Fantasy is so much more appealing, I know. Especially religious fantasy.
You can only walk with death so long before you either have to dive headlong into a swirling religious fantasy of denial dressed up as “faith” with a full complement of “faith verses” or see that we are dealing with a much more complicated, textured, layered reality.
I think we all start off very much in sync with Deuteronomy. Life is so wonderfully straightforward. Do this and you get that; do that and you get this. It’s called fair. Keep these commands, follow these instructions, say these prayers (correct verbal formulations only, please!), complete these rituals by traveling to this holy place to see this holy person, etc. etc. Covenants become contracts with promised rewards and protection for good behavior, or your money back. Actually, no. The money is kept regardless.
Yes, this is where we start – depending on how rough your start is. Some of us are disabused – or rather abused by life – right out of such notions early on. And we move from the sureties and simplicities of Deuteronomy to the twisted complexities of Ecclesiastes and the howling grief of Lamentations.
But oh how we fight it.
When our three oldest children were diagnosed with familial polyposis in 2001 and were awaiting imminent surgery to remove their large intestines (which between the three of them ended up entailing 10 major surgeries over 9 months– our own personal 9/11 as 9/11 unfolded right in the middle of it), we were the recipients of much prayer and ministry. Much of it quite helpful, fortifying and sustaining. Some of it less so. And yes, some of it quite entertaining.
One dear brother, God bless him, insisted God had told him our whole family needed to line up, single file, and then bunch together while he placed his hands level with our aligned bowels and prayed because this would break the family curse. We were up for anything, so we did. And we smiled. We thanked him. And the ten surgeries rolled right on unabated.
Another well-meaning sister inquired into any sexual deviations in our family history and even into our sexual positions in the marriage bed. Less helpful. Less entertaining.
Words of command were spoken for mountains of tumors to move in Jesus’ name (because that’s what they have to do when we ask them to in Jesus’ name). The surgeries still came. All of this repeated itself when one of these same kids was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor five years later.
And then there were those who just ached and wept with us, and having no idea what to pray, prayed little – at least verbally. And among these was one who in the midst of all the “mountain talk” simply prayed in effect, “This is a mountain that you are going to have to go through.”
And when she said it we knew it.
No matter what verses and scripture facts we can marshal to break curses passed by progenitors or off objects we unwittingly bought in a gift shop on vacation in Tahiti that had curses put on them, or that prove once and for all that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed of everything, especially tumors, and we just need faith to claim the blessing; no matter what formulations of faith with which we would bolster ourselves or others against adversities unfolding in an unstoppable torrent or in a fiendish, torturous trickle, this reality remains – at least it is what I have seen:
Sometimes the mountain moves.
Sometimes you have to tunnel through the mountain.
Sometimes you have to climb over the mountain.
And sometimes the mountain falls on you
and flattens you into the dust.
You can decide which of these demands the greater mustard seed of faith…and, in reality (and biblically), which leads to a greater depth of character and beauty in humanity.