Friday, April 02, 2010
The God of the Mundane: Part 4 , Is Any Christian Life Easy?
In October of '96 I had a fairly serious car-wreck. The difference of a few inches not only kept me alive but if my face had hit the windshield only slightly to one side or the other, I might not have the ability to see. If I close my eyes I can remember getting out of the car I had just paid off and looking down to see the warm blood streaming off my face onto my brown hiking boots. I remember sitting down quickly.
It would take months...years really to know the varied ways this event affected me. There were the obvious results of zeal to wear a seatbelt, the buying of a new car and the fact that when I looked in the mirror, I had a face that was only vaguely familiar to me. To this day, if I am blinded by the sun while driving, I panic.
But it took much longer to deal with the emotional trauma of being close to death and wearing bandages and knowing people are looking at the scars scattered over my face. Just a few years ago, I reached up to scratch my forehead and the eyes of the person I was talking with widened. The cause revealed itself; I could feel the blood trickle down my forehead caused by glass making an untimely exit. Glass from the windshield of an '87 Honda Civic is still residing just below the surface as I type.
Sometimes I wonder if we really understand how sinful our sin is. Sure, we get the fact our sin is all out rebellion against the Sovereign God of the Universe. We know we have virtually stuck a fist in the face of the Father, called him an SOB and then asked for the keys so we can leave home. We are even well aware of what it cost to deal with our sin problem...the killing of the Son. But I am sure we are for the most part practically ignorant of the extent of our sin and its moment by moment effects.
To some degree, this is part of the grace we enjoy. We are apt to acknowledge how good it is when others cannot see those dark and dusty corners of our heart. But it is also a gracious thing to be shielded from the unfathomable depth of deadly treachery residing right inside of us. I, for one, am glad of this. The truth would overwhelm us, perhaps no less than the purity of the Father's glory revealed in all its splendor. We can't handle it.
However, we should still try to know ourselves enough to recognize that even on our best days, we are shot through with this thing called 'sin.' Shot. Through. Total depravity? Sure, whatever you want to call it. We are dealing with something that is not flat. Our sin problem has contours we will never even know. We will for the rest of our earthly lives be thoroughly ignorant of our sinfulness. There are probably outworkings of our sinfulness, particular to our culture, we have not even been able to recognize yet. And there are some sins we will never even get a handle on. We may make progress but even that will be tough; definitely a lifelong project. But it is of the utmost importance to simply know that every facet of our lives has been compromised by rebellion.
I'm of the opinion our ignorance of this and the particular way this truth manifests itself in our own life is why we cannot see the "God of the mundane." Beholding the God of martyred missionaries is easy. Discerning the God of the ascetic who has refused all temporal comforts is a piece of cake. But perceiving the God of those whose days are marked by scraping up mac & cheese off the kitchen floor is remarkably hard. The prevailing view of spirituality leaves us with ten-thousand moments void of the glorious God. He is present when we do something like pray, read our Bible, sing worship songs, give away our stuff and go overseas. But he is strikingly absent when we are doing mundane paperwork in God-forsaken cubicles of lifeless grey.
We have forgotten if we ever knew Philo's words, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Maybe we have not forgotten to be kind, but do we forget everyone is fighting a hard battle.
If we did but know that even when we are doing paperwork and cleaning up the mac & cheese off the linoleum the reality of our own sin vying for control, we would not be so apt to think these mundane exercises are small in the spiritual stratosphere. All those mundane moments - the seconds turning into minutes, snowballing into hours between all the so-called spiritual exercises are really infinite moments occupied by not only our blackened hearts but the Spirit of God working out what is pleasing to the Father. And some want to call the Christian life easy.
At the moment, my family and I live just outside of a town called Mountain Brook. The place is idyllic. Full of natural beauty and that of the constructed sort, there are not many who do not dream of living off Euclid so you can walk to La Paz or the local Thai restaurant in Crestline Village. It is truly a beautiful place full of beautiful people. But we forget our theology if we think living as a Christian is easy in such a place. The very sin which courses through my soul-veins is present there. For me to think it is more potent there betrays jealousy. For me to think life is just easy there betrays cosmic foolishness. Every house sees disease and the pain of disfigurement even though maybe only a degree removed. Every house has a marriage that must be maintained. Or had one. Every street knows failure and tragedy and no one is exempt from the demands of death. Money may stay the inevitable for a time but no keep can hold against the onslaught of that destiny which we all must reckon with.
I write none of this to excuse the wealth of others. I'e so little wealth to excuse, that charge would fall flat if leveled. My point is if we knew how difficult the Christian life was...is, we would certainly not suppose that another life, with more spiritual parts to it, would be well...more spiritual. We would see the gravity of living out our belief on our street, in our stores, among our friends, before our servers at restaurants and wherever we play. We think there are places where faith and spirituality and Christianity is easy. Some places may be harder...maybe. But easy? I just don't think we know ourselves or the world around us very well if we think so.