June 3, 2014
You know, we are surrounded by metaphors for life and in particular for our spiritual lives. Let me explain.
In the ‘Little’ Family Manifesto, in Chapter 15 (automobiles), section 8 paragraph 12 it says this: “When one of the ‘Little’ children travel out of state and they have an unreliable car… said junky, garbage, scrap car is given to dad to use while dad’s reliable vehicle goes to said traveler.” Well it says something like that… So my son David has been in North Carolina working for most of the month of May. Before he departed it was discovered that the manual shifter in his car was not working properly. Specifically he has a 5 speed but only 2nd and 4th work. (Well and reverse.) But it’s not as bad as it might sound… thus the metaphor.
For those of you not familiar with manual transmissions this might get lost on you but… You would be surprised how efficiently one can drive with only 2nd and 4th gear. Today I drove to Mercy Hospital (45 minutes through parts of the city) and back with no problem. You can easily start in 2nd gear and unless you want to go 75 mph on the interstate… 4th gear works pretty well. The only time it becomes a problem is when one encounters a hill. Here comes the metaphor. Think about how many of us cruise through life from one day to the next with little concern for difficulties. Whoever we are and whatever we are tends to get us through most of the circumstances of our lives. It’s not like we are all perfect specimens however. Everyone one of us is going through life missing gears. We have all sorts of issues, foibles, inadequacies, brokenness… but we still manage to move along. Well… at least until we come to a hill. Know what I mean? All of a sudden something gets put in front of us that we don’t have the wear-with-all to overcome. Our weaknesses and brokenness comes to the fore front. All of a sudden 2nd and 4th gears are inadequate.
Now this metaphor can be taken a long way. I mean I could say something like: the gears don’t work until someone comes along and helps us get started… But I would really like to apply it to our spiritual lives. How many people do you know (or maybe it’s you) who have cruised along in their “Christian” lives until they hit the hill. You know, the folks who say all is well; they are followers of Jesus; call Him Lord; put Him at the forefront of their lives; attend church occasionally and the list goes on. All seems to be great between them and God. Well at least until the hill. Someone gets sick, someone dies, someone loses a job… all of a sudden the spiritual gears are not there to continue forward. I, and maybe you, have known too many people who have abandoned their professed faith because of “hills.” They adopt an angry unforgiving attitude toward God and sometimes the Church. They lash out at anyone who represents Christian faith. I want to be as sensitive as I can be toward those who are in pain… but I do wonder what was going on in their spiritual lives when all was well?
By the way… did you know that It’s okay to “lash out at God?” There are many examples of that occurring in the Psalms. Look at the first few verses of Psalm 74.
1 O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? 2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt. 3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. 5 They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. 6 They smashed all the carved paneling with their axes and hatchets. 7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. 8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.
9 We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. 10 How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever? 11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
This Psalm represents a group of people asking some amazingly direct question of God… primarily “God where are you!” “God, bad things are happening here… where are you!” The problem here is not found in asking God questions. The problem is found when we question God i.e. “God, I don’t think you know what you are doing so I no longer trust you.”
Philip Yancey one of my favorite authors says this: “Develop faith during the good times that will carry us through the bad times.” If we wait until the hills of life are before us to check our gears… we might become one of the scores of people over the centuries who have abandoned their beliefs. Here’s to hoping and praying it’s not you or me.