are uncomfortable with silence because we still find the instinct (because of sin) to see every approach to God as a competition in which we might lose unless we fight hard to overcome.

As a youth I read poetry (do they read poetry anymore?) and remember the poignant lines from Robert Browning's Pippa's Song, (Act I: Morning):

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world!

My parents often borrowed the last two lines, sometimes adding their own variation (the sun is in the sky, the stars and moon shine bright, etc.).  Strangely enough I doubt ever saying that to my children, although some of them anime affectionados will undoubtedly recognize the lines "God's in his Heaven / All's right with the world" from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, where they are used as the slogan of the secretive government organization NERV. It also appears in a blurred graffiti in the anime No Guns Life. Imagine that!

God is in His heaven – all's right with the world.  Perhaps Browning had read Habakkuk.  For that is exactly the idea in 2:20, although here the word heaven is replaced with temple.  I like that.  God is in His Temple.  The world can stop cussing and complaining, whining and moaning, stewing and fretting. . .  We can keep silence before Him.  Like when the parent's voice prevails and the child is quiet, trusting that mom or dad knows best.  Or when the Christian heart, so easily churned up by the cares and troubles of this life, finds peace in knowing God is where He has promised to be, doing what He has pledged to do, and, whether we understand it or not, this is the best there can be.  In other words, we have faith.  We trust.  We are quieted not by His over-powering force but by the Spirit prompted Amen to what we do not see but cannot help but to believe.

"But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”  Habakkuk 2:20.

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