BEYOND THE EDGE

“How far are we from the edge?” she asked me.

“What edge?” I said.

“The edge of the earth.”

“There isn’t an edge, it just goes on and on and around and around forever,” I replied.

She paused and thought for a while. I could tell she was thinking because her forehead was wrinkled and her head was tilted to the left and her eyes were studying the clouds above us. Finally she said, “well I wish there was an edge, cause I would jump off it.”

I thought this was a wonderful thing to say. I imagined a cliff that leads to nowhere, just down into nothingness, and I wondered if I would jump. Then I remembered that scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, where Reepicheep, that small but noble mouse, sailed to the edge of the sea just to see where it led. This is the very essence of adventure, I think. It all starts with an idea that defies logic, that goes against science or math, that insults the enlightened man, but that captures the mind in a way that no concept or number could, and it sparks the most incredible adventure. And what is life without adventure? 

I think following God is an adventure. Maybe that’s my favorite part of being a Christian, is that sense that I’ll never have it all figured out, that I’ll always be left with questions. For some people that might be frustrating, and it is for me too sometimes, but then I think about the edge of the world, and maybe God is beyond that cliff. Maybe that’s what heaven is, the place beyond the edge, and my whole life is leading up to that moment of death, when I finally make the leap.

Magic

I’ll never understand the magic of story, the power of words woven together to make something that didn’t exist before. It truly is one of the most miraculous things, and I think it’s a gift. The way you feel when you read something that moves you, the empathy you feel for the characters you know only by name on the page, the deep sorrow and awe you feel when you finish a book… it’s all so mysterious. 

I just read the last chapter of C.S. Lewis’s book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It’s one of my favorites. I am amazed not only by the words Lewis uses and the picture he paints, but by the feel of the chapter. When I read that chapter, I can’t help but feel sad and happy, dread and hope. It’s a chapter that tears you apart and puts you back together in seven short pages. I read it slow and fast at the same time, hoping it will never end yet wishing to read the final sentence. This chapter makes me worship. No joke, I am holding back tears as I write this, thinking about the glory of God, who created story and language and art and beauty and asks us not to hold these things back, but to express them and to help others express them. And isn’t that the job of the storyteller, to usher God’s children into His presence and show them how to bow before His throne?

This is a noble and sacred thing, to create, and I hope I never waste this gift.

Doubt

Lately I have been doubting God’s goodness. I read the book of Nahum, which is all about how God is going to bring judgment on the people of Ninevah, who were a corrupt and evil people. To give you a picture of what Nahum sounds like, here is how the book ends:

“O king of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your nobles lie down to rest. Your people are scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them. Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”

Dang! That’s harsh! Did the God that I serve seriously inspire these words??

These are the questions that have been going through my mind lately. I believe that God is merciful and kind and loving. I also believe that he is just and fair, but Nahum just seems to take it a little too far.

So I’ve been talking to a few people about these ponderings and I’ve gotten a few different answers and opinions, but nothing seemed to satisfy me. All that changed this morning though.

This morning I read the book of Habakkuk, which comes right after Nahum. Habakkuk was a prophet but his book does not show him preaching at Israel to repent, it’s more of him complaining at God.

Here are the words of Habakkuk in chapter one:

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”

Sounds like pretty serious problems happening in that time, huh? And what’s crazy is I’ve wondered the same things about the time period I live in:

God, why do bad things happen to good people?

God, why does evil get its way?

God, why is corruption in politics tolerated?

God, why don’t you do something about terrorism?

God, what about human trafficking?

God, do you even care?

Fortunately for Habakkuk (and all of us) God answered and His words in this book have changed my perspective. What I’ve learned can be summarized into these bullet points:

  • God sees the corruption of the world
  • God uses good and evil people alike to fulfill his plan
  • Just because God uses evil does not mean he condones it
  • All actions have their consequences, whether good or bad
  • One day, all evil will be overthrown and justice will prevail and that day will be glorious
  • Because of the previous bullet points, I will wait patiently for the Lord

This is how the book of Habakkuk ends, and this is what gives me the most hope:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Lastly I want to confirm that doubts are okay: it is natural to doubt the supernatural. But when you doubt, will you choose to bring those doubts to God or will you choose to turn away from God and abandon faith?

