The Mystery of Where God Is

In suffering, it goes even deeper.  We don’t only find the depths of God’s love.  When we suffer, we do more than merely receive an object lesson.

In suffering, we find God himself.

God says that he is with the least among us.  And the things we do to them, we do also to him.

We want see him.  We won’t know he’s there.  That seems to be the point.  If we saw that it was Jesus with our own eyes, among the widows and orphans and beaten down, we might single him out.  We might be trying to treat Jesus differently based on what we stand to gain.

Mysteriously, Jesus is there.

I don’t think it explains the issue to consider the following.  But it gives the mystery a fuller character, gives us something deeper and stranger to drink in.

Jesus suffered horrifically.  Much has been made of the physical aspects of his crucifiction.  Lots has been said about the psychological impact of being abandoned by his followers.

I’m not interested in debating these analyses.  Certainly the physical and emotional suffering was  horrendous.

But they were the only the icing on the cake.  The cake itself?

Jesus took on the sin of the world.  Not just the sins of his friends or followers.  Not just the sins of Jersalum.  Not even just the sin of the people living in the world at that time.  Jesus took on all the sin of the people who ever lived.  Yours, and mine, and the people who live in New Jersey and the hippies in the 60’s and the Republicans in Orange County, California, and the Aborigonees in Australia.  And all of these people’s grandchildren.  And all of their grandparents.  And so on…

It lead to the first and only separation between God the Father and Jesus in all of time.  It lead Jesus to say “Why have you forsaken me?”

But even in this expression of despair, mysteriously, Jesus affirms his hope and faith.  The very structure of these words is an echo of one of the psalms.  Jesus was knowingly, intentionally coming back to the bible itself in his great time of darkness.

There is a mystery: choosing to suffer gives us the privilege of standing in solidarity with God.  But this is only so because Jesus’ great suffering allowed him to stand in solidarity with us.

If history had unraveled differently, if we had lived before Jesus was born, we might say “God, you don’t get it.  You have never been mortal.  You have never been vulnerable.  You have never been hurt in the ways that we can hurt.”

But this is the miracle and the mystery of Jesus Christ: the creator of the universe made himself mortal.  Made himself vulnerable in a new way.  Allowed himself to be hurt as we hurt.

And not only did he still maintain his moral perfection.  But he took on the greatest suffering of any of us.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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