Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dear God, sorry to disturb you but ...

My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: "Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?" ("Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?") "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people! O that I had in the desert a traveler's lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a band of traitors. They bend their tongues like bows; they have grown strong in the land for falsehood, and not for truth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, says the Lord.

Beware of your neighbors, and put no trust in any of your kin; for all your kin are supplanters, and every neighbor goes around like a slanderer. They all deceive their neighbors, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongues to speak lies; they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent. Oppression upon oppression, deceit upon deceit! They refuse to know me, says the Lord. – Jeremiah 8:18-9:6

In this passage I begin to lose track of whether it is Jeremiah speaking, or God. The prophet seems to have become of one soul with the divine, and that soul is grieving. Meanwhile, the people the prophet has come to have lost faith in God completely.

I keep coming back to this point: faith is much bigger than “belief about.” The people haven’t begun to disbelieve in the existence of God; such a thing was practically unheard of in those days. They have begun to believe that God cannot help them. All the while, they don’t realize that they are the ones standing in the way of receiving God’s help, simply because they insist on living corrupt, wretched lives without concern for those who are less fortunate. When one turns outward and begins to help others, faith in God can then be given room to work.

I had my first crisis as a self-absorbed teenager. I began to wonder, as I think most of us do at some point, whether God exists at all. When I was 15, I heard a song that set my doubts to music and helped me face them more clearly: “Dear God” by XTC. The song haunted me and frightened me; I felt alternately guilty and joyful listening to it. Today I regard it as a vital step in my journey of faith.

The thing is, as angry as the singer is about all the horrible things that God allows to happen in the world, he’s still singing to the God he claims not to believe in. This suggests to me a relationship, which is a lot more hopeful ... and faithful ... than apathy. His passion tells me he wants to trust God, but from what he's seen, he doesn't believe God deserves his trust.

(The lyrics printed over the top are not original to the video; I wish they weren’t there, because some of them are incorrect.)

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