Saturday, September 12, 2009

the scripture I don't like

Perhaps this isn't the best subject for my debut blog. But this IS what I want to write about, at least it is for today.

I love scripture! Like most people, I have my favorite verses. But I also have my UNFAVORITE verses. There are parts of scripture that rub me the wrong way. There are things that Jesus does or says that I don't get...either I don't understand it or I just plain don't like it.

I ran across such a passage in scripture a few weeks ago. The passage is in Mark 9:14-32. I read it and didn't like it. So the next day I read it again, and nope I didn't like it any better the second day. So then I decided I was just going to keep reading it over and over everyday...until I started to like it.. at least a little. I didn't want to read it some mornings, but I did anyway...well most of them anyway.

So it's been two weeks... I don't think I can say I like this passage yet, but it is different for me now. God has shown me a great deal these last two weeks that has been deep and hard and also exciting and wonderful. But before I tell you more about that part, I think I should tell you why I don't like this passage in the first place.

In Mark 9, Jesus encounters the father of a chronically ill (via demon-possession) who has brought his son to Jesus to be healed. Jesus wasn't around when he arrived, the disciples tried to heal the boy and failed and now chaos has broken out. When Jesus arrives and learns what has happened he is frustrated at the crowd, speaks to the father and then heals the boy. What's not to like? Plenty for me.

For me the father' story is gut is a tale of despair of living and loving someone who is very ill...someone for who things don't get better...of loving up close someone who you can't truly can just walk beside them and watch as they suffer. When you love someone like this, remaining hopeful is hard and understanding where God/Jesus is is hard too.

When the father finished his story, he says to Jesus: "But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." In this one statement, I hear loads. There is despair and a mustering of strength to try and hope once more. There is years of trying to understand prayer and how to ask God for what you desperately want....and there is the reflection of seeming silence.

So I don't like it when Jesus calls him out and states, "Everything is possible for him who believes." WHAT? WHAT? I believe this is true with all my heart. BUT I also believe it is not true. Everything is possible for God. And through my faith I can experience that. But everything is not possible for me...not even if I ask in faith. Somethings God doesn't say yes to, no matter how hard I ask.

So Jesus, why do you say such confusing things like this? And why do you throw that out there to this suffering Father....calling him to face his crumbling faith and hope as he asks you for help? Part of me doesn't like it.

But days of reading this story has opened up different layers and insights to this passage. While It still tugs at my heart, I'm not angry about it any more.This is what I have come to see:

1. Jesus is entering into this man's pain before he heals the son. In having the Father recount the boy's story, a story Jesus is already aware of, he joins the man in this pain. The family needs more than healing just from the demon possessing the boy. They need healing from walking years with this unbearable pain. It makes a difference that Jesus cares about where the man has walked not just what the man is seeking today.

2. Jesus forces the crisis of faith into the that it is out there for the whole crowd to hear. The crisis was already the center of debate after the failed attempt at healing. What else would the disciples and the religious leaders have been arguing about. He's not afraid for us to struggle with doubt as we suffer.

3. Jesus does heal him, the boy for sure...and I think his father as well. While Jesus doesn't always break through and miraculously heal everyone today, his love and compassion caused him to be continually healing people as he walked the earth in bodily form.

4. And lastly, I like the way Jesus loves the stupid disciples in this passage. Even though he is very frustrated with then and disappointed by them, he saves the day. And then he takes them off to a private place where he can teach them some more. He doesn't give up on them, even when they don't get it. so I guess there is hope for me yet, huh?

I LIKE very much that God has preserved this picture of how painful suffering is for us to read and ponder. I LIKE that Jesus doesn't hang back but moves into the messiness of this pain. I still struggle to understand God and his love for mankind in light of all the suffering that goes on in the world. I am beginningto think I will always struggle with least when I am willing to open my heart up enough to struggle. So maybe this passage still rubs me the wrong way... a little. But it rubs me the right way as well.

So what passage in scripture don't you like?