Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Pause in Lent #4

To begin with, a quote about what happened on the cross from one of my favorite theologians, N.T. Wright:

It is all too possible to take elements from the biblical witness and present them within a controlling narrative gleaned from somewhere else, like a child doing a follow-the-dots puzzle without paying attention to the numbers and producing a dog instead of a rabbit.

This is what happens when people present over-simple stories with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent. You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song ‘In Christ alone my hope is found’, and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’. 

I found this helpful in my thinking about the cross.


I just finished Patrix by Nadia Bolz-Webb, which I enjoyed a great deal. Bolz-Webb is a Lutheran minister who is unorthodox in how she presents herself in the world (lots of tattoos, lots of piercings), and in many ways orthodox in her faith (though not entirely, which is why some people have problems with her). One of my favorite chapters in the book was about her stint as a hospital chaplain, which she had to do in order to be ordained. Her first day on the job she was called into an E.R. trauma room, where the doctors were trying to save a man's life. "What am I supposed to do?" she asked one of the nurses. The nurse looked at her and said, "Your job is to be aware of God's presence in the room while the rest of us do our jobs."

Your job is to be aware of God's presence in the room.

What a great job! What a difficult job in these times of one distraction after another!

More than once I've sat in a hospital room feeling like I had to make small talk or comforting talk ("everything will turn out for the best, I'm sure," that sort of thing), either of which, in the face of the patient's prognosis, seemed at best clueless and at worst vaguely cruel. But in spite of the monitors and the carts rolling by and the TV noises leaking in from other rooms, there's so much silence to fill up on these visits, and you end up filling it with a lot of nonsense that's neither comforting or meaningful.

What if instead of talking, I made it my  job to be aware of the presence of God in the room? What if being aware of the presence of God means holding someone's hand and being present for her the way God is present for both us at that moment?

I know that from time to time when I'm in a stressful situation, if I can remember to ask God if he's in the room, and if so, could he give me a little help, He makes himself known. This happened last year at Easter, when my children were being terrible at church--bored by the service, clearly ready to go--and I asked God for peace, right there, right now, before I did something that would get Social Services involved in our lives. And the peace came.

And then last summer at the beach, when we were at a restaurant, when Jack was being awful to Will, and Will was starting to cry, and I was like, "Jesus, feel free to intervene at any time, buddy." And suddenly, I knew we should leave. No doubt in my mind about it. We canceled our orders and went to another restaurant. We started over, and we had a lovely dinner.

The problem is, I keep forgetting to do this. I forget that this help is available to me whenever I need it. I forget that my job is to be aware of God's presence in the room. Always, always, always.


Tracy said...

He's always in the room. Yes indeed. I think we all struggle to remember that when it is what we need most. Thanks for sharing your stories of remembering do be aware.

Pom Pom said...

Your job is to be aware of God's presence in the room.
GREAT words. Thank you!

wayside wanderer said...

Good thoughts, Frances!

Gumbo Lily said...

Thank you for these very good words. I'm thinking about them in the next few days. God bless you, Frances.

Nancy McCarroll said...

This is a thought I hope I will not forget. To be there to reflect God's presence. Thank you.

Heather said...

I love this. When I read those words, I started being aware and felt instantly at peace. The whole atmosphere in the room seemed to change. Thank you.

The dB family said...

This is so well said! Now if only I can follow through. "Your job is to be aware of God's presence in the room." It's definitely not always easy.


GretchenJoanna said...

Wouldn't you know N.T. Wright gets it so right? And your experience with the presence of God is very much like what I think of when I pray to BE His presence in the world. I remember when one of our grandchildren was coming into the world, I was so aware of God's presence that to pray aloud - which I kept thinking out of habit I should do - seemed to be completely unnecessary. If you ask Someone to come and help, and He comes and helps, should you ignore Him and go on asking?

@gaz112 said...

That's given me something to think about - being aware of God's presence in the room. Every room, all the time.

Fiona said...

I love this thought and will try and keep it with me - your job is to be aware of the presence of God.

Kezzie said...

Oh it's so true and I must remember this- being aware of the presence of God. When I was with my Grandad in hospital last week before he died, I talked lots to him (he couldn't speak as he was dying) but there were times of silence and then God's presence was there. x