Ruminations From The Rim: Some Thoughts For A Fall Friday

It has been a difficult few months. Looking back, I believe that I have never been as concerned, as spiritually engaged with the world around me, as focused on something I could not control, as I was on this recent presidential election. It felt almost apocalyptic. I have never felt like that before in my entire life. It was as if a great dark and ominous cloud was advancing just beyond the edges of my sight. It reminded me of the early atmosphere in the series of books by Stephen Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, especially in the book the The Wounded Land. I guess you could say that I felt like our country was a “wounded land” on the edge of dissolution.

This sense of foreboding has disturbed me greatly. I believe that anyone with an ounce of introspection would attempt to expose the source of this deep apprehension. Since I am getting older I have to ask was it age, since I have seen others move toward less rationality as they got older. I have to admit, that possibility made me a little defensive. Or was it something else, something real or something imagined? Was I just tired after staying up too late and getting up too early for weeks on end.

After some prayerful thought over the last few days, I believe that at least some of that sense of events ominous and threatening came from the influence of a number of converging environmental factors. Besides the acrimony surrounding the election itself, those would include:

1. Movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy that make the apocalyptic struggle against evil almost real.

2. The implosion of the Episcopal Church and my subsequent joining the AMiA, a traditional Anglican group, after a period of significant disruption in my life, which caused the breakup of a church that I had considered family for 27 years.

3. My change in work status and my approaching security clearance interview.

4. My recent engagement with the blogosphere, especially sites like Evangelical Outpost, Midwest Conservative Journal, Eject! Eject! Eject!, and the Belmont Club.

5. The world at large: continuing fallout from 9-11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and my perception of the pervasiveness of the terrorist threat.

6. My own blogging, where daily I try to engage the unknown by examining what is happening around me (see 1-5 above) and distill my thoughts on the same into a somewhat coherent analysis.

The question for me boils down to whether this was purely a psychological reaction to a confluence of events over time or, as a Christian, whether it was a spiritual insight that used these various sources to get my attention. For anyone reading this with even the slightest charismatic or Pentecostal background, you know that the question of a metaphysical component is not idle speculation, but a serious spiritual concern. We Christians always want to be open to God’s work in our lives, especially when one of our regular prayers is for wisdom and insight coupled with the belief that we have been given the gift of discernment. (See my article Theological Thursdays: Starting Point: Sola Scriptura) For those of you not coming from those perspectives, you probably think I have gone off my meds (if I had been on any meds in the first place ;-)).

To say that there was a sense of relief when the election was over and there was an early resolution to the result would be stating the obvious. However, was my relief at this sense of closure evidence that the former sense of oppression was merely psychological or was it because the spiritual landscape had indeed changed?

If you have gotten this far, you may have asked yourself why is he writing this stuff; why is he exposing his inner thoughts and dialog to public scrutiny? A fair question. You should know that my wife is uncomfortable with this type of personal exposure. But to answer that question you need to know that I think best out loud, and the lack of people around me to facilitate this kind of discussion makes my best mode of inquiry unavailable. In addition, I believe it is helpful for others, especially any regular readers, to see the kinds of things I wrestle with and how I try to resolve the issues. This can serve as a witness to the difficulty of coming to settled conclusions regarding certain types of circumstances, especially when they have to be examined through the spiritual lens of our Christian life.

As Christians we pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and insight, to guide our understanding and decisions. As a result, we have to be open to how the Spirit might actually answer that prayer. Being a biblically oriented person, I always want scripture to be the final arbiter of my thinking, but scripture is usually not as much help as I would like in resolving these types of situations. Tthey are too experiential. In these cases, scripture’s primary usefulness is in warning us against straying into any occult areas in an attempt to resolve our quandaries. While we apply the whole unified sense of our biblical understanding to how we respond to the issues facing us, we have to resist the charismatic temptation to seek direct spiritual intervention to provide the answer. I am not denying this could happen, it has happened to me; just that you don’t go seeking it, because that is a prescription for real trouble. If God wants to intervene directly, He will do it unbidden. To the rationalist mindset, which many of my reformed friends are at heart, this probably all seems unseemly at best, and downright mystically dangerous, possibly heretical at worst.

I can say this. In the weeks and months before the election I prayed for peace and found none. After the election was over, it came to me on its own. Where does that leave me? If this was all psychological, I wouldn’t expect the resolution of the election to be the end of it. Being thrown that significantly off kilter, I would expect it to happen again and soon, with something else being the trigger. But, if it was indeed spiritual sensitivity and insight provided by God, then I would not expect the next stressful occurrence to cause a similar foreboding. I would expect God to maintain my sense of peace. Well, so far, so good.

