Since I didn't have time to send out a thought last week, I thought I'd send one out early this week. They're dedicated to Peter Paysen, who once told me how much he appreciated the one by Annie Dillard.
All the thoughts have to do with something that's been heavy on my heart lately as I was re-reading a book I read a few years back by Donald McCullough called "The Trivialization of God." (Another book that is well worth you reading!)
They are thoughts that have to do with a God who is not as tame as we would like to think. A God whose presence can actually be quite frightening on occasion. A God that is so holy and immense and incomprehensibly great that we are (to use the words of Rudolf Otto in his book "The Idea of the Holy") "submerged and overwhelmed by our own nothingness in contrast to that which is sureme above all... submergence onto nothingness before an overpowering, absolute might." A God who's presence moves us completely outside our comfort zones, and even evokes in us a sense of religious dread (as it did with the Apostle John in Revelation 1:17 or Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5 or 8:12-13).
Our first "thought" comes from the lyrics of a song by Jimmy Needham called "Hurricane."
"I have built a city here. Half with pride and half with fear. Just wanted a safer place to hide. I don't want to be safe tonight...
I need You like a hurricane, thunder crashing, wind and rain, to tear my walls down. I'm only Yours now. I need You like a burning flame, a wild fire untamed, to burn these walls down. I'm only Yours now.
I am Yours and You are mine. You know far better than I. And if destruction's what I need, then I'll receive it Lord from Thee.
And if it's Your eye in the storm watching over me.. And if it's Your eye in the storm wanting only good for me... And if You are the war, let me be the casualty, 'til I'm Yours alone. I am only Yours. I am Yours alone, Lord."
Our second thought is by Annie Dillard in her book "Teaching a Stone to Talk."
After surveying the contemporary church scene she asks the question:
"Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?"
"On the whole, I do not find Christians (outside the catacombs) sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are like children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.
It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return."
McCullough (who cites her quote) adds:
"We prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have pared God down to more managable proportions. Our era has no exclusive claim to the trivialization of God. This has always been the temptation and the failure for the people of God. Pagan gods have caused less trouble than the tendency to re-fashion God into a more congenial, serviceable god."
And last, we come to Isaiah. His heart burns for revival. He yearns for the people of God to be what they were meant to be. And so he utters a prayer pleading for God to do the one thing he knows would bring that about:
"Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before You! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down and make you name known..." (Isaiah 64:1-2).
What would remedy the apathy of God's people? If God would simply rend the heavens and pull back the curtain that hides him from our sight, and let us glimpse (if only for a few seconds) what He's really like in all of his glorious holiness and immensity! If He would only "come down" and make His name known. If He would only do that, the "nations would quake" (v.2) and "the mountains would tremble" (v. 3). If we could only catch the slightest glimpse of God, we would all realize the sinfulness that stains even our best or most righteous deeds (v.6), and cry out, "How then can we be saved?" (v. 5) (Full text click here)
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans