Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Something Worth Pondering

If someone were to have recorded all my comments made to a variety of patients over the years, and if they were somehow compiled into a digest, you'd find a lot of contradiction in that pile of words.  And if a rule-ridden person, for whatever reason, tried to implement everything I'd said, or to hold it as equally valid for all people and all time, they'd be spreading a porridge of nonsense.

If we read stories of the desert fathers and mothers, we need to read each story as a saying given to a specific person with a very specific need at a very specific time.  And we have to be careful and not apply this or any story across the board.  For all people or all time.  Stories fit some circumstances or stages on the journey, but not others.  For another time or set of circumstances, the wise elder might have discerned and formulated a totally different response, a different aspect of wisdom.

The Bible is like that.  The Psalms are like that.  The New Testament is like that.  The Gospels, for example, can't be harmonized.  Contradictions abound.  Paul wrote different things to different communities. At different times.

Some people are very uncomfortable with ambiguity, with uncertainty.  They seek certainty.  And are willing to contort their minds into pretzels in an effort to make the Bible or the Gospel into an infallible guide.

I'm not saying there's no Truth in things I've said or Jesus said or people thought we said.  But true wisdom, I think, is humble and not arrogant.  It doesn't try to force people into contortions or into boxes.  It respects individuality, including individual freedom.  It challenges us.  Piques our curiosity.  Invites us to go deeper.

I personally love the variety we find in Scripture.  It's like a symphony.  It's full of poetry.  Tells stories.  Paints portraits, imparting truths via fictitious means.  It is an endless well, from which we draw.  John's Gospel makes that clear.

Here is Psalm 14, as translated in The Jewish Study Bible.
The benighted man thinks,
   "God does not care."
Man's deeds are corrupt and loathsome;
   no one does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven on mankind
   to find a man of understanding
   a man mindful of God.
All have turned bad
   altogether foul;
   there is none who does good,
   not even one.
Are they so witless all these evil doers,
   who devour my people as they devour food,
   and do not invoke the LORD?
There they will be seized with fright,
   for God is present in the circle of the righteous.
You may set at naught the counsel of the lowly,
   but the LORD is his refuge.

O that the deliverance of Israel might come from Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of His people,
   Jacob will exult, Israel will rejoice.
There's a lot of beauty and wisdom in that psalm, even if it contradicts itself in places.