You can stand on the banks, just watching the river, and think you are safe. The current is so strong, though, that the longer you watch, it pulls you in, sweeps you away, and miles downstream you realize you have been taken, realize you are gulping in water.
There’s no rescue mission.
Well, not exactly. You’ve already been rescued. You just have to move your eyes back, back to where the world was shown its rescue.
I confess the current got me this week. “Look at this stream of hate everywhere,” I thought, my phone showing me clip after clip and comment after comment of the children of God denigrating each other. “Look at how the powerful hate and boast with no fear of God. Look how hopeless it is,” I said, my feet inching into the waters. Then there I was, miles away, choking, hating and despairing.
Where are you looking?
Truly God designed me, and he knows how I feel things a bit too strongly, a bit too passionately. I’d like to think that he wouldn’t even use the qualifier “too” because I was fine tuned to feel precisely at the levels he wanted. I may be too much for this world at times, but that does not mean I am not exactly what I am meant to be. I like to think he always knew I would be in danger of this particular current — the one where empathy takes me into deep darkness — because he had to build other people to feel a little less so they could accomplish their work. I like to think we’re all working to carry out this wild God’s purpose in some kind of harmony even as we let the discord of our humanity loosen the nuts and bolts sometimes. I like to think the whole plan here is to need that God working in union with the machine. I know just how to readjust you back to working order. So, child, where are you looking now?
The cross – I see it bobbing up and down in my drowning sight, and no sooner than I see it, am I back on the shore, dry and breathing well again. Here where the world was set right by being flipped upside down; we forget that, even as we worship the icons of the cross. We’ve been rescued, all of us. Don’t you remember?
18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.
27 But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. 28 And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing.1 Corinthians (CEB)
In this meditation on the dichotomies of Conservatives and Liberals (don’t worry, both are loved and both are called out), Father Richard Rohr writes, in reflecting on 1 Corinthians 1: “Paul believes that Jesus has revealed the only response that works. The revelation of the cross, he says, makes you indestructible, because it says there is a way through all absurdity and tragedy, and that way is precisely through accepting and even using absurdity and tragedy as part of God’s unfathomable agenda. If you internalize the mystery of the cross, you won’t fall into cynicism, failure, bitterness, or skepticism. The cross gives you a precise and profound way through the dark side of life and through all disappointments.”
See, Satan is in the current, because we know Satan is the accuser, and we know the current accuses. We know the accuser delights in the world tearing itself apart. We know the accuser has only to slide a word of blame over our eyes to make us forget the cross already erased the words before they were written. We know the accuser wants us to feel right and justified; we know the cross laughs at that — why we in our justification hung God up naked and laughed while he died, and still death was defeated. That’s why looking at it reminds us of how the world really is, how it’s been set right then and here and now, if we just remain foolish enough to look at it. The current is running as it always has been, and we are seduced into thinking it’s stronger now than it has been or that maybe it can carry us to where we need to be. The cross stays standing; oh children, you thought you were ending me here? This is where love dried up the current. Look at it.
“The Old Rugged Cross” was a well-worn hymn in the church where I was raised, and the melody can still choke me up, but as an adult, the words don’t really match with so much that I now believe. I listen to it with a bit of bittersweet admiration. Oh, but the cross is the crown. There’s no exchange rate. Our wily and wild God is hilarious, isn’t he?