21 May 2010

As this past semester is shaken and pressed, this is what runs over

"Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys." (C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, ch. 8)

Many know this has long been my favorite quote by Lewis. I have carried this quote in my head and shared it quickly at the slightest opportunity. It was a romantic quote, romantic in the sense of being nice, neat, and pretty--and small enough to fit just a bite-sized piece of theology in it, enough to chew on for an afternoon.

It is highly unlikely that I will ever again be able to see in this quote its once-thought romantic qualities. I will see in this quote a brokenness that causes nausea. I will see a weariness that clenches the chest and makes it difficult to breathe. I will see a confusion that causes once dry eyes to weep.

I will see a God who is faithful no matter how faithless we are or become. I will see the ability to obey when blind as an ability dictated by need--desperation for life itself. (as the deer pants, so my soul longs for the God of my salvation)

Obedience when God seems not present has seemed the over-arching lesson of this past semester. And that sometimes, I think I am obeying, when what I am doing is trying to carry my own sin until it breaks me. I think I am obeying, but instead, I am trying to give people myself instead of Christ. I say I do not have time for more than short prayers throughout the day and a token verse...and then I expect joyful obedience. Praise God that neither my salvation nor ultimately, my sanctification is on my shoulders.
And praise God for community that is willing to show us that we need to fellowship with God through Scripture, prayer, and meeting together with one another. Praise be to the God who uses others to convict us when we are not searching for God, and then throwing up our hands and bemoaning our befuddled minds and hearts, and His seeming distance!

To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. Even in the wilderness- especially in the wilderness- you shall love him. ~Frederick Buechner

My life is like a liberal arts university. It is like taking a history class that matches up with a Spanish class, that is reminiscent of a social work class. It is learning the date 1492 and later finding out that not only did Cristobal Colón land in America that year, but that the first official Spanish grammar was printed that year.

I wandered the library at school, for I had two nights in which I could read a book. I found a collection of short sermons by Frederick Buechner. The title appealed to me. The Hungering Dark. Yet I read the one titled The Magnificent Defeat. (Jacob wrestles with God and is magnificently defeated...utterly defeated, for the Angel of the Lord did not cause the struggle to end until Jacob had nothing left. There was to be no doubt in Jacob's mind but that he was not a match for his opponent)

I did not know that a quote I had long pondered originated by this man, Frederick Buechner. And now, it makes more sense.

As this past semester is shaken and pressed, this is what runs over.
Only the grace of God.
I have nothing of my own to offer.

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