As the New Year of 2009 rapidly approaches, Jacque Ellul (Hope in Time of Abandonment) challenges me - once again - to wait and walk in hope content to live in the incognito!
I’m the Only One
The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things ….
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is I'm the only one
I woke up this morning with an awful gut-wrenching ache. I felt compelled to sit down and write about it and all the thoughts which were coming rapid fire all around it – all now already lost – perhaps part of the angst itself. On a web search I came up with two sites that spoke to my dilemma as the New Year of 2009 looms ahead. The first was a column by
Eli Kearney (The Onion, August 23, 2006, http://www.theonion.com/content/node/51852
) titled Sometimes I Feel Like I’m The Only One …. It was an amusing column and I appreciated Kearney’s insights but related in particular to his comment: “It's getting to the point where I feel like I'm tilting at windmills. But I can't give up ….”
The other site of course was the one displaying the words quoted above. Winnie the Pooh is still my favorite character – after all in real life he was a Canadian bear from White River Ontario! http://www.bigthings.ca/ontario/whiter.html
So what was the ache – the angst? As far as I can recall there were an assortment of issues that were spinning at random through my being:
- Israel had just attacked Gaza with unprecedented force.
- Pakistan was amassing 20,000 troops on the India border.
- Reports of atrocious murder-suicides were hitting the headlines with more frequency.
- Just this past week I had to call the RCMP to deal with a homeless/drunk person passed out in his car – it was 35 degrees below – Celcius!
- I had become a grandfather in October and our family was together for Christmas – and well what kind of a world was Isabel Mae born into anyway?
- I no longer seemed able to keep up with all the crazy studies being done to solve the rural problem.
- As Mayor of the village I seem to be always rowing upstream – always bringing a reality check opinion – not being looked for – but always appreciated after the meeting by well-wishers not wanting to rock the boat during the meeting.
- The pound was declining against the dollar and so was my British pension.
- Big government was bailing out everyone except me! Seemed like the rich and powerful were winning again.
- Researching the ancient world for a prayer journey through the Roman-Greco world of Paul has been bringing together a rationale for everything my ache is about in the modern era … and it is not good. Our world has been here before but today we have much more destructive power.
- A visit for my annual medical check-up before Christmas reminded me once again of the age factor – after all, said the doctor, you are in good shape for a man of your age, and wrote me a page of hieroglyphics to give to my druggist.
- And then there is being missional. I am no longer sure if I understand what being missional even is anymore – especially reading all the lists on the subject that want to advise me on how to be missional.
By the time I had my second cup of coffee however, I was back “in charge of my world” and all looked much better. But is it really? Am I really the only one? Is there anyone else out there with the unique combination of aches that make up ‘my ache’? Is this ache to do with being of a generation and personality used to providing answers and solutions yet experiencing the impossibility of change in structures – tempted to yield to “what’s the use?”
Back in 1997 I wrote a report on a very helpful book by Jacques Ellul published in 1977, Hope in Time of Abandonment (ATTACHED) where I used one quote to begin: “Faith lived in the incognito is one which is located outside the criticism coming from society, from politics, from history, for the very reason that it has itself the vocation to be a source of criticism. It is faith (lived in the incognito) which triggers the issues for the others, which causes everything seemingly established to be placed in doubt, which drives a wedge into the world of false assurances.” The Word of God does break into my angst. 1 John 4:18 states: There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.
Is there yet a need for revising yet again my concept of God and my relationship to Him? Can I learn to wait and walk in hope content to live in the incognito? Re-reading Henri Nouwen’s “A Spirituality of Waiting” was helpful. Perhaps being missional in the world of today is to return to what Thomas Merton wrote about back in 1970: "The Coptic hermits, who left the world as though escaping from a wreck, did not merely intend to save themselves. They knew they were helpless to do any good for others as long as they floundered about in the wreckage. But once they got a foothold on solid ground, things were different. Then they had not only the power but even obligation to pull the whole world to safety after them." (Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (New York: New Directions, 1970), 23). Even as these Desert Fathers sought for the establishment of something away from the chaos and decay of their day, something that would proclaim Christian truth and God's faithfulness, so too today this is an urgent need. “Thus we develop perseverance with an indefinite waiting which never counts on success as a possible outcome. This of course repudiates all the success-criteria of action. We are hoping not for success but the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of his reign.” (Report on Hope in Time of Abandonment)
May God give the courage to keep on keeping on!