As a Christian, allowing disappointing circumstances to teach us and shape us is part of the calling to the Way of Jesus, especially ones that test your resolve or affect your generally positive outlook. It’s also natural to be cautious not to fall into an erroneous belief about God as a result. This is a good thing, however, incomplete, if left there. What was the underlying assumption triggered by an unexpected feeling or circumstance that left you unsettled? How do we think of a job loss when we felt so certain the move was the right one? How do we cope with the loss of an adoption plan when a precious gift of natural childbearing is on the way? Are these moments of disconnect ‘just the way it is sometimes’ or could we see them as opportunities for growth and discipleship?
Experiencing hardships or disappointment in life can be difficult. Even worse, those who feel deeply can be consumed by disappointment. And those who approach life trying to turn everything into a positive may find let downs an irritating distraction to be dismissed. It may be a natural response to muster consolation by thinking of more horrific tragedies, circumstances or losses in other parts of the world or even to someone in less fortunate circumstances. Sometimes situations have a real need to usher us into a period of mourning, grief or lament, but, for now, I’m speaking of more general and less devastating happenings.
Circumstances may raise questions we are unfamiliar with or reveal an area of Christian discipleship we don’t know much about. Like the parable of the man who builds his house on sand, this is something sand-like and it would be unwise to leave it tottering as such. Is there something more stable? What is the Biblical principle underneath the question to explore? Is this an indication of the all-illusive mystery of God or a moment for deeper understanding?
If following Christ is all the Bible claims it is, I should be willing to test it, study it and understand it deeply and rightly in ever-increasing ways. This is the promise of a “real relationship” with a God that wants relationship with us (that still blows my mind right there).
The name Jacob means “to wrestle with God”. It’s the very essence of what it means to have a personal relationship with God. These surfacing questions don’t always bring us to an arrival point, but sometimes they do. Something more solid; rock-like. There are things we can know within scriptural text and in the way that God reveals Himself to us. Yes, there is the Beautiful Mystery of God but that shouldn’t be conflated with ambiguity. Ambiguity may eventually mature into an outright lie about God. We seem to give up rather easily these days. A disciple of Christ should be willing to know, feel, and move through the process of a substantive relationship with God.
I do believe there are things we won’t fully understand about the Almighty, Sovereign God but are we being too quick to dismiss the revealed question as unknowable? Have we bought into the lie that knowledge is illusive, in and of itself, and nothing can be truly known? “What is truth?”, Pontius Pilot asked Jesus on trial. A moment later, turning and walking away, Pilot began addressing the Jewish crowd once more (John 18:33-40). Pilot asked, not because he wanted an answer, but because he had already convinced himself there was none, let alone did he expect one.
The tragic irony in this historical scene is that Pontius Pilot asked that question of the God-Man that claimed to be Truth itself. He was in the presence of Truth and did not wait for an answer. Let that be a warning to us.
Don’t let these moments pass by just waiting to see how the day-to-day feels. Your feelings may not catch up with your sense of where God is leading you. This may be an opportunity to learn more about how God does interact with His creation and specifically with you. If ignored, you may soon find yourself moving on and not thinking more of it.
What is Truth if it doesn’t affect the life lived? Why would we acknowledge the questions rising only to brush them aside when Truth is available and waiting? Read the Bible, discuss questions with others who are also invested as Disciples of Christ, unearth any erroneous baggage, read commentary on scripture passages or find topical addresses.
Lastly, don’t let questions lie to you either. Those unexamined questions can lead to doubts and although doubt is not sinful, unattended doubts can become willful unbelief because you allowed assumptions to become the norm. Don't let the questions formulate lies about the God you could have known deeper and sat with longer.
Out on a Limb Dance Company, 2019, PC: Nikki Riggs
The anniversary of the death of my friend, Amy McIntosh, is tomorrow. The year she died, she danced her way into eternity on Good Friday. I heard it was a desire of hers in her last days to make her eternal crossover on that Friday. I'm not surprised she had the idea, made a plan and accomplished it. She was a determined and very creative artist who stayed busy with numerous ideas and projects always rolling. And it seems that God saw fit to grant her her wish to exit on Good Friday.
A group of us danced Amy's work, Let Justice Roll Down, many times and in many venues. She set it on her company, Living Water Dance Company, and on her students at Oral Roberts University. It was challenging to dance but rich to consider all the thoughts and reflections she poured into the work. She was a deep thinker.
I recently ran across a print out of the program entry for this piece for the 2012 Exchange Choreography Festival, the festival I've produce (with much help from many, many people in Tulsa) for the past 11 years. It was one of many performances of this work. I was always inspired at the way Amy worked. She never apologized for presenting a section of piece she knew would grow beyond that section, nor did she apologize for continuing to develop a work even after it had been on stage already.
Amy McIntosh, Let Justice Roll Down, 2012; Dancers pictured: Amy McIntosh (left), Christina Schneider, Kayla Zahrt, and Jessica Vokoun; PC, unknown
It warmed my heart to find this print out on today of all days, Good Friday, and in the times we are living. I wanted to reprint her program notes below. John M. Perkins book is salient and a must-read. May we continue to reflect on matters of justice and continue to stay the course, not grow lazy or weary, to do good to all people and to endeavor to convince others of our love for them with our actions.
2012 Exchange Choreography Festival Reverb Program Notes ~
Let Justice Roll Down grew out of McIntosh's struggle with oppression, injustice, and misplaced power within our communities, along with a pivotal book written by John M. Perkins. After having lived in Jackson, MS for five years, McIntosh moved back to Tulsa in 2006, and soon after, was given a copy of Perkins' book, "Let Justice Roll Down". Perkins, a native of Mississippi, now 81 (he's more wise and worn now), writes of his journey out of racial injustice into renewal, as he discovers his role in pioneering a new way of living in community. Perkins has devoted his life to developing communities where reconciliation and transformation thrive, and where the walls of power are broken down. McIntosh's work explores power as it seeks to devastate, devour, and deteriorate the very fabric of humanity.
"The road is lonesome and to succeed one must be like a wolf: eat or be eaten, for one can only succeed at the cost or the failure of others."
- Jacob Holdt
"I am ashamed because fear for my own well-being overrides my desire for change, and ashamed as well for the fact that it is attitudes like mine that keep the oppressed, oppressed."
- Letters from John
photo by Jeanne S. Mam-Luft
I'm a Christ-follower passionate about moving in love and intellectual rigor through all things faith + art. Fancying myself an amateur Christian Apologist and a professional Dance Artist, I’m committed to moving in the liminal space between catastrophic reverence of God and a quaking humility that intentionally keeps the tremors of Grace close at hand.