“Take a look out that window. Eden’s not burning. It’s BURNT.”
—Reign of Fire
Some years ago—actually probably 15 years ago, I heard the Reverend Larry Booker preach a message called “When I Was In My Right Mind.” In short, its trajectory was based upon the story of a solider in the Vietnam war—essentially—a lone sniper, sent into a long, fatiguing mission—one that at its conclusion would ideally cost him one bullet. And end one life.
The mission, its parameters, its expectations were clear. Resolute. Achievable. Plausible. Rational. Cleary something an engaged, committed individual could–sudden incidents notwithstanding–accomplish.
The problems lie within the lead-up to firing the shot. A shot that was supposed to decapitate an enemy command center, and send the balance scurrying back into the jungle; Fatigue from what seemed to be endless low-crawling across terrain that was ridden with thorns and undergrowth. And overgrowth. Overexposure to the blazing sun, and the inevitable paroxysms from dehydration. The psychological degradation that comes with rationing water between one’s self and the mirage in front of you. Mosquitoes, rashes, chafing. Bleeding. An impending sense of hopelessness.
At some point, the world begins to spin out of control. This can’t even be possible.
Somehow, within the arid wilderness—both internal and external, he began to realize something. I was once in my right mind. I embarked on this mission when I was completely bolted down internally. The mission hasn’t changed, only my perception to it.
A few times in my own life, I’ve confronted the specter of abject paralysis in my mind with regards to regrets, worry, or a situational genie that not only escaped the bottle, but isn’t going to even consider going back in without scorching the scenery with a weapons-grade flamethrower.
Actually, this has been more than a few times. I’m not a sound sleeper when all is not well. Sometimes, I’m physically debilitated. Other times, I see myself in what I call, “third person, cinematic”–a paradoxical term I made up–but it essentially involves picturing myself, arms outstretched, gazing up toward the sky on a sea cliff, and having the camera pan away into the sky as if I am being left behind. The scene then simply fades into black . . .
Sometimes the road just ends . . .
It changes everything you’ve been . . .
I felt this way when I lost my father. Sometimes, now ten years down the road, I still feel that way—as if the cosmic bus has flown off the cliff, and there is nothing I can do about any of it. Frequently I will stand at the emotional crucible of 40°35’13″N 122°23’04″W and berate the sky for taking him away from me at all. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to have more time with him.
Part of this initial hopelessness comes from latent absorption the oft-asserted position that we are very small and infinitesimal in the known universe—yeah even insignificant—one of the dumbest and possibly most anemic anti-apologetic arguments used to supposedly and IMMEDIATELY dismantle my faith. In reality, it strengthens it. Because the idea that God would even bother to allow his son to suffer and die for the dots and tittles in His creation is exactly the POINT.
Anyway, I am starting to discover—there is power in powerlessness. Even if it has zero consolation in the short term. Finally coming to terms with this—at least on some measurable levels—is what even allowed me to stop the narcissistic bomb-throwing on Facebook. Do I have my beliefs? Yes. Do I think the world is spinning out of control? Completely.
Is it all supposed to happen, according to my worldviews? Absolutely. Is this any consolation to me in the immedIate here and now? Not much. And anyone of faith I know that glibly says “bring it on” when they see the unfolding of things told thousands of years ago is simply acting the fool. No one wants to be there, when Megiddo’s “On The Air” sign goes fluorescent. Because this isn’t WKRP. And Cincinnati will probably be blown off the map anyways.
But posting pithy, albeit clever memes on Facebook accomplishes nothing—it only divides me from the apologetic framework in which I am supposed to be operating. Because it completely nullifies the point CS Lewis was making in his book, A Grief Observed:
“Reality the iconoclast once more. Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.”
The microcosmic nature of one’s own power can be the most disconcerting of things—until the day comes when we realize—I can do nothing else to control the calculus. I’ve done everything in my power to change what is—from this point–something that will be, or will not. And believe me, some of the things I cannot control are things I could have prevented in the first place–a bitter garnish to an already unweildy plate.
So off I go. I will every day, do what I am supposed to be doing to further the cause of my own life’s missions–as a dad, as husband, as a neighbor—as a friend. I will cross the rivers. I will cross the terrain—as far as I can possibly go. I might start to falter. I might even pass out.
I might lose hope entirely.
But I will every day, be where I am supposed to be, and know that the Great Hope I have will find me there—even if I’m unconscious when it does.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis, “The Problem of Pain”
Ron – this is absolutely beautiful. I’m gearing up to write a dissertation on lament and suffering. I may need to pick your brain along the way. I especially loved the part about powerlessness. There is the greatest freedom in cutting out our control freak tendencies, right? My greatest weakness with which I battle every day. Thanks for this gem. I’m keeping it in the “important stuff” file.
Wow. Gladly, I’ll do whatever I can to help. Really though, I’m just Joe average, with no real prescient ability to see over my own dashboard. 🙂