The Lovely Mess: Part 1

The Lovely Mess

When faced with criticism, we must weigh both the critic and the criticism. CS Lewis reminds us, “The most dangerous ideas in a society are not the ones being argued, but the ones being assumed.” Unfortunately, the author of the following article—http://www.rawstory.com/2015/06/captive-virgins-polygamy-and-sex-slaves- what-marriage-would-look-like-if-we-actually-followed-the bible/#.VZLXfwt3fcw.facebook—makes numerous assumptions. Here are a few…

#1 ‘The Bible is one book.’ It’s actually a library of books (sixty-six or seventy- three depending on whether you go with the Protestants or Catholics) collected over a few thousand years and comprised of a number of genres: myth, poetry, drama and history: all needing to be interpreted appropriately.

#2: ‘Believers are those with a narrow, fundamentalist outlook.’ The fact is that most who love, read and live by the bible, do not hold to this outlook.

#3: ‘There is only one God being advocated in the Bible.’ There are at least two versions of ‘God’ to be found in this library we refer to as the ‘Bible’: the God of the Royal Order1 and the God of the Prophets.

The God of the Royal Order is always assumed to be on the side of those in power, inspiring and justifying the priests and kings in their stonings, conquests, enslavements, keeping of temple prostitutes, harems and mountains of gold. The God of the Prophets is normally the minority report and says things like, “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.”2

One of the fascinating things about the bible is this ongoing wrestle between those advocating a supposed God who gives us, ‘Enough knowledge and power to control the terror and eliminate the darkness’3 and a God who is on about ‘another Kingdom’, an invisible realm of justice, mercy and grace. Those who advocate this other mysterious God—who is called by various nicknames—say that he carries with him a deep experience of dread but also of loving-kindness. So it’s not always easy to tell which ‘God-voice’ we are hearing. When we read, ‘Thus says the Lord,’ we need to ask ourselves which God is being represented. The Chronicles of Narnia tell us that ‘Aslan is not a tame lion’ and it was this mantra that was used to great effect by the pretender (Shift) against the kind hearted little donkey (Puzzle).

Individuals in various books & letters of this bible-library, are empowered to speak directly to God and to even challenge God. As one of the psalm writers says…

‘I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
Sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
Relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
Made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
Blinded by tears of pain and frustration.’4

Jesus, for example, confronted the voice of the Royal Order when he said things like, ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…’5

Many who read the bible and love and live by it, see it as an amazing world of ‘testimony à dispute à advocacy’, which enables them to understand the ‘cosmic static’ of their own personal experience of what some refer to as a Higher Power or possibly their own delusions. But to stop there would be tragic and would leave the Ghandis and Martin Luther Kings of the world powerless before the Royal Order: both of these men drawing heavily on the teachings of Jesus.

And so it is that the bible—by gifting us with the voices of the prophets and of Jesus—prepares us to wrestle with the intimidation and brutality of the Royal Order and, interestingly, it teaches us to wrestle with God aka Jacob’s Wrestle (Gen 32: 22-32).

We see this dramatically in Franco Zeferelli’s version of Jesus of Nazareth where Barabbas is depicted as a freedom fighter attempting to recruit Jesus. Having heard Barabbas out, Jesus tells him to ‘love his enemies’: the freedom fighters now hate him as a coward. In another scene, Jesus opposes those who want to stone a woman for committing adultery. He saves the woman’s life and the Pharisees (representing the Royal Order) are furious: the misogynists now hate him as a liberal. Again, Jesus heals the servant of a Roman soldier: the racists now hate him as Rome-lover.

Displaying their ignorance of all this, the author of the above article says, ‘Furthermore, none of the norms that are endorsed and regulated in the (so-called) Old Testament law – polygamy, sexual slavery, coerced marriage of young girls—are revised, reversed, or condemned by Jesus.’

Not content to leave it at that, another great leap is made where the author says,
‘It (the bible) gives them the divine thumbs up.’ Exactly where it does this we are not told. There’s quite a lot the author doesn’t tell us: it’s called being ‘economical with the truth’.

What they don’t tell us, for example, is that the Old Testament laws were actually improvements on the laws of surrounding nations, which were far more brutal. Having to marry the girl you raped, or pay her father fifty shekels if he opposed the marriage, and never being allowed to divorce her (5a)—in an era where the raped girl might possibly be left unable to marry—was actually a powerful deterrent. You now had to take responsibility for her and you could never leave her. Interestingly there is no recorded instance of a girl being forced to marry a rapist in the Old Testament.

