You are in the Psalms. To treat them like a didactic epistle, where you interpret all the words correctly and give a 2-sentence answer to a bland "how does this apply to you?" while others politely nod and snack on pastries, is to miss them entirely. You'll need different shoes. You'll get torn up, tripped up. You'll stumble upon places you never wanted to go. But you may, if you stay, experience yourself completely alone with God in the most beautiful waterfall--naked and blissfully unashamed.
Which was, of course exactly the thing my heart needed to hear and ponder today. It reminds me of this passage from The Ragamuffin Gospel:
After the group read the passage, the pastor offered some historical background on this period in salvation-history, including the prevalence of child sacrifice among the Canaanites. The group listened in awkward silence.
Then the pastor asked, "But what does this story mean to us?"
A middle-aged man spoke up. "I'll tell you the meaning this story has for me. I've decided that me and my family are looking for another church."
The pastor was astonished, "What? Why?"
"Because," the man said, "when I look at that God, the God of Abraham, I feel I'm near a real God, not the sort of dignified, businesslike, Rotary Club God we chatter about here on Sunday mornings. Abraham's God could blow a man to bits, give and then take a child, ask for everything from a person, and then want more. I want to know that God."
Now I love pastries--Chocolate eclair? Yes please--and I love sitting with a group of people, contemplating God and his stuff. But I do think it's extremely valuable, while we are sitting very comfortably on our couches, eating goodies and comparing NIV with NASB and the Message, to remember that at the end of things we will still be left with a God who will blow our minds every time. AND who loves us beyond words. The combination of which will also blow our minds every time. It makes me feel restless in a good way, I think. When I get bored or tired, or so frustrated with the daily queasies it makes me want to poke my eyeballs out, I remember the beauty and freshness and excitement I feel--like an October gust in Cheyenne--when I get an inkling of God's power and love. Even when (or maybe especially when) it's something that disrupts me somehow. Yeah it's great when it means good and comfortable things for me: a declaration of health for a family member, or getting to do exciting things at work, or just random little daily gifts. I prefer that, actually--who wouldn't?
But then again...those times when he has called me beyond my limits, even though the most exquisitely painful in the moment, have somehow pulled me in the closest and deepened my trust the most, you know? Like physically pulling me out of Arizona ten years ago (away from family, and roots, and dreams) and into something completely different. Sometimes amazing, sometimes underwhelming, sometimes flat-out bizarre. But always keeping me--a big fan of consistency and predictability--wondering, "What on earth do you have next for us?!?"
You know that story about stepping out into the darkness? Something about faith, and learning to fly instead of falling, or something? Well, I'm pretty sure I'm not the person who learns to fly. I'm almost certain I'm the one who sticks a foot out and finds another stone to stumble onto, and then sticks a foot out and maybe falls a little bit before landing on a ledge, and so on. I am still scared every time...but these days it's a familiar fear, so it's not quite so bad as the first one (or ten) was. But I think what's great about God is that he never stops asking me to do it. I don't know that he's trying to teach me confidence, or faith, or trust or any "lessons" of sorts (although those things can certainly be a happy byproduct). I think it's sort of like when I set out with my kids to see what we can find, and they are unfamiliar with a new place, and I go, "Come on boys, let's go this way." I want to share the adventure with them, the discovery. I think that's sort of what it's like with God. He has all sorts of crazy, mind-blowing stuff to show me, and he wants to share the wonder and discovery of it all.
Now in the process he can do some pretty unexpected things, and not necessarily happy ones at that, where I sort of go "Wait, what was that? I thought--" And still, maybe (probably) even without answering the question, he's going, "Come on kid, I've got you. Follow me."
And pastries are awesome, but not as cool as rock-hopping on a purple lava creek by way of Mars, that's all I'm saying...