Tuesday, July 31, 2012
This Summer of our Discontent
When is it appropriate to paraphrase a Shakespeare quote to describe an entire quarter of a year (eg: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun [or son] of York," . Richard III")? That's an easy one to answer. It's when the summer that you are occupying is completely filled with discontenting events. When the discontents of a time period outweigh the contents of a time period. And this summer in Colorado Springs (the summer of 2012) simply takes the cake. In the six weeks since Star and I moved here, this poor state and the community we live in has experienced;
* A massive wildfire in which nearly 400 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of lives
were displaced (the Waldo Canyon fires)
* The death of a much beloved pastor in our church (Cliff Anderson)
* The exit and goodbye of the former Senior Pastor of our church (Jim Singleton)
* The largest mass shooting in US history happening a little over an hour from here (Aurora)
* The death of one of our church's staff member's baby, a child still-born to this world
* And to top it off...flash floods and mud slides that hit, and I mean hit, Colorado Springs last night
This short list is enough to cause even the most frigid Presbyterian to wonder weather there isn't some apocalyptic connection to these events. What do these stones mean? Why, in such a brief period of time, have we experienced such upset and tragedy? Should we all prepare for the second coming, or is this just an extremely long period of "bad luck"? Are we, like the biblical figure Job, somehow being tested by a preternatural force, or is this just our own merry-go-round and spate of hardships and cruelties? And so, like the character Gandalf, from J.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" we stare into the fire, and pull at our beards and suck on our professor's pipes, and wonder what in the world is going on...
Of course, psychologists would tell us that what we are experiencing is a phenomenon known as "situational justification." Situational justification is the fifty-cent term for our tendency as humans to see a pattern of behavior or action, and then ascribe meaning or significance to it. It's the tendency we experience when we buy a white automobile and then we subsequently notice everyone else's white automobile. It's what happens to us when a loved one dies, and we are in pain, and then we notice everyone else's pain around us. So, one tragedy befalls us, the Waldo Canyon fires, and we approach all of life with a tragedy pair of glasses - crisis lenses which look for other tragedies. Is this what is happening to us? Maybe, but I'm not totally convinced.
One of the biggest challenges of being a Christ follower is having the burden of not ever knowing "why" life's circumstances befall us. As the apostle Paul reminds us in the book of Corinthians, "For now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror ('we see through a glass dimly' in the King James); then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Cor. 13:12). The Greek here is, as always, better. The Greek word for "glass dimly" is AINIGMATI. AINIGMATI is where we get our word for ENIGMA. An ENIGMA is that which eludes us. It is a mystery which we don't know the answer to. AINIGMATI is also connected to the word, riddle. Paul is saying the life is a riddle. Life is an unanswerable puzzle. But, Paul here is doing more than simply describing the state of our lives, as a question mark, but he is giving us direction. He is letting us know that we will never "know these things fully". We will never know "why" events such as these happen to us. Paul might have added the postscript, "you will never know fully, so don't even try to know."
However, being a Christ follower does provide the answers to many of the other questions in life. For example, we know:
* "Who" is in charge of all these things - YAHWEH, The Lord God who is One
* "How" we will get through them - step by step, following God's love and power
* "What" the purpose of our lives is - to love God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength
* "Where" can we access God's power - in loving others, in prayer, in reading scripture
But still, even after this, I would yet like to know why the summer of 2012 has been the way it has for us. For now, I will have to satiate my curiosity by trusting in God, and reading more Shakespeare. Because sometimes, "A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet" (Romeo and Juliet)
All For Now,