Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Knowing vs Experiencing

Should tension release
Sustain or prolong
Should silence persist
It's all part of the song.

There's a difference between knowing something and experiencing something.  There's a difference between knowing what you have to do in order to lose weight and actually doing what you need to do to lose weight.  Knowing is easy.  Eat less; move more.  It's been said in infinite ways and many franchises have made good money on manipulating that simple equation into more attractive, more superficially effortless promises.  But I still struggle with weight loss---I know what to do to lose the weight---it's just hard to do it.  And no magic pill---no book full of shiny pictures flaunting skinny people happily eating their chocolate cake--is going to change that.

In the same manner, it is easy to know that when my plans fall apart---when my expectations do not yield the outcome I am anticipating---that God had a better plan.  I don't struggle with knowing this.  I struggle with experiencing it.  How can I know that God has all of us---M and B, their families, Stuart, and I----in the palm of His hand--and yet still sometimes be so sad?  If I know that God is in control----why don't I experience the joy of trusting in His wisdom.  Is there still a hidden compartment of my heart that desires to be in control?  Perish the thought---seriously.  The recollections that run through my head when I consider what my life would be like had all my plans panned out---they're disturbing.  If I'd had my way---I would have been pregnant when I fell and broke my ankle. Worst physical pain of my life to date, surgery, pain meds with side effects out the wazoo......put pregnancy on top of that?  No, thank you.  Easy to see that now--hindsight and all.  But before I fell---I wanted nothing more than to fall pregnant at that time.  If God had given me what I most wanted.....if He'd let me have control---again I say---perish the thought.  And I am completely certain that there are more instances---more twists and turns that God guided me towards, through, or around---without me even knowing what He was shaping, cleansing, protecting---inside of me---and beyond myself.   I know that God has it under control.  Experiencing the joy that should be intrinsic to that faith---that's harder--because it's easier to know something than it is to experience something----but it's coming.  And learning to experience the joy of just  walking with God---in the moment---not looking for a path that I can't and won't ever see completely this side of heaven---but just trusting the one who holds my hand---that's a lesson worth learning in the midst of all this.

I've been reading an awesome book this week.  It's called "King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus" by Timothy Keller.  It takes you through the book of Mark---through Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection.  And it illuminates some significant truths that I've always missed because I don't catch the references that the text is pointing back to---connecting story to story---drawing parallels to drive home a deeper meaning.

Mark 4: 35-41

The day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side."  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet!  Be still!"  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?"  They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

I'm going to quote a portion from Timothy Keller's book about this passage.  It's long---but it's worth it.

The King's Cross---pp.56-57

"Something unusual happens in our response to this passage about the storm.  The disciples always screwed up, and normally we respond by laughing, "They just don't get it!"  But we don't feel that way in this case, do we?  We sympathize.  There was a storm, Jesus was asleep, they were about to sink, and they came apart.  They were thinking, Jesus doesn't love us.  He woke up and said, "If you knew how I love you, you would have stayed calm."  That's nearly impossible, we think; we know we can't handle storms so calmly.  But we have something the disciples didn't have yet.  We have a resource that can enable us to stay calm inside no matter how the storms rage outside.  Here's a clue:  Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.  Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm---the descriptions of the storms are almost identical.  Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.  In both stories, the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, "We're going to die."  And in both cases, there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.  Further, in both stories the sailors then became even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.  Two almost identical stories---with just one difference.  In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect, "There's one thing to do.  If I perish, you survive.  If I die, you will live." (Jonah 1:12) And they threw him into the sea.  Which doesn't happen in Mark's story.  Or does it?  I think Mark is showing that the stories aren't actually different when you stand back a bit and look at them with the rest of the story of Jesus in view.  In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says, "One greater than Jonah is here," and he's referring to himself:  I'm the true Jonah.  He meant this:  Someday I'm going to calm all storms, still all waves.  I'm going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death.  How can he do that?  He can do it only because when he was on the cross he was thrown---willingly, like Jonah----into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death.  Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us---the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing.  That storm wasn't calmed---not until it swept him away."

This passage spoke to me.  I've marked it--and reread it several times.  So that when I'm sad---when I'm having difficulty experiencing what I know to be true---I come back to it in my thoughts.  And I'm reminded---I don't even know what a real storm is.  But God does---and He threw Himself into it in my place.  Everything else that I walk through---even when it feels as if I'm swimming through molasses---when time goes too slow---or too fast----when sadness or silence persists----it is part of the song.  Because I believe that in our time here---whatever experiences we have---they're all designed to draw us into a relationship with a God who loves us---who would and did give everything to be with us.  And in that slant of the light,  experiencing what I know to be true becomes less evasive---and hopefully, more inevitable.