Of course, this ‘progressive revelation’ (6) was not going to stop there, one day (God hopes) society might reach the stage where the justice system would be so influenced by the bible that the offender could be jailed and the girl could go on her way. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and anyone who has ever had to work for reform knows the foolhardiness of the idealist who blindly wants everything changed at once and in the end only serves to keep everything the same.

A case in point is those who worked to abolish slavery in the US: the purists arguing most vehemently in congress for an immediate and complete abolition were actually playing into the hands of those advocating slavery. It wasn’t until they could be persuaded to adopt a moderate position that Abraham Lincoln and co. were able to succeed. In another example, Michael Collins (of IRA fame) faced the same problem when he was a negotiating with the English. Back home, Michael’s old enemy—De Valera—constantly agitated for no compromise while Michael was arguing for a step- by-step process. Valera would have none of it and in so doing threatened to destroy both Collins (which is what he wanted) and the whole process of negotiation for Irish autonomy.

In Jesus’ case, in the thirty years preceding his birth, an average of five thousand Jews were killed (by the Romans) every year in messianic uprisings. It’s highly likely that—as Zeffirelli suggests in his film—Jesus was courted by freedom fighters (possibly even the Romans) and the Pharisees. Under the watchful eye of the Royal Order, Jesus refused to be intimidated and risked imprisonment and execution by standing up to both friends and enemies. Thanks to his courage, his teachings paved the way for the elevation of the rights of women, children and all oppressed peoples. No reading of history is able to contest this.

1 Brueggemann W. Spirituality of the Psalms p.29 Augsburg Fortress 2002. Brueggemann writes about this in detail in Prophetic Imagination

2 Amos 5:21 -24

3. Brueggemann W. Spirituality of the Psalms p.29 Augsburg Fortress 2002

4. Psalm 88:8,9 MSG

5 Matt 5:43 RSV c.f. Ex 21:24
5a Duet 22:28-29 & Ex 22:16 – 27
6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_revelation_(Christianity)

Wedlocked

Joy

On a green hill we joined our son
With a princess
Around flames of burning/turning bright night.

Warm hearts on cold nights
We all need as the years go
And the tears.

Will they remember?
Will they take this?
Wedlocked!

Warm drink body/flesh
And let it be one/done
‘As it was in the beginning, and now
And always, to the ages of ages?’1

On a green hill with a princess
Around flames of burning/turning
We all need as the years go
And the tears.

Wedlocked!
On a green hill
We joined our son
With a princess
To the ages of ages.

1 The Gloria Patri (ancient Latin doxology)

The Gambler

Watched The Gambler1 the other day. It’s an act of treason beyond all reason. He’s not a gambler he’s a suicide looking for a way. So he rolls the dice, ‘All on black’ he says. ‘All.’ He’s a funeral, a burial waiting to happen. He’s on the run; he finds the one he wants. But she’s not; she’s a distraction from reality. She’s what the Director wants, cause it’s what we want, cause it sells—supposedly.

Yes, disappointment’s settling in amongst us film watchers of this film in this lounge room. Mister Main Character rolls the dice, it all comes down and he’s on his own. Nothing left. He’s running hard and running.

The Maker of the film comes to a place and I’m on edge. This could be a great ending. Will the Maker have the balls to go there? He runs and stops. Will he lose the nerve: flip out and go back to default, to one-dimensional material dollar/job//sex?

Yep, exactly what happens. Director caves when he could have made. A real ending that swayed you, and made you. Could have had it right there. Could have taken us by the neck and ran us headlong into real! A baptism2 of fire, busting a thousand years of baptismal lies, of pretty fonts and white frills telling us baptisms are lovely. They are not!

That water down there is about death! That fierce determination to have done with whatever this thing is that whispers in my ear all day every day telling me it’s #*%! The only cure for the pretty boy at eighteen with his girl in every town telling me twenty years ago that he’d come good one day and now here we are twenty years later—those girls are angry and so are the kids. He’s a loser they all say.

O my God! How did that happen! Seems like it was only yesterday and his eyes were young and bright, so young and bright, and full of fight. Baptism is what he needs, real and ruthless—funeral style. But he worded his way around me, around us all, wormed his way towards whatever it was that whispered.

