The Lily and the Storm
It seems that every new season brings another round of fisticuffs in our nation’s debate about marriage. Inevitably there are strong voices on all sides of the conversation, and I find myself sitting here overwhelmed with the noise of it all. But last week, as the voices escalated once again, a friend sent me these words that cut through all the noise with their simplicity and beauty. I’d like to share them with you. -Micah
Last week, as the Supreme Court heard cases involving same-sex marriage, I watched social media begin to heat up with people taking sides on the issue. I understand why. Sex, Religion, and Money are big draws for throw-downs in the public square. Each of these has haunted our national conscience since our nation was founded; sex, increasingly so.
This is the part where normally a blog post would begin to make a case for a point of view on the issue– hopefully arguing rationally and bringing up important points. More likely, it would be retreading well-worn paths, asserting the validity of points that don’t connect at all with the opposing view’s understanding, and drawing caricatures of their rationale or motives.
I don’t think I can do better than that by engaging on the issue. Why? Because the issue makes me both angry and sad. I feel attacked and defensive. On one hand I feel my faith is being simplified, cartoonized and ridiculed – on the other I see it being trotted out as a banner for battle, like the crosses on Constantine’s shields, in a way that grieves me.
I want to say, “Are you sure that’s how you use that thing?”
I should note that there are people on both sides of this issue who can articulate things that need to be said and add to a productive discussion about this issue and others like this. I’m just probably not one of them, and I think most of us aren’t.
I was reflecting on this as I was getting ready for work, and I pictured a gathering storm much bigger than myself. All I could do with this thing was add to its fury by joining it, stand and observe it and risk being damaged by it, or somehow escape. (This isn’t a perfect analogy, and I don’t mean it as a blanket criticism of anyone who engaged on the issue.) It seems to me that most of what is being said just adds to a storm of frustration and anger, accomplishing little else. I’m not sure that it was intended to do more. Many people talk of their need to vent, but the collective effect of venting doesn’t seem to be collective relief; it seems to just add to the maelstrom.
I thought about the desert fathers and the monastics, (and I share this admitting that I don’t know very much about them) running from society because they didn’t believe they could be God’s people in it. (This may be an over-simplification, but bear with me. It’s being used as an analogy.) I understand why they did that.
In my heart I’m asking questions:
How can I assert what I believe on an issue without inadvertently obscuring the boundless love of God?
Am I being a coward for not confronting false arguments and oversimplifications?
When what is happening in my heart (frustration, intimidation, anger, fear) isn’t holy, am I making a stand for holiness by asserting something?
What would Jesus act like in this situation?
I’m drawing blanks on most of these. I just don’t know.
Another picture has been in my mind. It’s a lily. Tender, young and fresh. This is one of my go-to images for all that I love about Jesus, but in this instance, this lily is something that God and I are cultivating together. It’s my heart–the heart that was dead, that he’s bringing to life. The tenderness of my heart toward Him and toward others is so easily trampled and violated. I often trample it myself when I’m running to join the maelstrom of public conflict (even though I usually do this only in the confines of my heart or in close friendships with people who mostly agree with me). After I’ve wearied myself with the futility of the strife, I start to ask myself why I’m angry, tired, and lonely. Why does God seem so distant? And I return to the secret place where God and I are growing this thing. I ask for mercy, and we start again. We clean off the dirt and footprints, prop up the bruised stem, and He brings healing.
My opinions can seem so important sometimes; I want to add my voice to the sea of voices.
When I look at the storm, it seems like the most significant thing. But when I’m in the secret place, with God and with the lily, that storm is just another thing He takes care of – in a world that’s too big for me to understand fully or to manage. The most significant thing (for me as an individual) is what’s taking place in secret between He and I. When I’m there, really there, I realize that it’s okay for my significance to be a secret– even a deep secret. That it’s protected and sealed away, and that’s where it belongs.
I’m not arguing that there should be no Christian engagement on these issues. My concern is more personal than general.
I don’t like how these things affect me. I don’t like what they do to my heart.
I am not the guardian of truth. I have no idea how to speak out for God in times like these. I am not righteous or wise (by any meaningful standard). I can’t fix America; I can’t even fix me. I’m not David, Solomon, Paul, Jeremiah, Daniel etc. I’m just not.
But I do see pictures of Biblical people who look like me–in Mephibosheth, in Jacob, in Jonah. Broken men who had the King’s attention and compassion.
Am I intended to mature into a champion of freedom and justice? Someday will I be able to enter the storm, do battle, and leave unscathed, having conquered?
I know, however, that there will come a day when I’ll be cheering and weeping tears of joy on the sideline alongside everyone else who’s tried and failed; with palm frond in hand, I’ll croak out through my tears, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!”
He makes all things (including me) new.
[ Image: Miquel F. ]
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