Our Daily Bread.

Jude 1:17-18 says: “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.'”

We now find ourselves, as a body of believers, walking in the aforementioned “last time.”  Yet, as we approach the return of our Savior, a striking problem becomes more and more visible: the generations have become more and more faithless, aside from the occasional flicker in the darkness.  The love of the Church (and I am not speaking here of the Catholic Church; rather, I am referring to the body of Christ of which Christ is head, as found in Colossians 1:18 and various other places in the Bible) has been mangled by the violent passions of each new wind of doctrine we hear in contemporary society.  Even some of the youth who faithfully attend Sunday services at a church find their vision of Christ obfuscated by their vision of social justice.  Now, this is not to say that the pursuit of social equality in its various manifestations – feminism, black lives matter, etc. – is somehow wrong or to be despised; they are all reasonably good causes, and causes in which we ought to feel a leading to be ambassadors.  I would, however, argue that Christ and His Bride are of far more importance in that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us so that we might have a heart for the brokenhearted circumstances we find ourselves in.

The problem with the love of the Body of Christ is a two-way street: our generation of believers holds our faith with grips that say, “Christ is coming soon, but my future is coming sooner.”  The church is at times both lukewarm and overzealous, creating a veritable chasm in its pursuit of the hearts of our generation.

As believers, we encounter the scoffers in our lives, certainly; in the context of social media and the online world at large, we may even fall perilously (but silently lest we disturb our friends, our co-workers, or anyone, really) into the margin of the quiet minority, bleating along with the loudest voices of the next polarizing issue.  When we say that we know Christ is coming soon, that we know He will come as a thief in the night, that we know to not be like the five virgins who came unprepared with oil in their lamps, what are we really saying? Is it something to the effect of, “I know all I need to know about Christ, but let’s be real; He isn’t coming yet,” or “It’s nice to be a Christian and all, but God probably wants me to be more concerned with helping people in the now and being a good person, you know?” As much as these thoughts are for an audience, they are also the manifestation of a deeper self-critique because I too find myself adopting these positions.  However, just as the disciples never stopped asking questions about Jesus in hopes of understanding Him more, so too should we ask questions about the Christ who lives in us.  Where does that certainty of His delayed return come from? Perhaps it’s because we don’t really have a hope in Christ’s return at all – then again, it may also be the case that we simply don’t know, in all of our “knowledge” of Christ, what exactly to expect of Christ’s return; we exchange our ignorance of His glory for the comfort of facing the present reality when, in the most prostrate of faiths, His return is the reality.  But no, we don’t actually want that, do we?  Jesus wouldn’t want us to just kneel before Him all day when people need to hear the Gospel, right? It’s true, and yet how much Gospel are we honestly sharing in our lives? If we answer the dormancy of our spiritual lives with sound, but empty, spiritual doctrines, how can we expect to speak life into the world around us?  Maybe we shouldn’t be so critical of Judas in John 12 when he is mortified by Mary’s “wastefulness” before the Lord; after all, doesn’t he have a point?  It would be better to use that money to help the poor, wouldn’t it?  If it wasn’t apparent already, many of the questions asked are asked sarcastically; what Judas is doing is not caring for the poor, but opting for his own comfort when witnessing true worship because giving up his own comfort to fall at the feet of Jesus is a greater price than the perfume Mary poured out for her Lord.

The church also has its share in contributing to the lackadaisical faith of its members, but less so because of what the church is doing and more so because of what the church has become.  Defaced by the actions of Westboro Baptist and other very publicly “Christian” groups who passionately stain the testimony of Christ on Earth, the church we love fights a war both against the unbelievers and the believers.  Its plight with the unbelievers is the tremendous loss of trust that being human within the church has produced; society looks with rapt attention on scandal and misrepresentation, and when the humanity of public Christians shows, it pounces on each anomaly as if it were a fact of faith.  And yet, the hope is that they would understand that we are not perfect people seeking to make unbelievers perfect; we’ve merely found a perfect hope that restores our imperfection before the eyes of a just and loving God.  Since this is the case, the church has begun a gradual retreat from the public sphere, believing discretion to be the better part of valor and not wanting to offend anymore people by its “radicalism.” The church’s ability to love has been crippled by humanity’s ability to hate, and so, the church is found at odds with its own body, as an adolescent going through puberty.  It is awkward and no longer knows how to present itself.  Show too much love, and it worries about being a cult; show too little love, and it loses the hearts of men.

In this very long-winded and ill-conceived post, I suppose the most important thing I have to say is that we no longer feast on Christ, the living Bread.  Our appetites are slaked by more present satisfactions because we are blind to God’s reality.  The church we ought to love has become marred by its inescapable past, and believers and unbelievers alike shoot fish in a barrel when criticizing it in its present state.

All that remains is to simply pray, “Father, give us this day our daily bread.”

Give us Jesus.

