Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oxymorons can be fun

Psalm 77 was written by Asaph for Jeduthun. I know nothing about either of them, but I bet Jeduthun and I could be friends because it seems that we share issues.

As I imagine it in Marc's little Bible story dramatization (psalmatization?), Asaph and Jeduthun are talking and Asaph says, "Dude, I've got the perfect thing for what you're going through . . ." (this is where my imagination may be departing from cultural accuracy and into a Broadway production) but seeing as this is a psalm (to music) Asaph breaks into song and dance or not dance (depending on your denominational affiliation).

"I cried out to God for help . . . "

OK, so Asaph is laying out this situation, where he was in distress and he called out to God, but he felt like it was going nowhere, that even his "soul refused to be comforted."

And in his distress he was very troubled and began asking questions. This is where it gets good. I think these are questions that Jeduthun could have very well been asking and they are questions that perhaps you have asked.

Questions like:

Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

Or maybe (I'd posit, more likely) you never have asked these questions out loud, but you and I do ask these things. We ask them through our mindsets. We ask them through our actions. We ask them through the way we look at the world.

Do I in all occasions behave like someone who trusts and finds security and value in the unfailing love of God, the God who created and controls the universe?

The answer is an emphatic no.

But I don't ever ask the question: "Has his unfailing love vanished forever?"

Of course not, I'm too well trained to ask a question that is so blasphemous!

I wouldn't say that!

But would I live it?

I think followers of Christ live in a constant danger of what I'll call unexpressed, practical agnosticism. Its unexpressed because we'd never say it out loud. Its practical because its the way we really live, its the life that we practice. And its agnosticism, because its a lifestyle that has little distinction from how our lives would look if we were unsure of God's existence.

Its kinda scary.

It needs to go.

But what does that mean? Its my strong belief that a great way to defeat unexpressed, practical agnosticism is to express it.

This works on several levels. First, it removes the barrier. When I'm living in UPA (oh, an acronym!) I wouldn't admit it, I certainly wouldn't announce it, and I'd argue, I'm not even aware of it. That's how it gets ya . . . you don't even know its happening and . . . "Boom, I haven't prayed in 2 weeks? What? How did that happen?"

So we confront it. We bring it out. We state it. We repent (the Biblical word literally meaning "to turn"). This is where the Christian life is played out, in a constant, ongoing, beautiful cycle of confession, repentance, and redemption. Its fantastic (and sometimes painful, but a good kind of pain).

Second, by expressing it, these words are proven to be false and (philosophically) meaningless. Think about it, the sentence "Has his unfailing love vanished forever?" Does it make sense? Can it make sense? How can that which is unfailing vanish? If his love vanishes, then his love fails. So, by definition his UNFAILING LOVE is still there.

Even better, Asaph goes a step further in his song (w/ or w/o dance) belting out:
I will remember the deeds of Yahweh;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

Asaph teaches himself a little history lesson. He remembers a God who is not distant, who does not fail, who does not forget, and who does not withhold!

Powerful. A couple weeks ago, I did this. I walked through my own personal history with this God. Asking myself about different situations and asking two key questions:

What happens when I choose to trust him?

What happens when I choose not to trust him?

There was a stark difference in the answers and the result was repenting of unexpressed, practical agnosticism by expressing it, laying it down, and asking for change.

Its not overnight. Its a process. It just seems that redemption is always a process.

But where else would I want to be? I want to be in process with the God who controls the waters, the clouds, and the thunder.

His love cannot fail.

His promises are trustworthy.

He redeems with a mighty arm.

I'm eagerly awaiting Jeduthun's remix.

Do you fall into unexpressed, practical agnosticism?

What is your personal history with God? How has it played out?


Fun fact: The plural of oxymoron is actually oxymora and let's face it, we all love a good irregular plural, but I figured putting one in the title would just be distracting . . . even at the risk of offending some huge grammar nerds out there . . . possibly named Amanda.

The picture above is my most enduring memory that Yahweh is the God of redemption and faithfulness.


Dan&Van said...

Dan and I were talking about this very thing (minus the fancy title) this week. We are feeling UPAish now. Scary. Don't want to stay here, but it seems like such an uphill battle to get out of it.