This morning I stood in my classroom after my second class and had the same conversation with myself I always do.
Well, I’m still sick.
Well, I still can’t taste a thing.
Well, my sinuses feel like they’re going to explode every time I move and my throat is painfully swollen like I swallowed a melon.
I haven’t caught up on sleep since the womb and on top of that, the world is a cold, scary place. In the words of Woody Allen, “Not only does God not exist, but try getting a plumber on the weekend.”
I’m certainly not an atheist, but I’m barely a Christian as most days my faith is hanging on by a thread. Thank goodness it’s not up to me, but most days it feels like I’ve wriggled my way out of the almighty grip of God and am wandering alone. I’ve been sick since Thanksgiving and 9 doctors haven’t been able to tell me what’s wrong.
I went viral again. This time it was for being shirtless in the rain, so nothing really ever changes. There is nothing new under the sun: I have found my purpose in life. If there is one thing I am good at, it’s being shirtless in the rain.
What a freaking one-trick pony.
“Not only does God not exist, but try finding a plumber on the weekend.”
When I was younger and first heard this quote from Woody, I didn’t understand it. Now that I’m older, have seen most of the world (it’s mostly all the same. people wishing they were somewhere else), and have been sick since Thanksgiving (it’s June now), it makes a lot more sense. I’ve realized that Allen’s sentiment encapsulates life under the sun. He shrunk the book of Ecclesiastes down into one sentence and translated it to the 20th century.
If you think about it, a scarier way to put it, from a Christian perspective, would be thus:
God exists, but try getting a plumber on the weekend.”
God exists, but what really matters is you can’t get your crap flushed by Sunday…
God exists, but He’s not really pressing…
God exists, but look at all the other stuff you need to focus on first…
My pastor said, “Most of the time when someone is having a crisis of faith, it just means God is smashing the little box in which they used to hold Him. He wants to show them He is so much bigger than they previously thought and He can’t fit in that little box anymore.”
It’s easy to sit in that service when life is going well for you and say, “Heck yah, that’s awesome! I agree! Amen!”
It’s another to find yourself in the center of a ‘crisis of faith’ from a first-person perspective. It’s another thing to feel like you’re in a vast ocean where you can’t touch the bottom or find anything to grab a hold of. Existentially, is there any way to feel like you’re not out to sea with nothing solid to cling to? These are the questions I’ve asked after countless days of being sick with no hope of recovery on the horizon. Eleven doctors don’t know what’s wrong with me and my knuckles have put enough holes in the walls of my room to ventilate a comfortable summer breezeway.
In the midst of this anger, confusion, sickness, and of course, sin, where have I even seen God moving?
I haven’t, but I think I’m learning something still.
We have become accustomed to talking about God using messages or experiences to bring us closer to Him. Go for a walk in the woods and call it church. Travel the world and find yourself ‘out there.’ Maybe if He’s really good, He can use hard times to grow us and make us into better images of His Son. A pleasant reformed pastor would point out that God was able to take the mutilated pulp of a body on Golgotha and turn it into something good, so I suppose he can take my enduring illness and wring some goodness out of it.
I haven’t sat down for two months because of traveling engagements and I’m tired.
It’s likely that Abraham, the father of the Jews, upon whom rests the bulk of our faith, was a Sumerian who never become a total monotheist. YHWH would have been one of his household gods, yet in the progression of God’s unfolding history, Abraham the philander was still able to be used.
This is a weird way of saying this: We don’t know what Abraham believed about the afterlife. We also don’t know what Moses or David necessarily believed about life after death because compared to their writings about this life, eschatological writings pale in comparison. When I first began looking more deeply into this, it scared me.
“Well, how can we trust anything the Bible says if the first half of it has no conception of the afterlife??”
After months of chewing on this, it turned out to be a more comforting revelation than scary one. Why? Because I discovered that God cares a LOT about this life. He cares what we do in this life and He cares about what is done to us. The psalms cry out for deliverance, and as a good non-denominational boy, I grew up reading those spiritually, as in,
God, deliver me from my sin and from hell and satan…
In reality, David and his ilk were crying out to be delivered from literal armies surrounding them. He was crying out to be delivered from illnesses and famine and other threats to a small tribal nation. In other words,
God is very, very, very concerned with what happens on this side of death.
This morning I stood in church trying to focus on God and other Christian stuff but the pain in my neck prevented me from going very far. This must be why God cares about human lives this side of death: How can someone care about the kingdom of God if they’re in indefinite pain? How can someone worship when they haven’t eaten in a week?
Better Christians than me are able to bypass their pain or illness and praise in the midst of it, but that’s a level of mastery I have yet to attain. Anger and worry consume me night and day the longer my pain does not relent. Don’t be fooled by my confident writing and my smiling Instagram pics.
It is a gnostic faith which pushes Christianity to the backburner until death, when we can actually reap the benefits of our faith. No, if the bulk of the Bible is about things happening in this world, that means we need to care about it too. It means we need to care about widows, immigrants, refugees, and orphans. It also means that God cares about my throat issues and that ultimately, I will not have suffered in vain.
It means there is a God who cares that you can’t find a plumber on the weekend.
I have to keep reminding myself of this. Constantly.