A Long Run Home.

This is a stab at what I saw here.

The sunlight darted in from the blinds, waking him up.  With a groan, he propped himself up on the hospital bed, which proved to be quite the hurdle.  Eyes closed still, he slumped forward and sighed heavily, breathing in, then out. In, then out. He looked out the window, watching as cars overtook one another in the endless Indian run that they called a highway.

“Why’d you ask for me to come?”

Turning left, his heart raced as he broke into a smile.

“Sarah!”

A light snort escaped her – she was taken aback by his enthusiasm.  No sooner had she smiled at him than she saw a strange look dart across his face.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m so sorry.  How are we going to go to the fair when I’m in the hospital?”

“The fair? What fair?”

Confusion spread itself along his eyebrows.  He opened his mouth, looking down and away before speaking.

“I – I was going to take you to the fair for your birthday.  It is today, isn’t it?”

“What?”

Her eyes narrowed, and the disgust began to rise within her.  He had that stupid look on his face, like he knew he said something wrong, and he was going to apologize – again. It never stopped. What he said did jog a memory of when they had gone to the fair for her last birthday nine months ago, however, ending with the two of them not speaking to each other as they drove home in sullen silence and suffocating traffic.  The nurse came in, and she took the opportunity to ask her about his state of mind.  She told her about what he had said, and the nurse just shook her head and gave the diagnosis they had so far.  It seemed he had forgotten what had happened over the past few months, and he even thought the hospital was pulling a prank on him by having the month of the calendar in the room changed.  She looked back at him and saw him with his head down, tears streaking down onto his shirt.

“I’m really sorry, Sarah. I can’t believe you’re even here for me when it’s your birthday.  I just wanted to make sure that the spot I wanted to take you to at night to see fireworks was still there, and next thing I know, I can’t even take you there.  You don’t have to be here with me, you know; I understand if you’d rather spend it with your girlfriends or your family.”

She smiled, almost laughing at how he used to be so consumed with self-pity; he was the only headwind in his own otherwise brilliant life.  So he had really forgotten the past nine months, huh? She could just imagine how he listened to her before things started falling apart, staring intently into her eyes and soaking up every word. She loved that about him. She loved how well he listened and how much he thought about what she had said. She remembered being just fascinated by him and constantly just thinking about the way he thought.  Maybe this was their chance to change things and keep love alive.

But no, it was inevitable that he’d become the person she eventually saw.  He chased after his own sense of comfort, ignoring her when she was going through obstacles in her own life, yet expecting her to sprint to his side when he stubbed his toe.  He was selfish and self-centered, and she was glad that she saw who he’d become later on in the relationship.  Yet, how was she supposed to tell him that they had been broken up for four months already?

“Hey, there’s something I need to tell you.”

He looked up at her, desperate for a sign of forgiveness, and yet, his gaze was also tinged with resignation to the fact that he’d be crazy to expect her to spend her whole birthday with him in the hospital.  Then, when she was about to continue, he figured it out.

“Are you – are you breaking up with me?”

She sighed, and looked down at her hands.  What else could she do? She didn’t want a repeat performance of the worst months of her life.

“Sarah, whatever it is, I’m sorry.  I know I was stupid for going out so late at night, but I just wanted things to be perfect for your birthday. I know how hard you tried to make my birthday nothing short of a miracle, and I just wanted to do the same for you.  I’m sorry for always making things about me, for only being concerned about what I wanted, when I wanted it.  You deserve so much more than that because you have such a beautiful heart; with its every beat, I learn a new melody.  You’ve taught me so much about myself and what I need to work on, and even though it’s taken a while, I hope you can tell that I’ve at least been trying.  I’ve spent all this time running away from you, but this whole time, you’ve been keeping up with me, running by my side, at my pace.  I love you more and more, and I don’t want to run away anymore.”

She held back tears – what was she doing? She said that she wasn’t going to cry over him anymore, that he was dead to her, that she was going to just forget him.  She realized that the reason he fell asleep at the fair on her birthday wasn’t because he was bored of her.  He did the same thing the night before her birthday all those months ago.  He was such a stupid, stupid boy. But she loved that about him too.  With her eyes closed, she breathed in, then out; she glanced at him, and saw that he had already been staring at her.

“It is an exhausting marathon, isn’t it?”

He nodded slowly, his heartbreak seeping through the catch in his throat.

“Then let’s keep running together until the end.”

What else could she say?

Tourist in a Dream.

What if love was lost before they even spoke,
if silence was the lone language they both knew?
What if vows saw promise ere they broke
because they chased tear-rivers through and through.

Do we slay the demons we forget?
Do tulips miss the petals sunlight kissed?
Do strangers greet those they haven’t met,
or sparrows fall before their fleeting tryst?

How could I have fallen short, just as before –
before my body cast out its last breath?
How did I keep on living evermore
when treading softly on a mem’ry’s death?