Friday, March 20, 2015

Robert Strickland

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

In Paul's words, we find one of the most glorious promises in the Bible. Sometimes, I confess, I find it to be one of the most difficult of God's promises to claim. When bad things are happening, feeling loved by God is not where my mind tends to go.

I lost my mother to Alzheimer's Disease five years ago. The process of AD is one of returning the gifts of life in reverse order of receiving them. A baby learns to smile, sit, feed herself, crawl, stand, talk, walk, run, toilet, read, prepare meals, and live independently. With AD, the sequence is the same, but the order is reversed. Barring complications, both progressions take about the same amount of time. For my mom, it took about 18 years to learn and about 15 years to lose.

After my mother lost her mind, body, life and, dare I say, soul to the ravages of AD, I scattered her ashes in the family cemetery deep in the woods of East Texas where three generations of our ancestors are at rest. It wasn't until she was gone that I realized how burned-out I had become in coordinating her care. I had had had plenty of time to grieve. It was some time after she was gone that I realized that the faith I had gotten from my parents, the faith that had sustained me, had slipped through my fingers and was scattered to the wind like mom's ashes. I found that I had been living on borrowed faith, and felt unloved by God.

Five years down the road, I now realize that while God does care about my feelings, perhaps my feeling loved is beside the point. Christ's love is much more about his acting than my feeling. The faith that is being reborn in me is full of questions.

What kind of love is Paul talking about? Is it God's job to stand between me and bad things? All of the questions I have asked and answered before, but my old answers have lost much of their relevance.

I am an object of God's love, but I am one of many. It's not all about me. In one of Phill Adkin's powerful Sunday School lessons, he asked our youth how many times Jesus used the word I in his model Prayer. (Not at all.) Borrowing this idea, how many times does Paul use the first person singular pronoun in the passage above? (Just once.) Do Paul's words mean the same if you substitute me and I and my each time Paul writes us and we and our?

A prayer:  Deliver us from evil. Deliver us from evil. Deliver us from evil. There are a litter of us in this womb. Deliver us. Squeeze us out of this dark place through that tiny opening to be born anew. AMEN.


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