Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Need A Lift

Today a man was laying in front of the offices. He demanded a ride to the hospital because he had been in “an accident” and needed medical attention. He looked fine. I asked when the accident happened. “Friday,” was the answer.

Amazingly he had the stamina to walk to our offices, but was unable (and refused) to cross the street to the bus stop. Amazingly he had dealt with the pain for five days. By his smell and demeanor, he drank away the pain (physical and surely emotional). Now, his need for a ride to the hospital was my problem.

He got a ride, but it was not the ride he wanted. His belligerent requests, denial of being drunk and refusal to move led him to request a trip in a squad car. The police came and the man got a ride. As I saw the red, white and blue car pull away past my office, I could not stop thinking about how he was misunderstood and had no place to be understood. The man obviously needed more than what his life or even this life could offer him. He needed something more than the existence that shackled him. I did little if nothing to help. I got him a ride, but was it in the right direction?

The separation between classes is significant. What is logical for the middle-class is craziness to the wealthy. What makes common sense to the wealthy is lost entirely to the poor. My natural reaction to the man who needed a lift may have been proper (since women and children present). What did it produce?

What has spirituality to do with today? Are the rides we give the rides people need?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great question!
What I hear you saying is that the assumptions we make about “common sense” or the appropriate approach to take when dealing with individuals may be biased by our perspective. Are we making assumptions about what people need and “should” do? How often do we say, “If I were her/him, I would do…” or “What were they thinking?” It is so easy to assume that our viewpoint is the informed, logical, right thinking perspective. And, how often do we deceive ourselves into thinking we are in control when we apply cultural or “Church of Christ” tradition to our problem solving?
I’m not saying that we should throw good judgment out the window. God calls us to be “wise as serpents” and we clearly have a responsibility to think things through and be good stewards of what he has entrusted to us. Investigating the truth of the accident victim’s story and helping him to a sober resolution is a case in point. Clearly, there were issues of safety and risk for others. There again, though, I’m applying my logic.
I must admit that I sometimes suffer from “analysis paralysis” (i.e., analyzing a choice to death, exploring all the “what ifs” and being slow to take action). Why do I do it? Because I want to make the right decision and am afraid of making the wrong one. My underlying belief is that, if I think about all the possible ramifications and interactions of choices and variables, I will be able to control the outcome. If I do the “right” thing, then I’m in the clear. Is this a faithful approach? Not really. It reminds me of a parable conversation…

24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“I knew…” Evidently, he did not know what he thought he knew! Faith is not knowing; it is believing (I think so, anyway!). Faith is trusting in God vs. trusting in ourselves. There are countless examples of God’s viewpoint of our second guessing Him (e.g., Saul’s disobedience and deception about obeying God’s instructions regarding the Amelekytes, even to go as far as to justify his action, saying that he intended to make sacrifices of the animals he had spared; David’s census so that he would “know”). Why do we want to know? I guess I want to know because trusting God can be kind of scary sometimes. I want to believe that I can secure my own life and the things I value. For some reason, I feel safer (in my heart) if I think know and I am in control even though I believe that God knows best (in my mind).
At the end of the day, are we making decisions from a perspective of faith by God’s standards or “doing the right thing” by our standards. It reminds of your recent series on Urban culture, Brady. As you led us through those lessons, I frequently found myself thinking about Jesus’ countercultural perspective. The Jews wanted a worldly Messiah, which made total sense to them in their needs and position as God’s chosen people, a restoration to the glory of an early David or Solomon. What Christ brought was very counter to what they saw as making sense, but it was exactly what they really needed, a kingdom, a hope, a glory, a relationship with their Father that could never be taken away.
It also reminds me of an experience I had sitting with two couples in a home having a bible study several years ago. One of the women discussed her present journey to explore and understand the scriptures and consider what her response to God might be. During the course of the discussion, one of the men discovered that she had not yet been baptized. He proceeded to give her an ultimatum and explained to her the consequences of her innaction. Even as she shed tears at his onslaught and her husband and I admonished him to back off, he pushed further suggesting that she be baptized then and there in one of the household bathtubs. She and her husband quit coming to church. The young man who was so insistent that she be baptized right away was well intentioned and acted out of his genuine concern for her and his assumption about what needed to happen. He acted according to what he thought he knew was the right thing to do in that situation. His action, however, was not loving or considerate of what God might be doing in this woman's life. Some might say that he acted in faith, but I would suggest that he acted in fear, fear for her soul, fear of hell, fear of not getting the formula right. His fear for her reflected his own fear for himself. To your question, I don't think the ride he gave her was the one she needed or the one God intended.
So, this is my convoluted response to your entry and what it means to me. We live in a cynical world and we, like so many others, are an “arrogant, stiff-necked generation.” And my questions, after considering these things are:

-How do I consistently filter through what I “know” to let God speak and hear what He has to say?
-How do I guide others to do the same?

And, ultimately,
-How can I be bolder in response to my faith as opposed to feeling confident about what I think I know?

In churches today, it’s the same thing. Everyone thinks that his/her perspective on “disputable matters” is the right one (e.g., the holy spirit, music, women’s roles, corporate worship, and anything else that might fit into Roman’s 14). The issues themselves have been determined to a great degree by culture. Years ago, our culture did not question these matters and so we did not question these matters. Then, the issues were whether or not to have a communion table at the front of the auditorium, whether or not it should have a cloth on it or be bare (in the restoration tradition, did anyone ever wonder to ask if they even had a “communion table” in the early church meetings?), water fountains in the church, how many songs before a prayer, etc. (some of these are still debatable issues to many people and difficult to even talk about without eliciting strong emotional reactions). We let our culture determine what we think we “know” about what God wants. I have to admit that I’m a victim of the same influence; (sigh) I am heart broken over it, not because I blame people or want to judge them…I will no doubt look back in ten years and say to myself “you were way off the mark.” (whatever that means). I am heartbroken, though, because of our focus on controlling our lives and our salvation. “If I get it right and follow the rules, God will reward me and I’ll be safe.” And I hate feeling like I have to say this and I’m sure you already know this about what I mean but, I’m not suggesting that we should throw out God’s instructions for us or quit seeking to obey Him. (shaking my head) The Spirit reminds me to be patient, humble, and wait on the Lord. The irony is that I am now spouting off about what I think I know about God and what He wants! I suppose that, even though He is unknowable in the sense that He is incomprehensible, I am confident that there are some things that I do get to know in my limited capacity.