Flights of Faith

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Inheritance

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " 8Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:5-8)

Inheritance. What is mine?

I grew up alongside Alice and Peter. These names soon became Luke and Clark. Ender and Bruce. But these names paled to the stories told throughout my literary and cinematic metamorphosis as a child. Jonathan and David, Joshua and Elijah, Esther and Rahab. Their heroics inspired me. Unlike those other names, I was told these men and women were real. I couldn’t talk to them but maybe someday I was told. But there was someone different, someone who could be not simply read but had to be experienced. As a lonely child subjected to racism and the reality of being different, my reason to believe was not profound or complicated—I needed a friend. As I stared blankly in classroom after classroom, I began to imagine this Man from Galilee as my thirty-seventh classmate. Where my lack of friends failed me, where my parents could not go, and most importantly, where I needed something more than myself, He was there. He has always been there. If there had been a den of lions, if there had been a burning bush, if there had been a fiery furnace, then He could give me the faith to wait. Iowa too shall pass, right?

Thankfully, it did. From it, I had inherited an experience of marginalization that inspired me to have a heart for reconciliation and justice. Freshman year, I decided not to take classes on religion unable to deconstruct what had gotten me through high school. Instead, I became focused on studying the social and political landscape of America, especially with issues related to race. It was empowering to see myself in a tradition and I began to map out my world not in a rigid black and white but through triplines of power that seem to go uninterrogated. While I knew God was against racism as it divided His people, I also became disturbed at how powerful these human systems were. It was not only the destructive power that has hurt so many, but it was also something that took much effort to defeat. In many ways, I felt torn. I knew Christ desired to help me in this process but I became paralyzed by the tall task ahead of me. Comfort? Is that what I was resting in? Understanding that more and more, I began to identify and heal my own hypocrisies through understanding Christ not as a personal lifesaver, but as a life giver to us all. I had to think of myself as one of many. How much of my theology was Christian clichés and bad doctrine? Recommitting myself to the Word and finding Christians in the group Salt of the Earth who were willing to challenge each other, I awakened to a Jesus who still loved me and died for me but one who wanted so much more from me and from us. To love God through a holistic obedience and, yes, to love one’s neighbor as unfamiliar as that idea might be in an individualistic society. Suddenly, the issues that made me angry (poverty, unjust war, discrimination) were not simply given up in a prayer to Christ but dedicated in a life for Christ. At the same time, the backdrop of the situation made me think. Where was the church? Why wasn’t I in it? Could it be paralyzed too? Was my lack of attendance another sign of my own paralysis?

I don’t necessarily know how it happened. Ever since sophomore year, I had been connected to SALT and considered it my church at Yale. Yet I started junior year with a goal of having more Christians in my life as friends instead of friends who happened to be Christians. This aim was complemented with my newfound interest in finding a Sunday church home. Some how or another I found the name of this church up the hill, United Church of Westville. I consider it to be one of God’s greatest blessings in my life. Seeing jaws open so wide to release a sweet sound to the Lord, I was deeply moved. It’s like they believe He’s here with us, I remember thinking. And the love they expressed to this once stranger was enormous. However, I cannot forget the emotional pinch of thinking if only the world could enter these doors and experience their love…how would it be different? Then, I remembered that was our call in reverse. Were we making His love known? In this realization, I saw an opportunity to read the Word as a community. To not promote social justice as an ideology, but to simply read the Red Letters. That place of purity and our journey together along the way has forever changed my life and given me hope in the Church, ours and elsewhere. If God had redeemed my life back in Iowa, then he redeemed my understanding of the Church in New Haven.

Inheritance. From whom?

This faith is my own, felt, deepened, and actualized in the best of the times. But I know I’ve had help. While UCW showed me Christ working in the lives of forty or so people, my mind also stretches back to my own story. My parents, their parents, my great great grandparents, and then those unknown stretches involving slavery. The crucible that gave me a lineage of a Christian faith. The Bible that I often shelve became a tool for education, empowerment, freedom, and reconciliation. The church I’ve come to reconcile with was a cell for terror, at worst, and full of freedom fighters, at best. Sometimes, I struggle with this moment and its contradictions. I have to admit though, I am humbled by it. My ancestors prayed to God for freedom, physical and spiritual, and here I am. Some of us survived. But what is my life if I forget that their prayers for reconciliation and justice are still incomplete? What are our lives if we ignore these cries and prayers and do not make them our own? There is an urgency present in our need to go beyond ourselves and truly embrace a world in need. It is not something extra. It is not a simple recommendation. It is a way to worship God and to act intentionally in His spirit; to help others achieve possibilities for freedom and justice while giving them the same freedom of choice that God has allowed us. To help others is to understand the character of our God and to understand how much we need Him in order to truly come around a communal effort that will make a difference to us and to to Him.

I am trying and that’s all He desires, as much as we can do in the moment we are in. The effort. I am trying not to seek places of death anymore; instead, I wish to listen to those Angels from the first verse I read, to remember the words of Christ and seek life. My new wonder is what if the crosses on our necks became empty tombs? Would our shift of focus turn us from identities as guilt-laden sinners perpetually paralyzed? Could it finally ignite us to accept a new life found in the promise of His deliverance from the Cross into the world three days later? To continue doing a new thing with that confidence from an empty tomb? To know its emptiness means He is with us now. Ready to help us with anything that is true to our hearts.

I want to leave you with another reading from the Bible.

14When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15"Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."

17"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." 18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

20He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17: 14-21)

Again, my literary and cinematic mind always saw that scene as me using the force to boldly move these peaks while having faith. But today, I looked up the verse and I really believe that the Mountain is Jesus. He’s telling us he’s willing to move, a God of His size and magnitude. He’s willing to move if we just show an ounce of faith in Him. Even though he has demonstrated his willingness to intercede when we fail, we have the confidence of a new possibility promised in our life-sustaining heartbeats. People are crying out for a Savior, ourselves included. Let’s get moving.


Blogger Danielle said...

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Anonymous iris said...

i loved this. thanks for sharing :]

7:14 PM  
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