On Sunday nights, the high schoolers come to our house for Bible Study. That's not too strange, I guess - lots of folks host Bible studies at their house. But what's strange, to me at least, is that I lead it.
I used to think I knew so much about life and God, thought I had it pretty much all figured out. Then I spent 20 years raising kids, being married, working for a living - and all the things I thought I knew I realized were mostly theories. Life knocked the wind out of my sails.
But I guess I haven't really given up - although I've tried a few times. I just cannot get away from this God Who seems to continue to pursue me. So I ask myself, "What do I KNOW is true? What can I really count on?" The answers are few and far between.
One of the guys I work with recently filed for divorce from his wife of more than 20 years, and it shook me to the core. I can hardly believe the depth of his duplicity, the extent of his selfishness, and the self-delusion in which he is ensnared. I understand getting worn-out with a marriage that just doesn't seem to work. What I cannot understand is how quickly he gave up - and how dishonest he has been about his intentions. Looking back over my last year's worth of conversations with him, it is apparent to me that he never intended to try to work things out. He found a girlfriend and it was the excuse he needed to jettison his wife and kids.
Oh, and he claims to be a believer. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but he also knows "God will forgive". I've had those kinds of thoughts when I chose to go my own way in spite of my certainty that my actions were immoral, but I shudder at the folly of such hubris.
And I guess this is just part of the whole picture - things I see but do not understand. My friend's wife and children are devastated beyond description. The man is utterly lacking in human pity and has proven himself to be completely contemptible. He spent the last year rearranging the family finances so that his wife will end up with less than nothing, half their debts and no source of income. Unbelievable. He acted like he was listening to me as I commiserated with his pain while encouraging him to not give up. But he'd already given up - and let me talk away as if it mattered. Dispicable. He acts as though he's decided to sell an old car, not like he has betrayed wife, children, family and friends.
I understand wanting to quit on a marriage. I don't understand intentionally, systematically screwing everyone involved.
When I pray for his wife & kids, I don't even know what to ask. God knew all this was going down and chose to allow it. It doesn't make sense to me, but I have to say - in spite of my blinding ignorance - God is still in charge and still acting in a loving way.
Last night, I told the high schoolers what I know about faith. The essential part is this: if you can perceive it with your senses, then it doesn't require the saving kind of faith. The saving kind of faith believes in what is not seen, and hopes in that which real, even though it is unperceived by the senses. And God intends that we live in this state of faith all the time - believing that He is acting out of a heart of goodness toward us even when we are betrayed, beaten, unjustly accused, ridiculed. Even when our lot in life is desperate and dire, even when all my senses say "this is a horrible, terrible tragedy". Even in such outrageous circumstances, faith says, "God is good, and is acting in goodness toward these whom He loves even now."
It's more than I can grasp with my mind; I have to apprehend it with my heart. It delivers a knockout blow to my understanding and leaves it sprawled senseless in the dirt. It forces me to believe with nothing but desire - the desire to continue believing that God is good, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.