I Believe In Joy

After a couple of very very busy weeks I now find myself sitting on the edge of a great empty to-do list. I know we write to-do lists so that we can get to the end of them but it is disconcerting to find yourself pretty much on top of all the work you have to do. Before you withdraw your financial funding from the charity I work for, I must point out that this lull time is like a solar eclipse. It comes about very rarely, for a very brief time and it can be predicted years in advance. All the university students I am usually meeting for coffee and Bible study and all the cool things I get paid to do have gone home to summer jobs, or to America for summer jobs or to Malawi for summer mission work. All the writing that I usually have to do for the next talk or training session or sermon is pretty much done (at least in outline). All the strategy and vision thinking that I have been wrestling with for the last year is either finished, unfinishable or likely to be done again by my successor in September. And so I’ve sat here staring out the window, or more truthfully playing Civ IV and watching the World Cup for the last week or so.

Next week will be busy again and even tomorrow I have to prepare for next week but the stress that I experience when I have nothing to do is much greater than the stress I endure when I have too much to do. It is different. It is more panicked. I don’t just feel restless, but useless. And I was thinking here this morning about why that is and thinking back to a few weeks ago when I taught at a small conference in Norther Ireland from the book of Galatians. Galatians is an amazing book. I know lots of people who read Zoomtard aren’t Christians and don’t care for the Jesus much but if you’re ever alone in a hotel room with nothing but a Gideons bible for company or if you ever get trapped inside a mausoleum during a quest to find the identity of your father’s murderer and the only thing to do is read the ornate, gold leaf Bible that the corrupt Cardinal was buried with, then turn to the back and look for the 6 short chapters of Galatians.

But this is a post about living as a Christian so maybe some of you would prefer to slip out quietly and go watch a movie. Galatians is the incendiary device hidden at the back of the Bible, waiting to explode in our face when we mistake Christianity for a religion and forget that its about turning the world, our world upside down. Every single chapter has the very same focus really- that Christians live by Grace. We are happy to accept that we first become Christians not through our own efforts but through the work of God but then we slip into living a life of maintaining our membership of God’s family through efforts and works. Paul bangs us around the head again and again about this dumb, deadly mistake. We are made members of God’s family by Grace. We live as sons and daughters of God by Grace. Good works, lots of effort, being nice or being tolerant or being open-minded or being theologically right never comes into our membership. Avoiding bad things or ignoring sinners or abstaining from alcohol or missing all the 18s movies definitely doesnt affect our membership. We are adopted into God’s family because he chooses to adopt us. When we are adopted we become his son, his daughter. Our behaviour or lack thereof never makes a difference to our status as his child. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.

So what has this got to do with my panic stations at my empty to-do list? If what I have written above, if what I spend my life talking about is true, then my adoption into the family of God should be the bedrock of my whole life. If a God exists that becomes the most important truth for every human life. If that God knows us, then it becomes doubly more so. If that God loves you so much that he rips himself apart to bring you back to him then that is simply the only thing that matters. Everything else is of relatively minor importance, even spouses and children and career. What I am trying to say is that if I was living what I claimed to believe, then an empty to-do list would not cause panic. A full to-do list of significant tasks would not cause undue increase in self-esteem. My self-appraisal would be based in the sure and certain fact that God, the God who is God, looks on me and sees his son. This Grace should be the fatal blow to our psychoses. What it takes to administer that fatal blow is for another day or another year or another life. Sadly, the only other life depends on Grace so maybe you should go get another guide.

Grace is beyond our comprehension and beyond our capture. Maybe its not that Grace is untameable but that we are untameable and Grace is the tamer. I don’t know. To quote some old guy, “‘Tis Mystery All!” We don’t live it, that is for sure. I mean, if I don’t live it then what hope is there for people like you and you and you to live it? None at all losers! Sorry, I’m meant to be talking about Grace.

I’m at a loss to tie up what I’m thinking here. This entry deserves to be on livejournal, it is that bad. That wily old Paul says that a little yeast raises the whole loaf. There is no space between Grace and Karma, the two options available to our lives. They stare each other down and are completely incompatible. Either we live by Grace or by Karma. If we admit we were once rescued by Grace but now maintain our own safety through self-efforts then we are firmly in Karma. That little yeast affects our whole lives. How then, do we live?

Your Correspondent, Between his finger and his thumb, a sharp knife rests, and he’ll stab you with it.

3 Responses to “I Believe In Joy”

  1. jimlad says:

    Ah, I see where you are getting confused there. Forget about the yeast, man. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every …”, damn (can I say that word here?) I’ve forgotten the rest. I think it was important.

  2. O.G says:

    Whilst I am fully aware that you spoke in jest, it was while I was in hot pursuit of my father’s killer through the dark recesses of Dublin’s extensive vaults when I stumbled upon a solid gold bible (dropped in haste by the murderer (and apparent kleptomaniac)). Thinking it might contain some clues as to his identity, I spent some time leafing through the thin pages lined with diamonds and other such holy substances. But instead of finding a killer’s identity, I realised that my REAL search was for God. I have been a joyful Christian ever since (and by Christian I mean someone who follows Christ but doesn’t believe that God works outside the Church. I might be born again, but I’m also a dirty Northerner and should be allowed at least some intolerant beliefs).

    The moral of the story? Don’t get side tracked whilst engaged in murder investigations, it might just change your religious beliefs.

    O.G – Staring you down

  3. jimlad says:

    Erm. You don’t happen to know where that gold bible is now do you? Its just, . , someone I know mentioned this guy robbed a gold bible off them and murdered someones dad. I’d be interested to know where that bible is.

    Very interested.