Tumbling in the Sand
The texts for Sunday, October 28, 2012 (Reformation Sunday): Jeremiah 31:31–34; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19–28; and John 8:31–36.
“Be still, then, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46: 10
I have a confession. Perhaps this is horrible for a pastor to say this; but, well, here it is: I never have understood why this is comforting and would cause one to be still while the entire world writhes and trembles and the very foundations of the earth seem to be crumbling. Why would God being exalted in the end be at all comforting to little me watching my whole world crumble around me, threatening to destroy my very existence?
Obviously, I like the idea that God is exalted. This is a good thing. Deep in my being, I want to praise God and find “hallelujahs” welling up inside of me when I am caught with the awareness of the amazingness that is around me—like the leaves that seem to be radiating the sun back up to the sky today, or a beautiful sunset that sets the sky on fire with pinks and oranges and yellows… but still, why should this be a comfort? God is already exalted in my mind, why would the reassurance of that be stilling to my fearful heart?
I really don’t ask this question lightly—as a kid it always seemed to me kind of self-absorbed of God to be more interested in God’s own exaltation than the mountains falling into the sea. I really liked the rest of the psalm: the idea that God was our refuge and strength, a present help in time of trouble. That somehow even though the mountains shake to the heart of the sea and the waters roar and foam, we will not be moved and we will not fear. Yeah, that I liked a whole lot. But this line always threw me off.
Pondering this line this week, and the fear of change and destruction that the psalm churns up line after line, I found myself thinking about how all the chaos and destruction tends to be what people point to to discredit God—”Why would a loving God allow that to happen?” they ask. “Why would a just God allow that horrible thing to go on?” they argue.
And then I found that Julian of Norwich’s line kept surfacing in my head: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
And I begin to wonder if perhaps God being glorified has to do with exactly that—that not only will it all work out in the end, but even the questions, the chaos, and the brokenness will find itself well—not just fixed, but made whole in its brokenness, welcome in its shattered self. In other words, God is only glorified when it all shall be well—so that the glory of God shines in even the broken bows and shattered spears and the love of God shines from every crumbled rock and shaken wave. And then—then—hallelujahs—incomplete, broken and unexpected will break from the stillness of the silent heart.
Featured image: Photo taken and adapted from “the foaming sea” by andi.t (original picture found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67135257@N00/1277051416/