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Black

Wineskin in the smoke

My soul faints with longing for Your salvation,
   but I have put my hope in Your word.
My eyes fail, looking for Your promise;
   I say, "When will You comfort me?"
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
   I do not forget Your decrees.

–Psalm 119:81-83


Community Group was intense last night; we read and talked through Psalm 53. God's Word, especially in the concentrated form it takes in the Psalms, can be like a shot of whiskey– it goes down hard with a grimace before it can warm from the inside. Blessed to have Heather as my co-leader, because I am not as compassionate as I could be.

Our stories are important, vital. It is a beautiful thing when we are willing to risk bringing them to bear on one another and in our relationship with God. We have the freedom to struggle, to cry out to God when we need relief from the crushing weight of our sin, when we need to be reminded who Jesus has made us, when we need to let go of anything we think we can bring to the table and embrace only our need of Him. That's freedom, big and bold.

A disconnect between our stories– or at least our versions of them– and God's story is almost inevitable. We can't make it line up the way we want it to. That tension brings the temptation to flee, to look away from what is difficult and run to a more comforting locale, or to run from Him entirely. Doing so may keep our stories from being disturbed and upset, keep us from the things that hurt to think about. But it also keeps us from His story, from seeing ourselves in it and from asking Him to reveal Himself to us.

If God reveals Himself, really reveals Himself, it's overpowering. He's God. You'd think this was self-evident, but it still surprises us.

So the choice, over and over, is do I take the God-sized story, with its apparent uncertainty and contradiction, or the me-sized story? The latter choice doesn't avoid hurt for most of us, but there's a sense in which I still get to believe I am the captain of my destiny and the master of my soul, that I get to define truth and pick and choose, building paradigms that fit my preferences. It's a promise that never quite delivers, but it's less wild than the alternative.

And it's Godless.

Sure, I can add a healthy dose of religion into the me-sized story. When those beliefs are challenged, my response will usually be something along the lines of, "the God I believe in would never..." God's absence from the me-sized story stands thus revealed: it is my belief I worship. I still decide what the rules will be and He still follows them.

I want the God-sized story. Actually, that's not always true. But I need it. I need it to all be bigger than me and my stuff. I need to be overwhelmed by God's sovereignty rather than being drowned in the endless waters of making everything fit and making my life work. Something will undoubtedly overwhelm me– I'd rather it be Him.

And I need to be delivered. I need Him to choose me because He chooses me, to love me because He loves me. That's what's so offensive about the gospel, what's so offensive about the Bible, what's so offensive about Israel, what's so offensive about Jesus. He chooses. That goes against the grain of my every sensibility, yet it's exactly who I need Him to be, because without that being true, there is never any reason for me to be loved at all.

Love is always circular reasoning, or else it's not love. If it's based on something else, it's a transaction, a deal, subject to revision and revocation. The story is me-sized, without anchor. Little wonder that doubt and insecurity fill in every gap of such a story.

Overwhelm me again, Lord.

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