Sunday, October 17, 2010

Faith for Thought Conclusion

October 2010
Conclusion of Faith for Thought:

I was once accused of attempting to sort out my judgments of the world like one sorts the laundry: lights and darks. It is pretty obvious when you look at it this way. The problems came when I couldn't tell what I was dealing with. As a college student, you start to realize not just the imperative of sorting things appropriately but your complete inability to do so. I've spent a long time frustrated in college, desperate, afraid of being wrong in how I was going about my studies. I couldn't have told you what this would have looked like. It is kind of paralyzing.

But maybe it isn't like laundry at all. Maybe it's a lot harder to know what to do with this world. Take, for example, this ridiculously cool parable that Jesus told his disciples.

Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)
24He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' 28He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29But he said 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

So what can we tell about the world from this parable? Augustine once said, "All truth is God's truth." And the fabulous Kuyper said [as Byron has quoted today already, I'm sure!], " "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" So how do we see better, and put ourselves in the way of goodness when things are so complicated and tied up?

I think what he's after here is not to give up but enter into the difficulties we have with the conviction and knowledge that we will not rescue anything on our own. It is hard to differentiate between truth and lies, between light and dark, between wheat and weeds. They are all tangled together. Their root systems go down deep into the same soil. God did some awesome wheat planting in the world and its going to take some awesome God work to get them untangled, and I think He starts to show us part of that even now.

So I would like to share with you a few things that have been important in my life during the past four years. A few "practices" from my story. Of trying to see and know.

For example: Faith for Thought! It's been a significant starting point for me to really start grappling with questions like these. Being confused. Really wondering what the heck the difference between wheat and weeds were, knowing I wanted wheat, knowing that the earth was sown great but that something had gotten in it. Out of these times I've found people who have been partners with me on the journey. People who took me to Jubilee where I got to see some amazing people doing things out of the knowledge that they can do nothing on their own. Drag people along with you. Don't do this figuring out thing alone. Your brain and heart is just not big enough to comprehend all that God is doing. With a group of you, it'll get more confusing but probably a lot closer to the reality of faithfulness to every square inch in our lives, to the Glory of God.

But what has this looked like in my own life? It took a class last fall to show me one way that it could be done. I was in over my head from the first day. We were reading theory and talking about the meaning of life, what it means to be human, all without any kind of context for thinking about faith in the midst of it all. These were important questions and I had no idea how to form a "third language" to speak truth or even make a case for pulling in Scripture as a valid back up to my points! So who did I contact? Byron Borger of course!

I wrote:
"It may have taken me two years, but I'm ready to start doing some "double study", as Derek puts it. I'm in several classes this semester that I'm not sure I can keep clear thinking in without some help. I saw in the first class that the issue of disability and how culture views the body can't really work without an idea that the world was good and now is fallen and there isn't any hope if something isn't going to redeem it. So if you know of any good books (Christian or otherwise) that address theory related topics regarding the body and culture's response to "disability", let me know."

The response? "Our faith is more than ideas and propositions, and yet, "spiritual warfare" rages, also within the world of ideas".

God bless that man and his hearty answers to all book questions! I had more resources than I could use. I bought two books and devoured them. The result? I was able to present in class a way that "spirituality" could speak into the questions surrounding culture and disability in a way that dealt with all of our questions honestly, and resulted in a 20 page paper that not only did my professor support but one that started to articulate my own faith in a scholarly language.
Spiritual warfare. That's pretty intense. And I'm pretty sure that I wasn't the one making the way clear, making my mind clear to understand and articulate those things.

Now I know some of you are thinking: "Dana! Hello! None of us get the chance to present an alternative worldview in a classroom! We are engineers. We never discuss the meaning of life!" And to that I would say... yeah. But I would also put this to you: if God has not claimed every square inch of engineering for his own, is it worth doing? I would put a lot of money I don't have that He has claimed it and seeks to redeem it, even if all that can look like right now is you just barely getting homework done! I can't answer the questions of what it looks like in practice for you. I just know that it can be done and that it must be done.

The whole wheat and weeds situation is tough. Many situations don't end up as prettily as that one class did for me. But do not be afraid or overwhelmed. It seems impossible. And... it is. That's the truth. You can't do it. If there is one thing you need to know before you go out and practice anything, it is that you are incapable of saving yourself first of all, much less the world God has you in.

Preaching this gospel for yourself is probably the most important practice that you can have for yourself. Christ lived. Died. Was resurrected, is the atonement, the greatest expression of Christ's love.

Our Lord is more than capable of bringing in the harvest, and will sort the wheat and the weeds in His timing. We are supposed to work but all of that has to come out of rest in the Gospel of Christ. We do no good thing on our own. It is only knowing that any growth, any real conversation, any well played game of frisbee, any hard day, any great essay, any bad essay that you learn from, it is all because Jesus died for you. For your field of study. For the world. And that is the greatest hope in the world because He is alive and making all things new. All of your practicing, all the things you just wrote down on that piece of paper mean nothing unless He makes them good. How can we have anything but hope as we begin to practice?

Jesus concludes the parable like this: 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

1 comment:

Sam Van Eman said...

Thanks for sharing this at Faith for Thought, Dana. I was just about to leave for my two-hour drive home when you got up to share.

I'm glad I stuck around.