Sunday, February 15, 2009

CURSING & PRAYING ON A RIDGE (published 2/15/2009)

Okay, dear reader, this one will be more personal. Get ready!
Imagine the Appalachian Irishman standing on a bluff on My Mountain. The day is clear and crisp. The photo above depicts the scene below. Hawks fly about.
Can the Appalachian Irishman, in this setting, both curse freely and then pray calmly, in a span of minutes? Yes, of course, he can. As Mark Twain said, “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer” (A Biography). A good cussin’ purges the soul and lowers the blood pressure, at times, better than the most eloquently worded prayer.
Does God understand? Yes, of course. He is a God of grace.
Three months after returning from mission work in Russia, my mother, at the relatively young age of 67, was stricken by a yearlong suffering that involved two illnesses. As she recovered from the first, the other took her—suddenly, unexpectedly, unfairly.
Since then, I have not served in fulltime ministry. My zeal was poured out of me, by the hole cut into my bowels, the seat of emotion. Over eight years have passed, and I still struggle.
Do not bother with the religious platitudes. I have studied, written, and spoken on the problem of evil. Remember, I dealt with atheists in Russia! Deep inside, I am still angry with God, despite my theological understanding; although, the anger has cooled over the years. Why must she die at that time, in that terrible way, when we needed her so badly?
Complicating the issue is the haughty stance of the Church of Christ, of which I was a part for so many years. You see, the arrogant Church of Christ member would consign my mother to hell, because her views, as a Baptist, on such doctrinal points as baptism, worship, church organization, ad nauseam, conflict with his interpretation of scripture.
For over seven years after Mom’s passing, I continued to attend local Churches of Christ, but I was uncomfortable. Their beliefs, by implication, sent my mother to hell. I also struggled through the faith challenge that followed her passing. I was the outsider, as I sat within their walls each Sunday. Not wishing to “rock the boat,” I kept quiet. To attend is better than not, I reasoned.
Well, last year, I finally left the Church of Christ, while remaining a part of Christ’s church. My mother, whose sincere faith inspired me, was a faithful Christian, under the Baptist tradition. She did not die and go to hell, for any doctrinal misunderstanding. She, in her genuine faith, was saved by God’s grace. Perhaps her doctrinal understanding was not perfect, but whose is? Her faith, her love for our Father, her lifelong example of Christ living in her, as a reflection of his grace, was undeniable. As such, she was a Christian, saved by God’s grace through her genuine, if imperfect, faith. No superficial Church of Christ interpretation of grace will deny that reality.
I still believe, because my mother believed, and because I know Him. As the father of the stricken child, in Mark 9:24, cried, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
The Appalachian Irishman hasn’t had time, with a burdensome schedule, to climb House Mountain, to curse and pray. Perhaps, this is his way of doing so, off the mountain.
Thanks for listening.

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