We joined together on Christmas Eve for worship services, and I introduced the idea that I don't need any elf on the shelf, I have better things to keep me good,
First, I have "Darth Vader on a Radiator." Why does this keep me good? Think of Darth Vader's favorite quote: "Luke, I am your father." Well, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me, and because he loves me, I want to be good.
I also have a "Cop on a Mop." Good police offices help to teach us right from wrong, and when we make a mess of our lives, help us to clean it up. To me, that's Jesus! I don't need any elf on a shelf, I have Jesus to help me be good, and then get the mess cleaned up when I mess up.
No elf on a shelf for me! I have a "Bird on the Word," the Holy Spirit!
No elf on the shelf for me, I have, "A Pup on a Cup!" And this is our sacraments given to us to remind us of God's love.
When asked difficult questions, my honest reply is increasingly becoming, “I don’t know.”
Sometimes I wonder if these people asking me difficult questions might possibly be happier if I just lied to them and said, “It’s because of your sin, or your lack of faith, or because you didn’t put enough money in the collection plate last Sunday.”
There you go. Now you have an answer. Satisfied? I’ll bet not, especially if I laid the blame on you. And even if you put more money in the offering plate next Sunday, I have a sneaky feeling you’ll want to know why your problems have not miraculously dried up and blown away.
The story of Job from the Old Testament bears witness to the folly of banging on the doors of the heavenly realms expecting an answer. Job had lots of questions, and he found himself surrounded by the unhelpful company of his local, “comforters,” trying to sort out the insanity of why horrible things happened to a wonderful person like Job. And they believed an answer was present, all they had to do is find it.
Sometimes in the wake of horrible events, we make up rationale arguments, pointing to a progression of logical conclusions, terminating in an ultimate assumption that fits our personal bias and satisfies our situation.
There. Now you have an answer. But our hunger for that elusive, objective truth is not satiated with the empty calories of human logic. As a child, I remember my parents telling me, and I’ve used these words with my children, “Because I said so,” or, “Because I’m the parent and you’re not.”
My children were never swayed, and come to think about, neither was I. All those words really meant was, “As a parent, I’m tired of this topic and your incessant chatter and we are done talking about it.”
I accepted the notion that my opportunity to continue the discussion was done, for now, but I also started formulating plans for the next opportunity to continue my quest for answers. It is extremely difficult for human beings to accept the reality that the discussion is over. Life happens. Build a bridge and get over it.
Job persisted in his innocence, and begged a hearing with God. And yet when Job finally garnered an audience with the Almighty, God ignored his questions and summed up a longer explanation with the simple premise,“Because I am God, and you’re not.”
Over my many years of riding out uncomfortable circumstances and attempting to transcend the challenges of the situation, I have drawn a margin of comfort in the realization that much of life is beyond my control. I may ask questions, but I have to accept the reality, that despite all my education and experience, no answer exists apart from the perfect knowledge possessed only by God.
I may ask, and ask persistently, but I also have to remember that even when Job held an audience with God, God did not directly give him the answers he thought he needed to know.
And Job learned to live with not knowing.
As human beings caught in an imperfect, unpredictable world, we want nice, neat packages of logical and rational explanations of why things are, or not, happening. We want the lock-tight justice of cause and effect, and so we ask, no, we demand answers as if the answers are actually present, perhaps hidden behind some anecdotal facade of a three-point sermon replete with a syrupy poem at the
In our quest for a sense of resolution, we may repeat the questions, ad nauseum, again and again, believing that if we ask often enough something will change, like children wearing down a weary parent with our requests, hoping that they tire of our persistence and give in.
But the questions that begin with, “Why...” seldom have answers, irrespective of the
number of times we ask, and persistently pounding on a brick wall won’t magically make a window appear. Though I keep asking, I’ve also learned to live with the brick wall.
In my own personal prayer life, I’ve asked those same nagging questions of,
“Why...?” In return, all I receive from the heavens is an extremely difficult and challenging silence. So I ask again, and again. But the silence persists.
I ponder the possibility of being deaf to God’s response, or wrestle with the chance that, perhaps, God is deliberately ignoring me. Then I begin to wonder if silence is the answer God provides. Okay...now what?
In my insatiable quest for answers, set against the frustrating lack of concrete
responses, I have uneasily grown accustomed to the silence. I find myself with no other recourse but to step back from my demands, accept the silence, and find a wary comfort that, even in that foreboding silence, I still perceive God’s presence.
And that will have to suffice, because it’s all I’m offered.
Grant F. C. Gillard writes from Jackson, Missouri, where he pastors the First Presbyterian Church and tends around 200 bee hives.