Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good Courage

Have you not known? Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. -- Isaiah 40:28

I always like that phrase, “the ends of the earth”.  Where are the ends of a sphere?  The center and the circumference.  God know everything from the inside out, through and through, thoroughly.  As ZZ Top said, “Jesus just left Chicago, and He’s bound for New Orleans. Workin' from one end to the other and all points in between.”

We may be reassured and rest in this truth:  that the Lord never says, “It is too much for Me.”  He is never frustrated, never checkmated, never at a loss.  This really struck me the last few days while listening to an audio version of Lilith.  I try to listen to a chapter or two a night, but I usually wind up falling asleep to wake twenty chapters in, resulting in weird and unrecoverable dreams.  Then I end up listening to the same starting chapter the next night.  Anyway, Mr. Raven (Adam) represents this aspect of the Divine in that he does not become wearied by any of Vane’s antics, reluctance, cowardice, presumption, or failure.  Everything will be as it should be in the end. 

Even so, neither the Bible nor MacDonald, the Christian Universalist, shows support for the “I’m-OK-you’re-OK” thinking of the new age medicine show, the secularists, humanists, or multiculturalists.  Hell is bad – really, really bad.  Attempting to repent of his rejection of the offer of sleep, Vane asks about his ancestors, learning of his father and great-grandfather who still sleep and of those before who have awakened and gone on.  He asks about his grandfather:

"And my grandfather--is he also with you?" I asked.
"No; he is still in the Evil Wood, fighting the dead."
"Where is the Evil Wood, that I may find him?"
"You will not find him; but you will hardly miss the wood. It is the place where those who will not sleep, wake up at night, to kill their dead and bury them."   

I have heard a lot of hellfire-and-brimstone sermons, but that statement, with its echoes of Sisyphus, is perhaps more chilling than all of them combined.  I imagine all my dead works, all the ghosts and fears that haunt and inhabit my imagination coming to life night after night to pursue and intimidate me.  They have to be beaten, destroyed with no quarter and buried, or I will face them again and again and again.  For a cautious, risk-averse, and naturally fearful person such as myself that would be true torment. 

Our salvation is by faith, but can one without courage still be said to have faith?  There is, certainly, a courage born out of hopelessness and despair, even a fine defiance that sometimes comes when one is pushed into a corner and refuses to go down cowed.  There is a brute fighting instinct that may be exhibited by the most fearful when personal survival is threatened.  Faith, though, should cause us to overcome our fears in every situation.  It is faith-born courage that enables a person to keep their marriage vows and holds a family together in the face of tragedy and all manner of trials.  Courage founded on faith will not be deterred by failures and losses but will, after each setback, get up and try again. 

Human understanding and reason will take us only so far.  This is not a problem limited to the religious nor is it new.  Anyone who wishes to think rationally will come up against the same wall.  Many a militant atheist and wannabe geek who “love science” lack an adequate appreciation of the absurd.  We are never going to understand the universe let alone God.  Faith in something is unavoidable.  A person of integrity is one whose life – word and deed, is consistent with their beliefs.  To live with integrity is to live courageously.  

I suppose we could even say that creation itself is a manifestation of God's fearlessness.  Before I discount the fact that an all-knowing, all-powerful God would have anything to fear, I should remind myself how many times I may have backed off from something because I feared the response it would elicit from others.  God, knowing beforehand, the weaknesses of the clay, might be excused for deciding that making the man was hardly worth the pain.  God is no coward.  

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