Thursday, August 16, 2007

"It was a beautiful letdown..."

One paradox of the Christian walk is that there is comfort in the unknown. As long as we know what to do, we are standing firmly on ourselves: our wits and understanding, our ability to organize and control, our powers to manipulate and plan. This is, of course, a fragile house of cards that is sure to tumble at the slightest divine wind; indeed, divine reality checks come often to the self-confident.
Of course, one problem is that, in the moment, we do not know that we are being self-confident. At certain times, when we stop to take a breather, we say things like, "Let me pray about this," or "I'm just going to trust God," or "Lord, Thy will be done," and we think we are being fully dependent upon God. Those moments, however, are pure abstractions; when we go back into the practical and the nitty-gritty of circumstances, we immediately, completely naturally, assume the position as master and commander of our own little universe. God steps in and shakes the house of cards, letting us know that our feet are firmly planted on nothing.
"It was a beautiful letdown, when I crashed and burned," sings Switchfoot, and they are right. That is the paradox. For anyone else, having your tightly orchestrated and thought out plans and devices blow up in your face is a devastating and despairing scenario. Who else is there to turn to but themselves? For the Christian, however, it is not so. It is only when we "crash and burn" that we get a healthy grasp on desperation; and when we have that grasp, trusting God is no mere abstraction anymore: it has become an actuality, because our reality is that we are lost down here, and we need someone to save us.
There is surprising freedom in reaching the point where you can honestly say, "I don't know what to do." I am always reminded of the movie Volcano for some reason. Through 95% of the movie, Tommy Lee Jones' character has all the answers to the disasters surrounding him. It is not until the climax of the film that he puts his head down and confesses, "Well, I don't know what to do." At that moment, the answer came, and it was an unexpected answer. It is a truth we too often miss: God cannot help us if we can help ourselves. As long as we "know" what to do, we will never know what to do; that is the paradox. Our answers come only when all we have are questions. Until we can arrive at the most humiliating position of all, the quiet desperation that is "I don't know," we will never have an answer. Until we know--truly, practically know--that we need help, we will never receive it. God does not help those who help themselves; He helps those who know they need help, those who cry, "Oh God, I find no hope in me!"
God's divine reality checks will make sure that our foolish pride forever lets us down, but what a beautiful letdown it is. Everything suddenly becomes clear, the peace and the answers come suddenly, as though from outside ourselves, and the beauty comes from knowing, "God has meet me here."