And here we are watching The Gambler! The Drunken Cowboy/Jackeroo! So beloved of those girls wanting beautiful boys to save. Mister Main Character is all out of options. Just two left now: the girl or the baptism. What a perfect place for a funeral for the Shadow Self: real crucifixion on Skull Hill—Easter style. Perfect time, lay it on the line, embrace this traitor, this act of treason we call baptism. Torn up and thrown about and letting the Someone Else make it, Maker of Suns and Stars and Seas. Go down into waters and surrenders.

But no! No funeral for that Dark and Broken Self, just a new girl to live with, make angry in old age and rage.

1 Recent Mark Wahlberg film
2 baptism: word origin relates to shipwrecks and violence e.g, a mob ransacking a city

Shirley Is Glorified

 

another place

This photograph is from a random drive through the Kimberley when I was researching my thriller project. The story is so embedded in my imagination now that I can’t look at this without being inside a 4WD coming down that hill at night, the vehicle chasing ant-nest shadows as it bounces and crashes its way along a boggy track.

Storms are about and you can smell mud and see lightning on the horizon. At the foot of the hill is a homestead, which faces onto a greasy clay pan. Beyond that the Styx Gorge awaits: jagged, black as pitch, and the only place to hide.

On the way to the bottom of the ridge, to hoped-for safety, this bruised and hurting little family are at their wit’s end, longing to be out of there, to be together at home again. The young daughter, Oksy, captures what they all feel with her questions and her prayers.

The mother, Mia, holds onto the hope that a higher power of infinite love is somehow at work—even in the midst of their hell. Oksy’s father, Red, sees things differently: they are out to defy a hostile universe, period. S#*! happens, he likes to say. And you have to respect his point of view. He’s no fool—without him Oksy would be dead.

Each has been drawing some kind of strength from their worldview. Oksy, the mysterious strength of the child’s naïve faith: a beautiful trust that somehow good will win-out. Mia, the strength of what has been referred to as stage five faith, which is ‘okay with God’s mystery, unavailability and strangeness.’1 Red draws from his courage and skill as a warrior.

Watching their story unfold and trying to write it down always leads back into my own world. Just now for example, I found out that a beloved friend of our family (Shirley Blake) who has given oceans of grace and strength to us—passed away two days ago.

Shirley was no ordinary woman, she was a Mount Everest in the spiritual world: unknown to many but famous with God. Our family literally ‘rises up and calls her blessed.’ She was, in the double meaning of John’s Gospel, a woman ‘lifted up and glorified,’2 which means she brought joy to many and (like Jesus himself) was to be subjected to awful brutality.

In her case, one ‘crucifixion’ that I am aware of, happened a long time before she actually passed from this earth. Having given many years of her life to loving her neighbours (and their children) with amazing kid’s clubs, stories and laughter, she was well into the second half of her life and had become the beloved ‘Aunty Shirley’ to children all over Broken Hill.

One day a man entered her house and brutally assaulted her. She cried out and no help came. Instead, she was given a vision of Jesus weeping. She explained to us later that somehow she felt (as awful as it was) that Jesus was sharing in the torture together with her. This was hard for me to hear at the time.

The New Testament supports Shirley’s explanation. Jesus shed tears at the death of his good friend Lazarus, for example, but they were not tears of weakness, they were the tears of a man strong enough in his manhood to weep in public. Such weeping gives strength to his followers even two thousand years later. How could that be? How could a weeping and wounded savior give power and grace?

These lines from Edward Shillito’s Jesus of the Scars put us in the picture…

‘The heavens frighten us, they are too calm
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us, where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by your scars, we claim your grace.

If, when the doors are shut, you draw near
Only reveal those hands, that side of yours
We know today what wounds are, have no fear
Show us your scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong but you were weak
They rode—you stumbled to a throne
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak
And not a god has wounds but you alone.’

Jesus told his followers, ‘As the father has sent me, even so I send you.’3 St. Paul goes on to say that the deal includes sharing ‘in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church.’4 This is confronting because it suggests that not only was Jesus sharing in Shirley’s sufferings, she was sharing in his and it was for the benefit of her fellow Christians: we know who we are.

Charles Williams elaborates on this when he says that ‘Sometimes, in order for the fire of heaven to fall in one place, an altar must be built in another.’5 Shirley’s altar was certainly that for many: instead of being a place of bitter trauma, it became a treasure chest from which holy fire poured into the souls of others. Thank you Aunty Shirley and thank you God.

