My Bible reading has been abysmal for a little while...a lot a while. So I finally decided to go digital and subscribe to an RSS feed, which has been great! For the time I've been using it, I've been faithful in my Bible reading. So, as I surveyed last week and how this new found faithfulness has effected me, what did I find? Did I find a newly glowing complexion and pearls of wisdom to bestow upon those I meet in passing?
No, what I've found is that Jesus makes me uncomfortable.
I started my reading in Luke, one of my favorite writers. And day after day, I read parables of Jesus that just make me grimace a little bit. Things such as, you must hate your children. I've heard sermon after sermon explaining away the uncomfortableness of Jesus, but it struck me that maybe I just need to sit in it a little. To remember that, yes, Jesus is uncomfortable because He is God.
The Bible isn't a self-help book, and Jesus isn't a teddy bear.
How easy is it for us to serve up a skim-milk version of Jesus? How often do we approach our Bible reading with the intent of "getting something out of it," perhaps a little tidbit we can share at small group to show our piety? Do we boil down the holy Word into sound bytes? Do we input the Scripture and expect to output a Happy-Holy Pill that we can roll around in our hand and plop out into the hands of others?
I'm, of course, preaching to myself. As a writer, it's my profession to take complicated, gnarly topics and tie them up in a neat little package with a tidy red bow.
There is a poem I wrote my thesis about in college, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Rainer Maria Rilke. One of the lines (translated) says that this statue, a torso of Apollo, "bursts like a star." I'm sure to lose my audience now, but I will include the poem below, nonetheless (in all its weaknesses, as a translation):
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
To the author, this chunk of chiseled rock had the power to say, "You must change your life." This inanimate stone could dazzle you and see you. For some reason, I can't help comparing the two: The dazzling but dead statue written of by Rilke and the fuzzy, plush toy Jesus crafted by us.
Woe to me when I seek to contain Jesus in a sound byte. When I wash away all the itchy bits of Jesus' words that don't fit neatly into my psyche.
What I need to remember is that God is uncomfortable. He's not me. I don't get Him. I never will. I'm a small-minded worm that grasps at the faintest hints of meaning and falls utterly short.
I must change my life.