Monday, August 17, 2015

Semicolon Theology

Did you hear?  RNS columnist Jonathan Merritt got his first tattoo yesterday! Okay...that might not be the most startling news from yesterday. [Although, to be honest, I have a friend who is still waiting on me to get my first one...17 years later.] And, in all reality, Christians getting tattoos shouldn't even raise an eyebrow.

So why mention this little personal tidbit from Jonathan's life? Well, it's because of why he decided to get the tattoo specifically. He decided on a semicolon, and did so because it "is a reminder that there are times in a story when the author could choose to quit, but decides instead to go on." There is a lot of truth in that statement, spiritually speaking.

We are the authors of our own stories, and some of out storytelling is good and some of it is not so good. My comment back to Jonathan came from my favorite prayer in the Bible -- Psalm 30. We see the fascinating reality of faith demonstrated for us in a single verse: "By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face, I was dismayed" (NRSV).

Did you see what happened there? In the space of a semicolon, the poet's life changed from success to failure, from living high on the mountain to languishing down in the valley. And in just the space of the semicolon. The New Living Translation separates these as two sentences, which helps us see the idea here a little more clearly -- our life can change in just the space of a moment.

Whether it being in a traffic accident like I saw on Friday, walking out of a job interview or leaving someone at the table at Starbucks because we just broke up with them, our lives can change in just a moment. In one moment, life is stellar -- like Christopher Nolan/The Dark Knight stellar. Then, without any warning, the bottom falls out and we beg for God to intervene -- like I might have done when I saw the recent Fantastic 4 film with my son.

The point is, change is the one constant to life. That does not mean, however, that God is not present. It simply means that life happens. It means that we decide to go forward rather than quit when life gets too hard. Because, as we see at the end of Psalm 30, if we endure, then we will see God turn our mourning to dancing and clothe us with everlasting joy.

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