Sarah Bessey has asked “What is saving your life right now?”
These are my responses:
* * *
I’m spending this week with Grandma. And so yesterday she and I loaded up into the suburban and drove the four minutes to Third & Dwight Church of Christ.
And there is the man—who Grandma says is a new deacon—handing us the order of worship on our way in.
And I see that guy with the nose—the one my Mom hugs every time she comes home.
And there’s that woman who always tells me how cute I was when I was three.
And the pews are rigidly staring towards the pulpit, but I know better—they have cushions now. And, anyway, they use power point these days, so I’m not going to take the pews too seriously.
And then the preacher stands up to tell us that we are going to have a praise night, so anyone who has a song suggestion could let one of the men know (because, you know, only men can lead the singing), but I don’t even stiffen.
Because. For some reason. The fifteen of us gathered at the front of the 200 hundred person sanctuary feels to me like the body of Christ. Because, at this point, this church is faithfully doing what it has always done.
And we don’t even pretend that the sanctuary is full. Because it is. It is alive with the spirits of all those who have learned to follow Christ here, beneath these ceiling fans.
And then I hear the prayer leader thunder about the steadfast love of God. And the song leader explains that Christ died for all. And the preacher invites whoever needs to respond to the Gospel to step forward, despite the fact that everyone present has been a faithful part of the church for decades.
And the preacher offers to all the prayers of the church. Because we know that God is here. We’ve been singing to him for the better part of an hour.
And no one comes forward—and no one expected anyone too—and we say the final Amen.
And even though, on the way home, Grandma tells me about the glory days when the church had two services and was broadcast on the radio, there isn’t even a hint of bitterness in her voice.
And this is saving me today.
Because I now have a picture of what “til death do us part” means.
* * *
I’ve been reading T.M. Luhrmann’s book—When God Talks Back—for the last few days.
And I have way more questions than answers. Because Dr. Luhrmann is psychological anthropologist and she is explaining the ways God—if he exists—uses to personally interact with his children. And she talks about imaginary friends. And social relationships in our heads. And “special epistemological categories” in which both Teddy Bear and God the Father fit.
And I don’t know what to do with it.
Because I might be making God up—like, I could have invented God as a coping mechanism for my emotional problems.
Or he might actually help me with my emotional problems.
And if God is real, Dr. Luhrmann has shown me that he uses our natural biological and psychological limitations to communicate with us.
And somehow this surprises me, though it shouldn’t because I know Jesus was fully human and the bible is complicated. And it drives me to vexation. Because if God is going to talk to me then he will communicate in ways which are clearly different from the way in which I communicate with myself.
And so I sat out on the back porch at Grandma’s house with Amanda, who arrived in Monahans today.
And she asked me to speak.
And the words poured out.
And I smelled the rain before it began. And I saw the rainbows. And God was in the rain. And in the rainbows.
And, apparently, in me. And it hits me. That’s what Paul was fumbling all over the place when he talked about “being alive in Christ” and “it is not I who live but Christ who lives in me”.
And I barely understand. I dimly get it. And there’s Paul again: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Somehow God is inextricably tied to the very fabric of existence. And his Spirit somehow resides in me. And communicates to me using the very psychology and biology he created.
He was intimately involved in the evolution of humanity. And in the thunderstorm this evening. And in every death, great or small.
And his involvement is not external and against, but within, without, and all around.
And this is saving me right now: that God is Immanent.