‘The way of the Cross’, writes Michael Quoist, ‘winds through our towns and cities, our hospitals and factories, and through our battlefields…It is in front of these new Stations of the Cross that we must stop and meditate and pray to the suffering Christ for strength to love him enough and for strength to act.’6

1 Stages of Faith, James Fowler, 1981, Harper and Row

2 John 8:28 RSV Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will
know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the
Father taught me.

3 John 20:21 RSV

4 Colossians 1:24 ‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I
complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that
is, the church.’ RSV

5Letters to Malcolm Ch. 21, Lewis C. S

6 Paths in Spirituality, John Macquarrie, 1992, Morehouse Publishing, 130

Living The Passion

‘Does not every movement in the passion write large some common element in the sufferings of our race? First, the prayer of anguish, not granted. Then he turns to his friends. They are asleep as ours, or we, are so often, or busy, or away, or preoccupied. Then he faces the Church, the very Church that he brought into existence. It condemns him. This is also characteristic. In every Church, in every institution, there is something which sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. But there seems to be another chance. There is the state, in this case the Roman state. Its pretensions are far lower than those of the Jewish church, but for that very reason it may be free from local fanaticisms. It claims to be just on a rough worldly level. Yes, but only in so far as is consistent with political expediency and raison d’état.* One becomes a counter in a complicated game. But even now all is not lost. There is still an appeal to the People—the poor and simple whom he had blessed, whom he had healed and fed and taught, to whom he himself belongs. But they have become overnight (it is nothing unusual) a murderous rabble shouting for his blood. There is then nothing left but God. And to God, God’s last words are, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

You see how characteristic, how representative, it all is. The human situation writ large. These are among the things it means to be a man. Every rope breaks when you seize it. Every door is slammed as you reach it. To be like the fox at the end of the run; the earths all staked.’

* a purely political reason for action on the part of a ruler or government, especially where a departure from openness, justice, or honesty is involved.

(Lewis CS. Letters to Malcolm Ch. 8 – also in The Business of Heaven April 6)

Motivational Ecosystems

The Byrock Flash

Two words I’ve found helpful in the coaching process are ‘enable’ and ‘galvanize’. To ‘enable’ means to make something possible and to ‘galvanize’ means to ‘shock or excite someone into action’. Interestingly, the word galvanize comes from an old French word meaning to ‘stimulate via electricity’. It’s to do with that mysterious ambience (or presence), which a particular ‘something’ brings to your day, causing you to be energized and to take effective action.

This ‘something’ can be a number of things: it might be your partner, your family, your boss or your team for example. It might also be a symbol, ritual or even your worldview. And yes, of course, it might be your coach.

Unfortunately, our society is obsessed with this aspect of coaching and, as a result, tends to neglect the enabling part. ‘Live your passion’ it says. But what if the ideas in your head, not the passions in your heart, are what will make you or break you? And what if one of those ideas is that we live in a universe that uncannily draws our attention to what is significant about us? Trying hard to do what everyone else is doing could be a great distraction. And complaining that ‘they wouldn’t let you get your Harvard degree and your nice house’ and that ‘life hurts and is unfair’, starts to look positively embarrassing.

What if a monster called ‘education’ has almost completely killed off the joy of learning in you? What if your parents taught you it was all about putting your head down and working harder? You can’t see where your going when your head is down all the time.

What if you’re the most talented young spin bowler in town but you can’t afford the ticket to a coaching clinic? A team that complains they can’t do without you for that weekend is about as useful as a hole in the head. And so also is a life coach who sits in an office somewhere and wants this young cricketer to pay him $100 (which he can’t afford) to tell him that.

Imagine this. You’re a young boy and your mother has spent hard earned cash on getting you piano lessons in a music conservatorium in Ireland. But piano is not you. One day your mother says, ‘Enough is enough’ and goes down there to terminate your lessons. On the way out of your ‘last ever piano lesson’, and possibly your ‘last ever music lesson’, you hear an old man playing drums.

‘What’s going on in there?’ you say to your mother.
‘Let’s have a look,’ she says.
Your name is Laurence Mullen. Forty-five years have passed since that day at the conservatorium. You are, and have been for a long time, the drummer (Larry Mullen) in the band U2.

