among the people

I’m reading Jeremiah right now. I love it. I don’t think I can say that vehemently enough over the internet. It’s a beautifully written book, full of poetry, calls to repentance, cries for mercy, shouts of judgment and laments for the lost who are creating and wallowing in their destruction. I’ve read it before, but last time was a bit rushed as I was reading the Bible in a year. There isn’t as much time to meditate on Scripture when you’re flying through verses and chapters at break neck speed. Don’t get me wrong, reading everything and finally absorbing the Bible in the full, rich context that it was meant to be…it’s a beautiful thing. But there is something sweet and heavy about reading chapter by chapter and sinking into the word.

Last weekend, in a very bizarre night that will perhaps never make sense to me, I sat down in a friend’s kitchen and began to cry. I actually think we could call it weeping. I’m no expert on weeping versus crying. I would say I’ve only had one Old Testament grieving experience, and this wasn’t it. I didn’t tear clothes or pull hair. But my heart was so broken for the friend with whom I spent the night and the other company that was there, wasting their night away in video games, food and drink. All I could think of was Jeremiah. How long will he wait before returning to wipe clean the earth? How long until he comes to wash away the dirt, the mess that we have smudged across the surface of his good and beautiful creation? I am so grateful that he came as a child, that he went to the cross and suffered so that I–so that we–do not have to.

But he’ll come back, you know, and in that one he’ll be the person we always expect to see when read about the pharisees. Chandler laughs, he says that we must read through the gospels and wonder why God, the one who hold backs the waters on the shores of the raging seas–how does he contain his rage against the thieving liars? Who could destroy them with a blink of an eye. But he doesn’t. Someday he will. He comes back with a tattoo on his thigh and a robe dipped in blood and a name no one knows. But now, now we have a moment of grace and peace in the midst of the strife; between the cross and the battle, we have the chance to repent, to come home. I cried in the kitchen away from my friends because I was struck by their brokenness.

But there was something more to it.

I was consumed or overwhelmed by how blinded we are. I’ve been thinking about the difficulty of being a Christian in America. I’ve been in some unfortunate places, and I would never say that the persecution here is akin to what our brothers and sisters suffer across the world. But the subtlety of the suffering here has been pressed upon me lately. And I’m astounded by the blind eyes that surround me in my friends. They keep going back to the things that have already failed them countless times. They think that this time, this relationship, this night of drinking, this new job, these things will be satisfying. I just didn’t have the right one, the right amount last time. That’s what the problem was. But they’re wrong. The problem is that the thing they are worshipping cannot satisfy. And the problem, ultimately, is them–it is us. You. and Me.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say here. It’s a bit mixed up in my head still. I think, in reading Jeremiah, I have been thinking a lot about my friends who are wallowing in their sin and making mud pies in the mess of their lives without a clue what life could be if only they’d rinse off, pack up and head to the seaside for a vacation. It seems a very apt book to read as I spend time with my debauched friends who live only for the weekends and the parties that fill up those two nights. And it isn’t just my nonChristian friends. Sometimes I am surprised by what we consider permissible in the church. ARen’t we meant to be moving towards lives of holy and righteous living? But so often we aren’t. We’re obsessed with the fact that God meets us in our mess and we forget that he also calls us to repent–to turn away and follow him out of the cave and into the brilliant light of day.

I love the world. In more than one way. I will always struggle not to be distracted by it. There are shiny things, glowing lights, music that haunts me and relationships that will unwittingly steal away at my soul. I will always struggle against worldliness. I’ve tasted it in small doses and there is a part of me that delights in the sensation. But I came away empty and found myself longing for the food of my Father and not the pods that we threw to the animals. And on the other side, I love the world because I so desperately want them to see the light of grace and be freed from their self imposed slavery to sin.

Come away from it all! I want to cry with outstretched arms. Do you not know, do you not see?

You make broken cisterns that can hold no water! You are losing what you did not even have!

I told my family recently that I sometimes just want to shake my friends as though I could force some sense into them by the whip-lash. You! I would say to him–she will not satisfy! Sleeping with her doesn’t help! And you! I would say to her: the drugs won’t help! They only mask the pain that always returns, come and be healed! be made whole! And You–grow up! Realize you are not trapped in that past any more if you only choose to let it go and move forward! But no one can make you choose this, only you can do that! And you: put your trust in the Lord and not in things! They rust! They fall apart! But only God makes all things new!

But I can’t shake the life and sense into them. Keeleh reminds me that free will’s still in effect, despite the fact that we are both predestinationists.

Jeremiah calls. He calls to repentance. He begs mercy from the Lord.

and it’s up to us to actually do something about that. How do we respond in our lives? And how do we respond so as to influence and love those around us so that they might also choose to respond?

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