Friday, October 24, 2008

The Love Shack

Some quick background before I get to the point. Last night was our regular Shack Discussion Group. We started with a pot luck featuring the deer I brought back from New Jersey a couple weeks ago. Most of the group never had eaten deer before and for safety’s sake we had some wonderful stand by Mexican dishes, but the three deer roasts and 7 steaks totally disappeared. I am having the stand by Mexican menu for lunch today. The group discussion and an email about the Shack from by good friend, Dr. Steven Stanley were on my mind long before sun up this morning. Steve is the smartest and most well balanced theologian I know. He is so gifted that he has been approached by the publishers is currently writing part of a new biblical commentary set for LOGOS. Rush Limbaugh brags that he can operate just fine with his “talent on loan from God with half his brain tied behind his back”. For Rush it is a brag, for Steve it’s a fact. Steve’s calling from God is to keep my feet solidly on the ground. My calling from God is to get Steve to walk in the clouds. In his email recommending the Shack as a valuable book to his church he regrets that the authors neglected the justice and holiness aspects of God, keying in on a statement made by Papa as to God’s purpose of love for mankind. I would never pick up on that distinction personally, but then again, I’m not nearly the critical thinker Steve is. It does not bother me (maybe it should) because we approach things from a totally different perspective. His approach is analytical, balanced against all positions and possibilities. He is so good at it he went to the most liberal school in Europe he could find for his PhD just to make sure he could defeat their arguments soundly on their own turf. National school evaluators declared him a “teachers teacher. In Top Gun and Men in Black speak, that is the best of the best. My approach is far more relational, which is why I always talk to Steve when it comes to critical biblical issues. This AM (and a fair part of last night) I am weighing Steve’s valid comments about the Shack against my slightly different thoughts and approach. If this were to be judged on who is technically more correct, I would probably default to Steve, but since this is just my blog I’d like to point out the difference between the technically correct evaluations of Professor Stanly and the relational observations of Papa Z. I have the more impressive title, just ask my 10 grandkids! Steve and I view things from a different perspective because our personal histories are so different. I was raised in a very strict household by an ironfisted dictator who loved me deeply and always. Steve father was not a believer and died when Steve was a young teen. They were not real close. One incident illustrates our different viewpoints. Some time I will tell you why we pulled our boys out of the public schools. It had to do with affairs, guns, gangs, blood and lawyers, but I will save that for later. Now to the point: One morning I had to check 7th grade Dustin into school a little late. When we came into the office we could not reach the counter due to the 30 rebels standing there arguing with the secretaries. The secretaries were shouting, literally, for the kids to go to class and the little rebels totally ignored the threats and refused to move. That was totally unacceptable to me. For those who have never met me, I am 6’ 2”, around 260 lb and at that time in my life was benching 300 lbs 3 days a week in the gym. (I am paying for that vanity now in my elbows). I raised my voice, (not in a yell, just volume) instructing the children, “you were told to go to class, now do it!” The room went dead quiet, every eye turned on me. There was momentary hesitation until Dusty, standing beside me, advised, “you’d better do it, he means it!”. Silently they cowered, heads down, tails retracted, leaving the office like scolded puppies. I broke the ensuing stillness with, “why do you put up with that?” The truth of the answer is the root of why we pulled the boys out of school, but their answer that day was “do you want a job?” (Which incidentally I did take some years later.) Realistically, what could (not would) I really have done if they had ignored my instructions? I could have totally destroyed them, not that I ever would. They had to make a decision on the spot with only the information provided by a peer. They only saw the size and power of the law giver standing before them and opted for swift retreat and the relative safety of a classroom. OK, the couple of menacing steps I made towards them may have had some influence on their decision, but Dusty was not afraid because we lived in relationship. He knew what I could do, hence the warning. But he lived in the balance of power and love with what I would do. Today I have no relationship with the throng of slinking children who perfectly obeyed me once in the face of certain death, mayhem and destruction! (: I do however have a wonderful relationship with Dusty, who to be honest, has not always perfectly obeyed, nor does he cower in fear. That is why I am OK with the story of the Shack. Steve’s critical analysis is no doubt precisely correct. I look forward to the well deserved lecture I will get should he read this. I may even bait him into reading it. He will agree where he can and instruct where he must. The all to oft heard two word prayers requesting God to condemn something or someone generally categorized in the prayer by IT, gives me reason to believe the public at large has no problem understanding how powerful, just and holy God is. I just don’t think they really comprehend how much God loves them. Being convinced that they are aware of his justice and power I prefer to emphasize God’s love, something I rarely hear of in public. Evidently Paul shared my concern in his day too.

EPH 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

For me to continue to tell people that God can beat them up is like preaching to the choir. They already profoundly believe that measuring every circumstance in life to evaluate God’s current attitude towards them. A century ago “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” was a powerful message. It scarred many of that generation out of hell, but (squint here if your sensitive) it did not scare the hell out of them. I’m thinking the message of God’s incomprehensible love for them just might do both. The Love Shack message makes me fell like I can fly with the eagles, not hide in a corner like a Thanksgiving Turkey awaiting the inevitable.

1 comment:

Doni Brinkman said...

TOTALLY laughing out loud at your last comment. :) will definitely be squinting. Your not allowed to say that Pastor ;). When I read the book my initial thoughts were similar to Dr. Stanley's but over time I came to the conclusion that for me - my attraction to God's power and holiness and need to "preach it" is tied very closely to my own controlling behavior and fear filled nature. Like you said, I am the choir that doesn't need to be preached to on that point. For me the learning curve is in understanding what it means to live loved. That is the message that I hope roots deeply in me.