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Half Assed at Best...

Just the other day, I found myself in a tomb.

John 11 was my invitation, and I responded with fear and trembling, leaping into the story with my imagination, not knowing what I might encounter.

Inside it was dark. Impossibly dark. Can't see your hand in front of your face dark. Vacant, empty, and cold. The air was thick, pregnant with and reeking of death. And I choked on it, my stomach turning over within me at the overwhelming stench.

I panicked then, and ran, trying to find something, anything, a wall perhaps, where maybe, just maybe there might be a door I could claw my way through out into the world, out into the land of the living. But I ran and I ran and I ran until I had nothing left to run with, and still there was only the darkness. I collapsed, and sat there for ages and ages on the hard, cold floor of the tomb, and wept. And after a while, I became accustomed to the darkness, and didn't mind it so much anymore.

But then there came a murmur, a cry, a song from a far, fair country, a mere whisper at first, that, slight though it was, filled my soul like a sail. It grew into a breeze and then a gust, and then a mighty, rushing wind. And all at once, with a great rumbling of a boulder being pushed aside, the darkness split like a curtain, forced wide by the full light of day.

And a Voice called into the darkness, full and resonate as a song "Lazarus, come out!"

So I stood. And drank in great gulps of the air, gasping quick as I could the light streaming into my darkness.

"Unbind him" Came the Voice again. "Unbind him and let him go."

Good art helps us see more clearly what it is to be human. The best books and paintings and sculptures and dramas invite us to pause and reflect--to look into our heart of hearts, and observe the whole tangled mess of truths and half-truths, of hopes and fears and longings that are the deep mystery of who we are.

This year is the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo's completion of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling frescoes. Undoubtedly these frescoes comprise one of the most astonishing artistic accomplishments in all of western history. For four years Michelangelo labored atop rickety ramps and scaffolding 65 feet off the ground, coaxing water and die and concrete into a form that--half a millennia later--still astonishes tourists, pilgrims, and art geeks alike.

But beyond Michelangelo's technical skill, beyond his eye for beauty and perseverance, I'm struck by the keen insight into human nature displayed at the very center of the Chapel, in "The Creation of Adam." For it invites me to look more deeply into my own life.

In the center of the Chapel, the center of Christendom, is God: full of love, full of hope, full of joy. And He is yearning toward His Creation with eager expectation, extending Himself outward from an on-looking heaven toward his world.

And Adam?

Apparently, he could care less. He is bored, distant, aloof, unenthusiastic, disenchanted, apathetic.

What was it C.S. Lewis said?

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Yup: that about sums it up. We are--I am--half assed at best: content to kick back in lukewarm nonchalance when all of Heaven leans in to see how we might respond to the yearning, hopeful, extravagant love of God.

Christ taught, "Love your neighbor as yourself." During times of severe famine, Early Christians were known for fasting for up to four days each week so that they could provide their starving pagan neighbors with bread. Do I fast so that others might eat? Paul wrote, "pray without ceasing." Since the earliest days of monasticism monks and nuns the world over have kept an unbroken watch by praying the "Divine Hours"--set times of prayer and psalms and confession and praise. When did I last pray?

Yes, I am Adam. And Lazarus too.

But perhaps God is not surprised nor even deterred by this. What if--despite our nonchalance and apathy, and even our intentional residence in a land of deep darkness--God still yearns toward us with faith, hope and love. What if God is closer to us than we even know? What if, as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it "The Holy Ghost over the bent / world broods." What if God--with all of heaven looking on--is very much at work even today to bring life where there is death, zeal where there is apathy, hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness. What if He is still calling out to us all, in a voice deep and resonant as a song, "Lazarus, Come out!"

"I believe, Lord! Help Thou my unbelief!"

Comment Author Comment Text

Member Since:

That was really well written. Great job! :)

Posted: 2012-11-01 22:20:45


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