Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Tyranny of More, the Necessity of Rest

It seems impossible to say no to that insistent voice: "...more".

This isn't simply just a marketing tool that's been overused, though we could rage about product placement in films, or the Era of Corporate Greed. It's that odd thing that drives us to eat more than is necessary ("just one more bite"), or play another online game (I'm currently addicted to Trizzle), or land one more business client. Social media merely enhances an already existing mantra in our heads - that 'more is better'.

Toddlers have the same drive toward grabbing and acquisition for its own sake, but I'm thinking about how hard it is to say "no" and feel like a worthwhile person. Being caught in a riptide of your own feelings that reaching for "more" is reaching "up", toward the light, toward expansion and progress and....we don't even know what, there's that reaction you get when you tell yourself (or others) "no". No, I don't need a new skirt on sale (that I'll never wear), I don't need to volunteer more, I don't need to give that person 'just one more chance'. Oh, that reaction. "But .... don't you WANT to do more/be more/help more?!" And the insinuation: "EVERYONE should want to be the best they can be, do until they drop."

When you're ill, you have a ready-made excuse not to do things. The sad part is, that as a fully functioning adult, I still feel that impulse to make up an illness to get out of doing, not just chores, but "things that will help". Good things, even noble things, but too much.

There are times that you do what you must, and we are in a constant spiritual war zone that seems to require everything we have and then some. But even soldiers are given leave from battle, or sent to the infirmary when they are wounded in limbs or organs. There are few legitimately accepted respite points for those in battle against darkness with no face. Somehow, you're supposed to be able to wage war via Tweets while you sleep, and contributions after your death.

There are just as many verses and passages about resting, and being content, as there are for engaging in activity. The same God who says "do not grow weary in doing good", also says "but My grace is sufficient for you". He says not to despise the day of small things, that He is the one who brings the greatness. I can see over 700 references to "rest" in the Word (via BibleGateway) and only 34 for "strive". I could use other words, but I won't. Just say no to the voice that says "but how do you know that you've researched enough?" I'm on to you.

One of my favorite converts in the Bible is Naaman the Syrian (II Kings 5), who was convinced by his wife's maidservant to seek healing for his leprosy in the land of Israel. Highly insulted by Elisha's directions given by messenger, he storms off....only to be asked by his servants to try out the prophet's directives. ("My father, if it were some great thing the prophet asked you, would you not do it?") Perhaps the centurion, asking Jesus to heal his daughter, knew what Naaman's servants did - the power of healing is in the message of the Healer, not its impressive presentation.

There's nothing impressive about rest. Seen wrongly (or done wrongly), it looks like laziness. Resting in the power of Christ looks as ridiculous as holding a Psalm sing in jail, rejoicing in the shame of being beaten for His name (Acts 16). Prayer meetings don't overflow until great disasters happen - there's nothing left to do. Naaman got the same unimpressive deal as God gave His people, in many battles. Dig ditches (II Kings 3), so your beasts will drink and you will win the war. (Really?! Ditches?) Build an altar and pour water on it, Elijah (I Kings 18), and I will bring the fire from heaven. (Prepare an altar by drowning it. Right.) God constantly tells us that He can do great things with less, and we have trouble believing that, like the Disciples. ('You want us to feed 5,000 people with a few loaves and wee fish. Sure.')

We do work as we rest in His sufficiency. We pray, we trust, we hope, we give and keep on giving, we fight against the enemy within and without. There's plenty of work to be done. We plan, and He directs the results (Proverbs 16:9). But He also gives His beloved rest, lays His sheep near a still stream, and says, "I am enough".

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Power of Misinterpretation

The problem of interpretation is not an exclusive Bible issue.

This is a human issue, stemming from Satan's primo marketing technique in the Garden of Eden. He markets death as the smart, eternal thing to do, helping the founding parents to drink the Kool-aid with him.

Today's inspiration comes from "The Power of One", a novel set in South Africa. What caught my attention was that the website clearly states a problem of interpretation. People think the title has to do with the power of one person to change the world. The author's intention was to point out the life-changing power of education, and how the whole trajectory of a child's life can turn based on one teacher's influence.

It's hard to fight against the snide, constant insinuation that the Bible is hopelessly flawed, that a vast gulf between its authors' intentions and people's perceptions must be bridged (or not) by human reasoning. The sad fact is that this is half-true - we get messages from God wrong all the time, in our own lives. The lie that exists in the insinuation is that the Bible is merely man's message to man, about a Supreme Being (who may or may not exist).

Can you make up your own interpretation and base it on the Bible? Of course, people do it all the time. Will it be accurate? No.

Another lie that people give in to is the "beauty" of re-interpretation. Somehow, we are supposed to believe that confusion and 20 different meanings that conflict with each other is a 'wonderful' human trait. If you find yourself slogging through an English-teacher approved book that makes you think about broken buildings and failed relationships and the continual drip-drip-drip of grey rain - you're supposed to end the novel gloomily satisfied that the human life is deep and vast and its purposes unknowable. When faced with an obstacle, armed with this depressing knowledge, you can stare at it hollowly and think about how all life leads to chaos and fear.

Variety is surely the spice of life, but if you don't know which spice to use, the sauce you are making will taste like ashes. And that's what Satan wants - ashes out of people's lives. But he constantly tells you that if you just push past this or that barrier, All Glory Will Be Revealed.

God's messages are clear, though hard to understand (it comforts me to know the Apostle Peter found it difficult, too). Swimming through this world's murk and fog isn't glorious, but it's work we've been given - until we get to go Home. Light abounding. Grace eternal. Life unending. No sign of brokenness or failure or sickness anywhere - and a depth of understanding we can't imagine now. What are Satan's promises when compared with that?