Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What is the Great Struggle of the Day?

Let me start by saying that I know that I am a Romantic.  Even as much as I try to tone it down, I still am one.  I still love the epic story, the tale of the grand fight, the sweeping vista and epic consequences of the heroic individual struggle.  At my core, I get that.

And so I ask, what is the great struggle of the day?  What is the great battle that we are called to in our lives?  I mean, if you asked folks from the "Greatest Generation" - their epic struggle was clear enough to History - World War II (that's why they got the label of the Greatest Generation) - and indeed, everyone had their part, be it in service or even on the homefront (I believe that is where that term gets coined).  We were all part of that struggle together, and we were working for something bigger.

And that tends to be what we want as humans.  We are social beings, we want to be part of something, to build a lasting work to our efforts and our ideals.

So what is the Great Struggle of the Day?

Is the the War on Terror?  Is it dealing with Islam?  Is it fighting abortion or gay marriage?  Is it small or state government and personal liberty? 

Of course, those suggestions show a bias.  I know folks who might think in terms of the War on Poverty, or Fighting Bigotry, or Fighting for Women's Rights and Marriage Equality.  It might even be providing affordable health care to all.

Either way, the big epic struggle where we are going to do our part to make the world better - to make the world safe for democracy as it were.

Because that's the way the delusions of the sinful flesh work.  They want to view things in grand, sweeping turns, where we are the lynchpins of fate (or at least we helped so and so be the lynchpin with our grassroots support).  We crave the heroic, we crave the glory -- and of course, it's never, never, never about our own power and respect and what people think of us and that they see how valiant we are... we are of course always only fighting for the Greater Good.

When it boils down to it, when it comes to how we sort out the story of our lives, we want to be the hero, or at least the plucky companion who helps out the hero.  After all, if we cannot preach like Paul we can at least be like faithful Aaron holding up the prophet's hands - right?

And that's how we tend to view things, that's the way the ideas sort themselves out.  We are engaged in an epic struggle to make the world a better place and it hinges on us and when we finally win the Star Spangled banner will be unfurled and the crowd will start humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic... or maybe if it is a theological heroism that we crave we will hammer down our point and the crowds will break out into A Mighty Fortress and.... yeah.

Might I suggest something else for the Great Struggle of the Day.  Or maybe it should be viewed as the Great Struggle of Every Day. 

Romans 7:21-25:  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There's a different struggle.  Not the struggle to change the world (Eric Clapton song not withstanding), but the daily struggle against one's own flesh.  The struggle not to fix the world, or change the country, or stop the rising tide, but the simple fact that every day when I wake up in the world, wake up still in this life, my own flesh wages war on me, leading me astray in to wickedness, leading me to false dreams of my own glory and strength, telling me over and over that I am the hero and that whatever I must do to accomplish my heroic path is right and justified and good because someone has to step up and take and stand and just go and do it, Hero!

The only problem is, look at what Paul writes.  He's not describing us as... the hero.  Or even the plucky sidekick who helps the hero.  No.  We are... wretches.  We are stuck.  Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay.  Impotent to rescue ourselves - My own good works all came to naught.

We aren't the hero of the story.  We are the damsel in distress.  And we aren't even the pretty princess, we are a Leah, we're with the dull eyes, we are wretches.

But God had seen my wretched state/ before the world's foundation/ and mindful of His mercies great/ He planned for my salvation/ He turned to me a Father's heart/ He did not choose the easy part/ but gave His dearest treasure.

God said to His beloved Son/ It's time to have compassion/ now go bright Jewel of My Crown/ and bring to all salvation/ From sin and sorrow set him free/ slay bitter death for them that they/ may live with You forever.

That's THE STORY.  That's THE STRUGGLE.  It was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended.  And this need always be our story, the lens through which we see our lives, the world, all around us. 

Our Lord explains the story, explains the struggles you will face every day.  "
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

As for you and your household, do what you will, but as for me - well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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