Reflecting on the Journey
Faith isn’t just knowing the commandments;
it’s believing in life!
Friday posts, here on Facebook, have become a sorta tradition for me, lately. I spend the week looking for a quote. One that catches my attention. That piques my interest. Short. Sweet. To the point. Then, I Photoshop it and post is on one of our pages. @MidlandLutheranChurch. @GospelCrossWords. For instance, a couple of days ago, it was a quote from Gwendolyn Brooks, an African-American poet. “Live not for Battles Won./ Live not for The-End-of-the-Song./ Live in the along.” Or Friday a week ago, I’d used something Toni Morrison wrote. “I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it!” It doesn’t have to be anything terribly profound. Or particularly spiritual. Just something we can sink our teeth into. Something we can mull over.
Well, over the years, I’ve, probably, read a thousand different quotes from a hundred different people. But there’s one that’s stayed with me. Something Robert Schuller wrote. Or said. Robert Schuller, the televangelist. Robert Schuller, of Crystal Cathedral fame. I don’t know the context. When. Where. Why. Just the words themselves …
I’m very proud of all my children. They all have Christian families; they read the Bible; they pray; the kids go to Sunday school; they know the Ten Commandments by heart. That’s my greatest honor, and I couldn’t do anything to glorify God that could surpass that.
I read those words and, frankly, I was a little disappointed. Stunned, actually. I remember reading them a second time to make sure I read what I thought I read. I guess, I was expecting more. After all, it was Dr. Robert Schuller! Preacher! Prophet! He was the one at whose feet people from across the country, people from around the world, would come to sit. This was the man who came up with lines like, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” Or “Today’s accomplishments were yesterday’s impossibilities.”
And yet that legacy? The one of which he’s most proud?” Is a family that reads the bible? That says their prayers? That knows the Ten Commandments by heart? I felt a little let down. And ever since that first reading, it hounded me. Haunted me. As a pastor. And as a dad. I hoped I’d leave something else behind. Something different. Something more. You see, it isn’t what he said that bothered me. It’s what he didn’t say. There was nothing about Jesus. Nothing about Jesus and nothing about love. They read the bible. They said their prayers. They knew the Ten Commandments by heart. But there’s nothing uniquely Christian in any of that. What about “for God so loved?” What about “sending the Son to die for us?”
It’s difficult – if not impossible – to be Christian without Christ! To be Christian without the grace, without the charity, without the love. And as a called and ordained minister, as a called and ordained dad, I hoped, in some small way, that those would be the very things I’d leave behind.
But, you know, there’s more to it than even that. Believing includes dreaming dreams! It includes singing songs! It’s more organic than flipping switches and pushing buttons! It’s watching seeds sprout and buds blossom and bloom. Believing isn’t about me and mine. Believing isn’t about us and ours. It’s not, even, just about people. Believing is about creation! It’s about the cosmos! From the smallest atom to the most distant galaxy! As far as believing goes, it doesn’t matter if my kids don’t say their prayers. I’d rather they hear the whisper of the wind over feathers as a bird flies past. Or notice a flower growing in the crack of a busy sidewalk. I want them to be able to look at the world around them with wonder and awe.
Am I proud of my kids? Of my grandkids? Of course, I am. But that’s not the issue. But even if it was, I’d wish so much more for them. I hope, when they have the chance, they dance with the sun and the stars! I hope they take the time to feel the wind on their face! To smell it! Taste it! I hope they inherit a reverence and respect for life! And obeying commandments have nothing to do with it! I hope they have a place in their hearts, in their hands, for the lowest, the least! It’s the heartbeats and the breaths! It’s the mountaintops and the rainbows! The sunsets and the sunrises! Following trails not for where they take you, but simply to walk! In the end, that’s what counts. What’s important! What matters! Believing’s not a quantity, but a quality!
I want them to know … no matter how dark the night … no matter how violent the storm … even on the worst day … life is still a gift! I don’t want them to be afraid of dying. But even more, I don’t want them to be afraid of living! Purpose! Confidence! Courage! I hope that’s my legacy! My legacy for them! My legacy for you! It’s Jesus … Jesus and his grace … Jesus and his charity … Jesus and his love … that opens our eyes! Our eyes and ears! Our hearts and minds! To the world god spreads out before us!
“I’m very proud of all my children,” the good doctor said. “They all have Christian families! They read the bible! They pray! They go to Sunday school! They know the Ten Commandments … by heart!” The greatest honor? Couldn’t do anything more? But there’s more! There’s so much more! There’s living deep! There’s sucking the marrow! There’s seizing the day?
Well, I didn’t like the quotation. So, this week, I looked for another. One I could make my own. As a pastor. As a dad. And I came across something the English poet William Blake wrote. About seeing “a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower!” About holding “infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.” Something larger … something greater … than life! That, my friends, for me is Jesus! That, for me, is believing! And that … That, for me, is love!