A lot happened in that moment at the door. Larry’s mother could have simply kept walking. But like a good coach, she was observant, she noticed something that had caught her son’s attention. And like a good coach she acted as a catalyst. There was no way she was planning to be his personal energy force. She already appreciated ‘enabling’, which is why she had put him in an environment where something like that could happen.

A coach can play a crucial role in assisting individuals or teams to participate in such ‘enabling events’ and thus help them to identify the sweet spots and dead spots in their motivational ecosystem. But we don’t need a coach for this; all we need is a thoughtful (and hopefully prayerful) family, community or tribe of some kind, which knows that ordinary old enabling is one of the secret weapons of life.

Why put prayer in the mix? It’s in there because when it comes to creativity and motivation, there’s strong evidence that prayer journeys can play a powerful role in our experience of learning. Anyone who has ever had to teach a class or train a team knows that if an individual has an unresolved spiritual crisis in their life it’s that much harder for them to learn. It affects everything, all the time.

Such crises could be anything from a bent idea of God to a bitter feud with a family member to something as broad as a ‘crisis of meaning’. Sometimes it’s not even a crisis; it’s simply a nagging question. What if it’s true, for example, that there’s a Higher Power out there who loves you deeply and is hoping to come to a place where you will be happy to be ‘found’ by it? Add to that the supposedly preposterous idea of asking that Higher Power for help with your journey into the universe of creativity.

Enabling is not just about providing opportunities by the way; sometimes it’s about restraint. Too much enabling can ironically disable, putting the brain and the mind to sleep. NRL coaches complain that their players are becoming over-enabled and lacking in the backbone and creativity that thrives when a player faces the pain of deprivation, even repression and criticism, which is of course where galvanizing and enabling overlap.

Heart of My Hearts

Heart of My Hearts

When stone blocks fall from the great grey sky
And the earth splits open in the heart of my hearts
And fire flows freely across the land.

I take a long drive and I don’t come back
Till the mother of love and the father of joy
The river of mud and the barking dogs
The laughing brothers with the shining eyes
And the old mountain tank with the clean white rock
—that rock.

Are rolling around in the heart of my hearts
And the deep blue flows through the back of my days
And makes me sing till the lights go out
Till the lights go out
Out.

The mother of love and the father of joy
The river of mud and the barking dogs
The laughing brothers with the shining eyes
The old mountain tank with the clean white rock
—that rock.

Rolling around in the heart of my hearts
The deep blue flows till the lights go out
In the heart of my hearts.

And fire flows freely in the river of mud
With the barking dogs
And the laughing brothers
And the shining eyes
Where the deep blue flows by the old mountain tank.

In the heart of my hearts
The deep blue flows.

Marionetted

Go Against The Flow

Intimidation is the sprout, the sprite, the spirit of our age
How do you know that? You ask
That’s how.

You’re so intimidated you can’t even tell me
What you want to drink
What would you like? Whatever I’m having?

Would you like to come?
Who else is coming? You ask
Have to see what the others might.

You know what’s really controlling up you?
A marionette—in your life
Yes marionetted that’s what you are.

This serious correct in the office language is a fake
An imaginary billion dollar suing
Stopping you doing.

Try it on, push it’s button, pull the ear phones out
I dare you, stare it down until it blinks
With ‘Whatever you are afraid to do
Do it.’*

* Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dreaming

Woke up this morning with three words singing around inside me: ‘Lamb of God’. The words came fresh from a dream I was having where a friend and I were reading the New Testament. We reached a place where someone spoke about the ‘Lamb of God’. My fellow reader passed right over the words without a thought, not even a question. But while they kept reading, the words flowed up off the page and inside me like a river of music, colour and power—overflowing into the entire universe.

What if—Especially In Situations Like Ours—The ‘Darkness’ Is Actually The Only Way Ahead?

Captivating Mystery

A link on the net announced, ‘Atheist Stephen Fry delivers incredible answer when asked what he would say if he met God!’ The report goes on to say that Fry delivered a ‘stunning rebuke’. I know grandmothers who would be laughing at this. Steven Fry’s outrage is nothing new and is directed at a God who doesn’t exist—not even for Christians. It’s actually directed at something else.

