Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Holier Than God

I was trolling the web, looking for a cute image on the idea of ‘spiritual temperature’ when I came upon the 2008 blog posting by David Wayne.

I love the Bonhoeffer quote from his book, Life Together:
Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature.
And David’s paraphrase of John Calvin, that “ there are some people who have higher standards of holiness than God. . .” is as funny as it is sharp.  Who says the great reformer didn’t have a sense of humor?

In my own time and place, it is not the vice of complaining that draws my attention; indeed, it isn’t any vice at all that occupies on my mind just now.

Rather, I sit with a community that is in pain . . . there has been no collective catastrophe, but there are so many individual ones, both great and small, that I find myself to be so very spiritually tired. . . not numb . . . not bored . . . not fed up . . . not impatient . . . not judging . . . just sad . . . and tired, soul-weary-tired.

Some of us will survive our current crises, some will not.

This winter is not the season of our discontent; rather, it is the season of our loss.

Counting that loss, however, is part of the problem.  Doubtless, Bonhoeffer had no thought of the seasons of loss in the life of a church when he wrote the challenge to avoid the constant taking of our own temperature, but it is a metaphor that serves well in such times, I think.

Of course we must be self-aware.  Of course, we must provide good care to self and to others.  Of course we must observe our own sabbath rest.

But in the midst of heartache, it does little good to seek to measure it.

In the midst of sorrow, there is little point to counting our own tears.

Such efforts are not only in vain, they are also a way for us, for me, to try to step around what’s happening, to avoid the pain by acting the part of impartial observer, collector of the statistics of sorrow, as if that would somehow minimize the real hurt happening around and within.

God does not count the cost.  But God experiences it.  So too must we.

Today I am sad.  And I am tired.  Sitting with that is necessary.  And measuring it will not make it hurt less or pass sooner.

This is the season of my sorrow.

May I sit with it grace-fully.


  1. How lucky are your folks to have a pastor who not only shares their sorrows but sheds their tears and pays the price without counting. Hugging you in your sorrow xxx

  2. so true, true

  3. My dear friend. I wish I could say "I do not understand" but unfortunately so many do. May our Father hold you and give to you great comfort and may you know and remember, it is only a season. I say this knowing it seems trite but I know it is true. Peace be with you.

  4. Judy, thank you - it really does help to know that we do not walk these walks alone. Beth