You Can Trust God

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life, some of them important, some of them not so important. I’ve learned how to do laundry and how to make my bed. I’ve learned how to talk to people and how to make friends. I’ve learned how to keep a job and how to talk to co-workers. I could go on like this for hours and the truth is, so could you. We’re always learning things, that’s our nature. But when it comes to God…

It’s not so easy to identify the lessons he’s teaching us, is it? If you’re like me, you fear going to church and having to talk to those older fellas that always want to talk to you in the lobby after the service. They always ask hard questions like “what has God been teaching you lately?”

That always gets me. I always want to have an answer to that question, because if you’re walking with the Lord, you should be learning, right? But that’s not always the case for me. Sometimes I just don’t know. I usually BS some answer to get them to leave me alone. Hah! it sounds strange to admit here and now, but I guess that’s the truth. Sorry older fellas!

The point of this entry, though, is to share with anyone who will read, what God is teaching me. Every day. 

All those life-lessons as we call them are important. Pay bills, take care of your car, work out, eat healthy, go to class… They’re all great, see? But one lesson trumps them all, and spoiler alert: it’s the title of this post. Here it is.

You can trust God.

That’s it. It’s a simple sentence, but not a simple concept. In order to believe that sentence is true, you first have to 1) believe in God, 2) believe that you can have a relationship with God, and 3) trust that God has your back.

I don’t know about you, but all three of those statements are very difficult for me. They all require faith, something that seems counterintuitive. Why should I believe in something I can’t see? How can I be sure it exists? What if I’m wrong?

These are questions that I don’t really want to dive into right now, but they are VERY important questions that everyone should wrestle with. 

What I’ve learned though, is that all three parts to that one simple sentence are true. God is real, I can have a relationship with God, and God does have my back. Therefore, I can trust God. And I’m choosing to.

Now, there’s one more thing. Although I can trust God, that doesn’t mean I always do. In fact, I’d say most days I trust myself more than I trust God. That’s what makes this lesson so important to learn… because I’m always learning it. Over and over, again and again. You see, unlike all those other life-lessons such as how to mow the lawn or how to write an essay, this lesson is always being learned. I never look back and say to myself: “oh yeah, I remember when I learned to trust God. Good times…”

NAH! Instead, it’s an every day ordeal. I wake up and force myself to say, “I trust you today, God. I trust you with my problems, I trust you with my relationships, and I trust you with my future.”

That’s not easy for me, but I’m learning more and more the importance of learning that lesson. The cool thing is, the more I choose to trust God, the more He proves himself trustworthy, and the more evidence I have that he is trustworthy. So then, based on past experiences, I choose to trust him more. 

Who do you trust more: the homeless guy that lives under the bridge by your house, or your best friend? Answer: your best friend. Why? Because you’ve built that trust over years of quality time and honesty. That’s what makes trust such a special thing: time.

Mercy

Some people live inside their head.

I cannot. 

I can’t because there’s anger and doubt and insecurity too. 

Maybe I’m scared of the person I’d find if I spent some time with him. Or maybe I already know who he is and want nothing to do with him. 

Maybe when it comes down to it, I despise the person that lives inside my head. 

He’s vile and slanderous; he’s an unfair judge; he’s hateful and wicked; he’s arrogant and deceitful; he’s consumed with lust; he’s a liar, a true scoundrel; there is nothing good about the man inside my head. 

And so maybe that’s why I live for experiences, to forget for a time the one above my brows. I don’t want to reason with my own inner self, so I hide in extraversion and friendly banter. I live for the distraction of human interaction. Others help me play off my own sin nature. “See, they’re no better than I.” 

Ah, there’s the heart of it! I hide behind my “personality” like a politician behind his smile. 

There. I admit it. This is who I am. 

This is the human condition, the cards we’ve all been dealt. We do what we can to mask the truth, but the truth remains. 

But this narrative would be incomplete if I didn’t mention the life of Jesus Christ because he was fully human and yet he lived a perfect life void of sin. He took the wrongdoing of everybody else and was murdered in our place. 

This is Dictionary.com’s definition of mercy: “compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power.”

So here is the truth of the matter: I have offended God by my sin; I deserve death. But instead of striking me down where I stand, he had mercy on me. He sent Jesus his son to live a perfect life as a human and to be murdered in my place, taking my past, present, and future sin, and removing it as far as the east is from the west.

He did it because he loves me and wants to have an intimate relationship with me.

This is the ultimate picture of mercy and I would be a fool to reject it. But that is what so many do. It deeply saddens me when I think of all those who never experience the joy of falling into the arms of the one who created them in the first place.