I can’t believe that the interviewer would see Fry’s answer as a shock or a ‘stunning rebuke’. Whatever worldview they held, anyone who has lived for a while on this planet will have had days or even years of their life where they said things like that to (or about) whatever Higher Power they understood to be responsible for the pain. As the psalmist says …

‘I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
Sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
Relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
Made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
Blinded by tears of pain and frustration.’1

Fry’s answer would actually make a good start to one of those ‘psalms of disorientation’ as Walter Brueggemann calls them. This ‘shaking of the fist at God’ has its place in all spiritual journeys but to stay there is dangerous. Josef Stalin, for example, died shaking his fist at God. Only a wealthy and comfortable society like ours, which has made lifestyle preference it’s golden cow, would have the nerve to make suffering and pain the single defining issue when it comes to the way it thinks about itself and everyone else. National health is defined primarily in terms of money, a sense of wellbeing, education and economy—and we pat ourselves on the back if it’s going well. ‘The darkness, that “deep dread” crap ain’t gonna get us,’ we might as well be singing.

But what if—especially in situations like ours—the ‘darkness’ is actually the only way ahead? What if Steven Fry’s definition of God has ironically been handed to him warped and broken by the church? A churched world that’s living in denial, that likes to imagine God to be a nice little guy who’s doing his best to make everything nice for us, as in the Secular Enlightenment crowd. But what if things are much more complicated than that?

Brueggemann points out that Christendom is implicated in this denial when he says, ‘It is my judgement that this action of the church is less a defiance guided by faith and founded on the good news, and much more a frightened, numb denial and deception that does not want to experience the disorientation of life. The reason for such relentless affirmation of orientation seems to come not from faith, but from the wishful optimism of our culture. Such a denial and cover-up, which I take it to be, is an odd inclination for passionate bible users, given the large number of psalms that are psalms of lament, protest and complaint about the incoherence that is experienced in the world. At least it is clear that a church that goes on singing “happy songs” in the face of raw reality is doing something very different from what the bible itself does.’2

I would suggest that Fry’s rage is actually more to do with our human frustration and terror at what has been called the ‘deep darkness’. Also known as the ‘mysterium tremendum et fascinans’: a dreadful, beautiful and captivating mystery you would spend your life running away from and also chasing after. It’s where one of the earliest words used in primitive language (‘taboo’) comes from.

Brueggemann says that instead of just getting angry at this mysterious darkness, we need to recognise that the it holds a clue to the puzzle. He suggests that the problem with us is that it’s not just that we are afraid of evil, we are afraid of all that is mysterious, awe-inspiring or numinous. And that our society (and even at times our so-called ‘Christianity’) has a vested interest in the elimination of wonder and “abiding astonishment,” because ‘In our modern experience but probably also in every affluent culture it is believed that enough power and knowledge can tame the terror and eliminate the darkness … The remarkable thing about Israel is that it did not banish or deny the darkness from its religious enterprise. It embraces the darkness as the very stuff of new life. Indeed, Israel seems to know that new life is rooted nowhere else.’3

When you look at who we are: the first ever society in history to completely excise a Higher Power from our way of life and our meaning and purpose, it’s no wonder we are filling up with angry people who—suspecting that their secular dream is over—are venting their spleen (without seeing any irony) at God. ‘How dare God allow this mess!’ we say. But the fact is, we made our bed, now we must lie in it until we are ready to listen: not to the church, not to that bloody-minded preacher who ruined our family, but to that dreadful and captivating mystery.

Walter Brueggemann speaks to this when he says, ‘It is worth considering a “sociology of wonder,” and asking who is open to abiding astonishment,” and who might be compelled to overcome, banish, or deny such astonishment? I submit that “abiding astonishment,” the celebration of enduring miracle, tends not to occur among those who manage writing, who control the state, who create and transmit proper “facts,” who monopolise control, and who explain by cause and effect. The experience and articulation of wonder tends to occur in the midst of oral expression, in simpler social units, among those who yearn for and receive miracle, who live by gift since they have little else by which to live, and who are sustained only by slippage (mystery) and gaps in the dominant system of power. The elimination of wonder from historical reconstruction is (therefore) a drastic decision to read historical memory in the presence and service of one sociological interest, at the great expense of a contrasting social interest.’4

1 Psalm 88:8,9 RSV
2 Brueggemann W. Spirituality of the Psalms p.26 Augsburg Fortress 2002
3 Brueggemann W. Spirituality of the Psalms p.29 Augsburg Fortress 2002

4 Brueggemann W. Abiding Astonishment p. 42 1991 John Knox