Saturday, September 03, 2005

Reclaiming Repentance

There is a young woman in our church who doesn't believe in God.

She is a teenager and her mind is in that teenage place where she is beginning to question instead of simply accept what she has been told or taught. Right now she believes she doesn't believe. It's okay...she's a great kid...loves church and I believe God believes in her.

Yet when Katrina hit, Amy turned to me and said something to the effect of, "You know for people like 'our teen friend' this might serve as proof that God does not exist...they'll be thinking, 'why would God let such things happen? Why would God allow suffering of such magnitude?'" Hopefully I'll come back to that concept in a moment, but I must mention that to others Katrina was the exact opposite: formidable proof of God.

Of God's wrath.

Let me state clearly in advance I believe these people to be idiots. If you are one of them - sorry if I insulted you...but in my opinion you are an idiot - please leave because I will only insult you further. The best example I can point to is the Pennsylvania based group "Repent America" and before anyone criticizes me for actually putting up a link to their hatred let me state that I am also a believer that sunlight is the best disinfectant. For those who don't want to see their hatred allow to me to paraphrase...they're spouting that New Orleans was destroyed by God in retaliation for the decadent lifestyles of some of the people there...most especially of course homosexuals. Apparently some gay event was coming up in New Orleans and to these hate-mongering "Christians" this therefore all follows Biblical prophecy.

Um...where? I mean where were the Prophets? Was Jeremiah at the gates of the French Quarter? Was Isaiah banging on the door? Was Moses issuing warnings? Were all of the Prophets overlooked by CNN, MSNBC and even FOX?

Oh, I know there are examples in the Old Testament of God destroying cities, unleashing His wrath...but I'm trying to remember examples of where God did not plead with the people or towns to change their ways. He sent Prophets to warn Israel over and over and over...He sent Moses to warn the Pharaoh over and over and over.

But God sent Katrina to kill the poorest of the poor in New Orleans because of an upcoming "gay convention?"

So where am I leading you? Good question...wish I knew the answer.

Let's first put aside the idea that Katrina was God's wrath...if you believe that way then when my friend Barbara died of sudden on-set cancer...this would also be the wrath of God...but Barbara was one of the nicest Christian women I've ever known...sweeter than pie. No one could convince me Barbara wasn't "praying hard enough" or "had done something wrong" - Barbara simply got cancer...and Barbara died.

So now we're back sitting with my teenage friend...where's God? Worse yet am I now espousing that people shouldn't repent their sins or pray to God for healing?

Phillip Yancey once said,"Pain and suffering are part and parcel of our planet, and Christians are not exempt."
He makes the point that too often we look backward to find the "why" when we should be looking forward to the mountains of Biblical evidence of hope...hope that we can be "redeemed."

So Yancey's point is that we should look at events like Katrina and realize that at best this is a reminder from God of the brevity of life.

So we should repent...and we should pray.

But enough of Yancey...this is my blog.

Today the weatherman's track record was perfect...he predicted rain last night and today, and we haven't gotten a drop.

Amy had a bad night - the usual - pain, nausea and sleeplessness, so I postponed an appointment we had, put her to bed and went to the church to mow. Amy's last words to me as I walked out the door were, "Don't over do!"

I knew before I left I was going to violate that order so I mumbled, "I love you...get some rest" and headed away.

I knew I would over do because I've been frustrated and angry and have felt helpless in light of Hurricane Katrina - and I know of no productive way to relieve such feelings except to be in service to God. Oftentimes working on the land at the church alone is how I talk to God...scream at God...sing to God...worship God.

The "landscaping team" at our church is made up of me and the most Christ-like man I know, my friend Ben. Lately due to a variety of factors including having only one car (which by the way is no longer the case, something I may write about soon) I have let Ben shoulder more of the burden than I believe is fair. Ben would never complain but suffice it to say I felt over do.

I spent a great deal of time at the church today...almost six hours...mowing, weed eating, etc... It was hot and hard and dirty and it felt great. Anytime I felt run down I would take the water hose and drench myself from head to toe.

Ben and I have a list of priorities when it comes to the landscaping - it's no great mystery - we focus first on the areas that are most visible from the street...always. This is a necessity to us...this is Our Father's house and we want it to look well tended to anyone passing by. However it also means that if we have limited time - or if I've been a slacker - other parts of the property - which are less visible - go untended.

Today I was determined to do it all. I mowed and weeded the visible areas and then turned my focus to the other parts of the land. The last time I had tackled those areas was at most a month ago, but the grass was 3 feet tall in some spots.

It served as a telling metaphor of how quickly nature will reclaim what we thought was tamed if we drop our guard.

I thought about New Orleans and how rapidly "the system" broke down. How some people's baser instincts almost instantly took fast all sense of order was lost.

I started thinking how in only hours many might come to blame God...disbelieve in God or - unbelievably - even credit God.

And I was reminded.

I was reminded that we need to shoulder each other's pain and suffering. We need to spend less time looking for the "why" and more time looking for the "when." None of us will be a bystander to suffering for our entire life, so we need to keep our guard accept those whose burdens burden us...and most of all understand that Jesus was pleading us - pointing us - toward community...for it is there where we will find the answers.

It is there where we will truly find God.