So there you have it; judge for yourself. Just another day trying to live life out on the rim…

  9 comments for “Ruminations From The Rim: Some Thoughts For A Fall Friday

  1. Lisa M
    November 5, 2004 at 8:22 pm

    You’re not alone in sensing great importance at the potentially ominous outcome this election season. I too felt an immense sense of relief Wednesday morning. This was a pivotal moment in our history, the results of which we can prayerfully watch unfold and appraise in hindsight. As a Christian I’m not only inclined, but I believe obligated, to view my world through the lenses of faith, scripture and prayer. Despite possessing a non-charismatic persuasion and at the risk of sounding like a loon, the last six-months weighed continually upon me with the foreboding of an epic struggle.

    Do I agree with all of our President’s policies? No. Do I worry over the increasing deficit? Yes. Do I still question the apparent intelligence foibles that propelled us into Iraq? Yes. But I’m with the majority of other American Voters who indicated their top concern this year was Moral Values.

    Interestingly enough, in the eyes of the world, our concern with morality merits little concern. The issues directly affecting them reside with our foreign policy – in particular, our interventions into nations near them.

  2. November 5, 2004 at 11:21 pm

    So you mean it wasn’t all in my head? 😉

  3. Lisa M
    November 6, 2004 at 1:03 am

    nah! we must have somehow telepathically transmitted our paranoid delusions via the blogosphere! 😉

  4. Terry M
    November 6, 2004 at 9:23 am

    Nor, thankfully, was it all in my head! But remember this:

    1Ki 19:18 Yet I have left [me] seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

    There are still those real believers (true Christians, Followers of the Way) who grieve for our nation and it’s current moral morass. Not that ‘W’ is the answer, but I am thankful (I think…) that he has 4 more years as opposed to the alternative.

  5. November 6, 2004 at 11:13 am

    True Terry. There is always a remnant and even the “good guys” have sin they need to confess and courses they need to change.

  6. November 6, 2004 at 8:32 pm

    William,

    This sense of foreboding has disturbed me greatly. I believe that anyone with an ounce of introspection would attempt to expose the source of this deep apprehension.

    While I may be out of line for saying so, I think your sense of apprehension and foreboding is a positive sign. Too many Christians are eager to maintain a sense of “personal peace” and are eager to avoid anything that disturbs that. But we should be disturbed, the world is (as it always has been) completely off kilter. To be engaged in God’s work, if in no other way than standing up for the truth, we can expect to feel psychological pain.

    Your experience, in my opinion, shows that you aren’t completely numb to what is going on around you. I hope that it will encourage you to remain, as far as God allows, in the struggle. It isn’t easy, but as they say, there’s no crown without a cross.

  7. November 6, 2004 at 8:33 pm

    (Sorry about the poor grammatical structure in the last post.)

  8. Simon A
    November 8, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    William,

    I have had much a similar sense of foreboding/uncertainty in the last two months and asked many similar questions of “why?” and “what?”. Having the election settled (and the Red Sox winning the Series!) has relieved it some, but at this moment peace coexists with some lingering uncertainty which I believe, for good reason and to a good end, will never go away.
    The return of peace to my heart comes again (always?) thanks to God’s Word. I have been studying 1 Peter with a friend. Verse by verse, and at times, word by word. Perhaps I have “come late to the party” but I am struck by how very matter of fact Peter is about the reality of facing trials, adversity, opposition, persecution, and discipline. Quite simply Peter, and the whole other testimony of Scripture says, “In this life you are going to face adversity, trials and testing… always.” But instead of just leaving us with “Get used to it”, we are told how to live in the face of it and that we have a current AND future hope.
    Perhaps unconsciously, and almost certainly foolishly, I believe I had come to expect life in general to get better, go smoother, be less complicated and for me to face less adveristy. At this point I can only claim Jerimiah 17.9 as a cause. But the last few months have jarred me into recognizing again the fundamental corruption and brokeness that is not only IN the world, but actually IS the world. But that is good, (and Joe, I agree very strongly with your comment) for it is a right perspective and one that keeps me properly attuned to God’s Spirit and rightly (fully!) dependent on Christ for strength, courage, hope, grace, mercy and wisdom.

    I could go on much further and include many Scriptural references but will close with a quote from the poet Rilke.

    Be patient with all that is unresolved in your heart,
    And try to love the questions themselves.
    Do not seek for the answers that cannot be given,
    For you would not be able to live them.
    And the point is to live everything.
    Live the questions for now.
    And perhaps, without knowing it,
    You will live along someday into the answers
    – Rilke

    Though clearly not purely Biblical, to me it enlarges a bit on Psalm 46.10, “Be still and know that I am God…”

    Grace and peace

  9. November 9, 2004 at 5:25 pm

    Joe and Simon,

    What disturbed me was not the foreboding per se, but not being sure of the source. I see foreboding like pain as a good thing when it performs the proper function of alerting me to a problem, but chronic pain is bad, as would be chronic foreboding.

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