8 Oct 2014

how to keep believing in rainbows when they disappear so fast..

I believe we all live under His eternal arc of Goodness {click to read about it}. But there are days when all I can muster is this: I want to believe.

After all, the amazing confluence of vapors and light quickly disappear and our pretty bow of colours is lost to us.

Last night, I was part of a large team that was praying for the sick. When we opened the doors, the church filled up quickly. I turned around and see a young girl, about eight, sitting strapped to a special wheelchair. The straps would keep her upright. She was fair, pretty, unsmiling. Her mother was holding her hand while her father sat behind to keep a watch that her skinny frame is not slipping out from those straps and she is leaning on the tiny pillow stuffed around the backrest to cushion her neck.

When the singing started, I noticed that I was struggling to join the rousing chorus of voices. I feel deeply and often find myself burdened by such gaping needs. The common cold to me is no life trial. But the sight of that little girl got to me. I don't ask 'why' the same way I used to - all angsty, self-righteous and impatient; but I am of the band that still hates to see such seeming senselessness.

Later, what I would hear from nearly every person who stepped up to me for prayer was more than my few words could carry.

a woman who has had five surgeries and is expecting another for her recurrent hernia problem
 my mother has dementia and now I am getting sick; her medical bills are too much for me.." 
the weary mom who prodded her epileptic son forward, "recently also he has eczema:..and afterwards, is telling us she has three maladies and her kidneys may be failing

It felt so inadequate, the few minutes of summarizing needs and pains into a few lines; and the prayer.

After the prayers, we sang our last song, God is Good, all the time.

What does it take to honestly sing God's goodness in the face of such crushing life difficulties? How do we remember that as long as it is day and the water cycle of life goes on; the rainbow is always there - because the water is always there - just that we only glimpse it sometimes.

Sometimes it is cruel to make God sound so close; not that He isn't, but we are not so easily in tuned with Him. And at times, He does seem to disappear behind the clouds and everything seems just.plain.dark.

But this precisely is the walk of f a i t h . This is the hard, true stuff of it. You and I, somehow, are drawn to this strange place where we notice rainbows and get pelted by rain, often within the same day.

This is the hard real stuff God promises His people if we refuse to split the Word into bits we like and bits we don't:

Then shall the maidens rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.

Sounds like a bright-below-a-rainbow picnic of wild abandon!

I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will fest the soul of the priests with abundance,
and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says the LORD ~
Jeremiah 31v13f

And I am up on my feet ready to twist to this news until my eyes glance down and I notice there is more:

a voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not. ~ Jeremiah 31v15

This verse sits strangely among the many words of comfort and rainbow-promises.

I have gone back and read it, prayed, thought, and checked the commentaries. It's hard. Why such harrowing information right smack in the middle of the promises of return, vindication and joy?

We may not quite get it; this rainbow and thunder mix, this abundance and death deal all rolled in one.

But then I see it. Jeremiah is gaining traction here. The rainbow is glimpsed and for a closer look, one trudges and finds sometimes that a craggy large boulder is blocking our view; but the climb up that boulder, scraping hands and knees will reveal a vista  not yet seen.

Jeremiah is building up towards a crescendo: The New Covenant.

The terms of the New Covenant are ... new. If you were a Jew listening; it will sound strange, unfamiliar, preposterous. The exile was hard to stomach; the return is hard to conceive; the New Covenant is plain impossible.

A new king whose kingdom will not end.


But listen. This verse of wailing mothers is later used by Matthew. It happened.

There were inconsolable tears nearly two thousand years ago when baby boys where slaughtered by a nervous king. These tears, incomprehensible to us, were the context of God's great salvation plan to rescue us from all tears forever.

I wish it didn't have to happen this way. But it did. God came right into our messes. Jesus was subject to it until it killed him.

So if there's sound advice on how to stay right under the rainbow even when you cannot see it; it's what God told Jeremiah to do: buy land! (I don't mean invest in property folks). I mean lay down your stakes. Live deep. Dig right in. Embrace your now, your weakest and darkest. For God is working something out. 

This by the way is sheer madness. Jeremiah is asked to trust when everything appears contrary. His title deed is an act of defiance against how-things-appear. It is a statement that says, 'the game isn't over, the score hasn't been tallied, the results are not out yet'. This too is God's instruction to us: to live not by sight, but by faith.

In our days, this living by faith will be really tough sometimes. We will see stuff that blocks out the Son and makes the rainbow vaporize. To keep believing in rainbows when that happens, we must look at the definite work that demonstrates God's Goodness once for all: the Cross and the empty tomb. We don't deserve, wouldn't ask, couldn't conjure it - but there it is, historical fact and faith revelation. God is good to us and has sent us His Son, tore up His heart - that we may know while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The rainbows appear to remind us they have always been there. 
They show up where there is light and where life continues.


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