23.8.10

A Lament: Theology from Suffering

I just finished reading this amazing post over at "Faith and Theology" blog (which I didn't know about until today). Now, I feel the need to share my lament.  Lamenting is an art that seems to be lost, so let me say this before I begin: Take this in the spirit it is meant.

Lord, you know that I am a theologian and a pastor for some of the reasons described by Ben Myers. I wish I spent so much time learning about the Christian faith because I understood the worth of your gifts and way, or because I loved you that much, or because I was obediently answering your call.  These things have, and do, play their roles. But the deeper and initial reason, if I am honest, is that I have done this because the faith you call us to often makes very little sense to me.  Lord, why? Why do you not make the path clearer? 

I wish I could say that my questing through apologetics was for the purpose of bringing others to you.  Indeed, you have been gracious and used my time in just this way. But, the reality is that I have quested so because I have so many questions, and many still unanswered. Lord, why? Why doesn't your word answer all our questions?

My strongest desire, Lord, is to help others experience your presence.  Lord God, you are good, and have blessed me with glimpses of your presence, your call.  But Lord, you know that my desire for others to taste and feel that you are good is but a reflection of my desire for me, my thirst born of the long desert periods when I wander and wonder at your absence. Lord, why? Why does the promise of your presence require so much faith? 

"We are not theologians because we are particularly religious; we are theologians because in the face of this world we miss God."

I think of Mother Teresa, whose spiritual diaries were publicized after her death.  In them she talked about feeling God's absence.  I think of St. John of the Cross who wrote "The Dark Night of the Soul".  I think of the anonymous author who wrote "The Cloud of Unknowing." I think of so many others. And then, I turn to the modern evangelical church. And then, I turn to my own ministry.  I act, speak, serve, lead, and pretend that your presence is so easy to have.  Maybe, for some, it is easy.  Am I the only one who feels this way? Still, the most common problem I hear about is people not knowing your presence, desiring you more.  

You, Lord God, are awesome beyond our understanding.  From the highest heights to the deepest depths, you are there.  There is no place I can hide from your presence. And yet, your presence can hide anywhere.  

And yet, if I am more honest yet, I know that it is not you that stops me from entering your sanctuary, but I myself do this.  You fill me as much as I can stand.  If my desires were met, surely I would burn and disappear, a dim flicker in an endless night.  So, Lord, prepare me. Change me.  Mold me.  Bring me to the point where each day my eyes see more of you, even in the suffering and darkness of the world.  Bring me to the place where my heart is open to more of you, even in the pain and longings of my inner being.  Bring me to the point where I am ready for you to fill me and for that filling to be life itself.  I want to see your face Lord, but for now I know that I am not even ready to see your trailing glory.  

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