Tuesday, February 3, 2009
One of the things we Christians unknowingly struggle with, and especially us Baptists, is taking ourselves way too seriously! We think we have all the answers. We are very uncomfortable with doubt. We pursue certainty (not truth) at all costs making little room for love, which by the way, Jesus said was the thing that was to distinguish his people. Nonetheless, I was reminded of my own propensity to take myself and my opinions too seriously as I was reading In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson. His book is a helpful exploration of an ancient Christian practice called, "praying the hours." All that entails is a setting aside of certain hours of the day (Morning, Breakfast, Noon, 3pm, Dinner Time, Bed time, etc.) for brief prayer and meditation upon Scripture. This is something the people of God have done throughout their existence. For example Psalm 119.164: "Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous ordinances" (NASB). This practice was followed by Daniel, Jesus and the Apostles and I believe it is a practice we should embrace as well. Praying at fixed hours of the day has a way of sanctifying the entire day and making us sensitive to the presence of God in all of life. When one commits to this practice we often take ourselves way too seriously when we fail. So when we neglect our commitment and realize our failure, this is Benson's advice. "Look at yourself in the mirror, and grin at yourself the way you would at a child who had a bad day yesterday. Grin at yourself until you grin back. Giggle if necessary. Not because the prayer is unimportant but because not having said them one day is not the end of the world. It is certainly not the end of God's work in the world or in your own life. It is not even the end of your own private piety" (pp. 103-04). This leads Benson to a bit of tongue-in-cheek discussion about the different ways people think of heaven.
He has one friend "who believes that when we get to heaven, some of us are going to have to go out behind the woodshed for a while before we are going to be allowed in. She also suspects that some of us are going to have to be out there longer than others. I do not like the way she looks at me when she tells me this" (p. 102).
Another friend of Benson "believes there is a pouting room in heaven. It is the place one has to go if one is disappointed that some of the folks you thought were not going to get in actually get in" (p. 103). I think if a "pouting room" exists many of us Baptists will spend quite a bit of time there. But be encouraged, eternity is a real long time!
Finally, Benson feels "there may also be a laughing room in heaven. Maybe there is a room where you go and discover that some of the stuff you were worried about the most actually did not matter at all. It may also be true that some of us have to visit those three rooms and some others as well. Who knows what sorts of places have been prepared for us (p. 103)?
May God give us the grace to not take ourselves and our theology too seriously. May God grant us the courage to admit we don't have all the answers. May God provide us with the wisdom to be glad we do not have all the answers. May God massage into our hearts the hope that his new creation is beyond our ability to grasp.