Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lessons from a road trip

A few years ago all sorts of situations from my daily life would strike me as some sort of spiritual analogy or illustration; now that doesn't happen so much. But on my drove down to Richmond, Virginia, a few came to me.

Shaking hands with HCPS HR head Patrese Pruden to "seal the deal."

Thank God for cruise control. As would happen when one spends 800 miles on the road in one stretch, I encountered a variety of speed limits, such as the 70 mph in Michigan, 65 mph in our backwards-minded southeastern neighbor, or 55 mph through all the work-absent "construction" zones along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Speed limits are rules; they're guidelines that must be followed. Yet even in a 65-mph zone, I found myself drifting along with whatever everyone else did, going with the flow of traffic and not giving much heed to how fast I was going--sixty, seventy, even eighty-plus miles per hour.

Isn't this much like our lives as disciples of Jesus in this world? How easy it is to simply watch what everyone else around me is doing and get sucked into that! Even at the bar on Friday night I had to be continually vigilant. And it's more than just unwittingly meshing with the ambient activity; "going with the flow" is really caving in to my own comfort levels and desires versus giving steadfast, alert attention to the truth of God's Word and the authority of Christ. I'm sure that it's more than just a linguistic coincidence that "disciple" and "discipline" both have the same root of vigilant training of one's mind and will. "So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, 'I am holy; you be holy' " (1 Peter 1:13-16, The Message).

Richmond the beautiful: row houses in the Church Hill district

Urinal faith. In case you have two X chromosomes and don't know the Urinal Code of Conduct, there is a universal, unspoken rule that you never use a urinal immediately adjacent to a urinal in use. Period. So when I stopped to use a restroom at a highway rest stop, I thought to myself, "This is stupid; there are four urinal in here, but there might as well only be two, since by The Rule only two could be in use at any point in time. It's as if the urinal next to me weren't even there." But then I had a reality check: No, the urinal really is there, an objective reality, for anyone to use. We've simply excluded its use by our own made-up rules.

How much this is like our reconciliation to God in Christ! In 2 Corinthians 5 St. Paul writes of our reconciliation as an accomplished fact. "God . . . reconciled us to Himself through Christ . . . . God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (vv. 18, 19). In a twist of logic that undermines all human reason, the sins of all people have already been dealt with and put away. But we can fail to believe its truth and thus not receive its saving benefits. Christ is there for us, but we do not "have" him (1 John 5:12).

Likewise we can read in the Holy Scriptures that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17); "we have been buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. . . . Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:4, 11); "This [bread] is My body which is given for you" (Luke 22:19). I do not understand it at all, but it's as if the apostles preached in this way: "Your redemption has taken place. If you repent of your ways and believe it, you receive it, and your salvation is truly effective. But if you don't believe it, you reject the Son of God and the Father's gracious gifts through him, and you judge yourself unworthy of eternal life." If we believe that we are in fact reconciled to Christ, that we have been made anew by his Spirit, and that he is in the Sacraments indeed present with his forgiveness and resurrection-life, then all those things are in fact ours to use. Jesus and his saving benefits are there whether we reckon it or not. We can believe and receive, or we can cast a suspicious eye of unbelief and fail to take hold of all that he promises and offers.

More well-kept row houses in my district, The Fan

1 comment:

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I think that "cruise control" is a great analogy - because we're differentially vulnerable in different situations - just the same way that the speed limits vary and the "rules of the road" for the differences in what is posted and what is actually enforced are different. So scripture has to become the absolute "cruise control" to keep us from morphing into what is just above the norm of society - better than, a bit above - but not really separate and apart - at least that's where I am right now. I'm struggling with "drifting" into the flow of traffic in an are that I have been diligently obeying for years - and, because I thought I was so practiced at it, I forgot to even use cruise control - and have landed myself in a mess - "reckless driving", "endangering others" - and almost not knowing how to get myself pulled over to get back on track - yep, going with the flow is very, very dangerous.