I have been somewhat enthralled this book for the past week or two. It's one of those ones you have to take little bits at a time. Brueggeman writes:
"The riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings."
It reminds me of a living faith.
A living faith is an individual and communal struggle. It is all we can do to remember who we are, who He is, where we came from, and where we should be headed. Breuggeman writes that the task of the prophet (and prophetic community) is urgent: it requires authenticity, discernment, audacity, bold criticism and bold hope for restoration. It requires that we find the language of lament. In order to do this, we must know what grieves God.
Surrounded by friends whose hearts break for the things that grieve God, I often find myself in deep discussions about both personal and world brokenness. We can wrestle all we want, but ultimately we still have to come to a place of dramatic and audacious hope for newness that can only come from God.
A friend (who works with victims of human trafficking) shared with me a beautiful piece she wrote that cuts to the chase about unfulfilled desires, the truth about hiding in loneliness, and the beauty of hope. Her honesty, wisdom, gentleness and tenacity shine with the same radiance as described in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
"18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
Similarly, a conversation with another friend (whose passion is AIDS education in Tanzania)revealed to both of us lack of contentment, fear, and ultimately an inability to accept forgiveness. In these things is the same undercurrent: an enigmatic yearning, an acknowledgement that in the midst of brokenness our tendency is to succumb to the "athiesm of pride" or the "athiesm of despair" (Brueggeman, 70), which leaves us exhausted, hopeless, and in denial or despair. This, too, is having our faces unveiled: and while personal sin is revealed in all its ugliness, so is the too-bright righteousness of Jesus that covers both of us completely and, when we accept it, allows us to shine because of forgiveness and in spite of our unbelief.
I don't really have answers, but I know that the healing does not come from me. One of the best promises, my friend reminded me, are God's words: "I make all things new!" (Revelaion 21:5)
I also know that it does my heart good to see the many lovely, unveiled faces of the larger family as we limp along together: wrestling, grieving, hoping, and receiving blessings that wound and heal at the same time.
October 11, 2006
Around the warmly lit dining room table
hands clasped in prayer,
She reminded me of something I'd said before:
about Jacob wrestling through the night with the angel
and receiving a wound, a blessing, a new name.
This, I think to myself,
even after he tricked his father
stole a blessing meant for his brother,
lied and manipulated.
What a piece of work you are, Jacob.
Yet you saw God face to face,
your life was spared.
I, like you, practice my trickery,
attempt to take what is not mine,
and always, eventually,
come back blessed and limping;
Fall on my knees declaring the place Peniel:
I, too, see God face to face,
and yet my life is spared.
I, too, am Israel: bride, harlot, beloved, rebellious
Sought after, redeemed, restored, healed.
No longer in exile.
I struggle with God,
I belong always
Around the table, heads bowed,
I hear through closed windows
the rustle of those bright leaves and the wind in the trees:
Rejoice, they whisper, echoing her words of reminder.
Rejoice, my beloved,
even as you limp.