The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

May 2, 2009

A Response to Walker Morrow #5

Dear Walker,

One of the things that encourages me to continue this conversation with you is your honesty. You demonstrate a refreshing willingness to look at your own ideas, to have them challenged and to accept the possibility that you may need to look at things from a slightly different angle. This openness is one of the primary qualities that will help us gradually grow into the people God is calling us to be.

Your reply to my April 23, 2009 A Response to Walker Morrow #4 makes me feel that I have not adequately managed to communicate what I was hoping to say in response #4. Looking back over my response I see that I did not in fact express myself very clearly. I hinted at my point in relation to Psalm 46:10 when I pointed out that rapha which is traditionally translated as “be still” might also be translated as “sink down.” To “sink down” is to open to a deeper realm of our being. It is to experience the depths of what it means to be human. It is to open to a reality deeper than the intellect, more mysterious than rationality. To “sink down” is to enter the realm of faith.

I do not believe that truth is found in the mind.


The mind can point us to truth; but the mind can equally be a serious obstacle to our discovery of truth. Truth is more ephemeral than an intellectual formulation can ever fully embody. My granddaughter responds to my request for a hug good bye declaring firmly, “No!” She pauses for a moment before announcing her alternative plan, “ Kiss,” and toddles over to bestow a kiss upon her grandfather; that is truth. It breaks open my heart. I find light and love and beauty. This is where truth is found.

This is why music moves us. It is why we are touched by the beauty of God’s creation and why a magnificent work of art, or a stirring piece of poetry moves something deep within our being. You cannot sum up in words or rational concepts what the kiss of a granddaughter means. You cannot capture the fullness of a symphony or a piece of poetry in precepts and logical equations. You simply have to allow your heart to open beyond rational thought.

In fact the “logic” that you so long for is a poor second cousin to truth. “Logic” functions on the surface of life and leads to sparse results. It is not logical to love an infant. It is not logical to spend hours composing and playing a Bach Cantata. It is not logical to protect the weak and vulnerable, nor to give oneself in service to the poor who “you will always have with you.” (Mark 12:8) The most exalted human instincts emerge from somewhere within the human heart much deeper than logic or reason.

You say it is more “confusion” you fear than chaos. But it is impossible to live apart from either chaos or confusion. The world is a deeply confusing place; chaos abounds wherever you look. In my life I have stood at the graveside with young parents grieving the death of their three week old infant; I have watched as a young teenager died as a result of an utterly arbitrary head injury; and I have celebrated a ninety-second birthday with a senior who lives on her own and recently had her driver’s license renewed. If we choose to open to the realities of life, we must finally acknowledge that life is deeply confusing.

Coming home from Vancouver last weekend my wife and I had lunch in the ferry’s buffet. In the hour and a half that we sat leisurely eating an endless array of beautifully prepared food and watched the most magnificent scenery slip past the window by our table, over 800 children died of starvation. That is confusing. The world does not make sense.

Some years ago, friends of ours joyfully awaited the arrival of their second child. The mother was healthy; the pregnancy had been perfect; the timing was ideal; the whole family looked forward to welcoming this new member into their midst. During delivery, at the last moment before the baby’s arrival, the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and she suffocated. Instead of a healthy little girl, our friends welcomed a severally brain-damaged infant, who died in her father’s arms shortly after delivery. Life hangs by a tenuous thread. It is not rational; it is not fair; it often does not make sense.

If we hope to “think in calm surroundings” rather “than in turbulent ones,” we will be reduced to a strategy of either denial or lies. We do not live “in calm surroundings.” If we are ever going to discover any measure of peace within the turmoil, chaos, confusion, uncertainty, and terror of life, it will only be as we discover a deep inner peace that I believe can only come from knowing the presence of God in the depths of our being.

The brilliant Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, discussing the importance of the Eucharist in Christian practice, says, “A the table as nowhere else we are made aware that true life is in mystery and not in management.” We cannot manage life. We are not in control. We cannot think our way to safety, or organize our environment to meet our perceived needs. Brueggemann concludes that at the table, “we need only yield our lives over to God.”

The Christian answer to chaos is not control, or understanding. The Christian answer to chaos is surrender.

You do not need to fear that this surrender will “turn into apathy.” We are not surrendering to nothing. We are following the example of Jesus and surrendering into the hands of Love. At the end of his physical life, Jesus’ last words were, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) We are surrendering into the hands of God, the hands of the power that turns the universe. There is no possibility that this act of surrender could ever lead to “apathy.” Surrender into the hands of God can only lead to the life-giving power of resurrection. God is the power of love. Love will always compel us out into the world to encounter all of Creation with a renewed capacity for compassion and goodness. Surrender in fact is not a cause of apathy, but the antidote to apathy.

The “larger picture” you want to “capture” is the picture of Jesus abandoned into the hands of chaos and confusion, sunk in the depths of abandonment and doubt, but finally surrendered into the gracious care of God and therefore raised to new life and power. This picture cannot be “captured;” it can only be lived. And it must be lived in the midst of confusion, doubt, chaos, and even fear. This pattern of love that is our true nature created in the image of God, cannot be finally understood, or reasoned about; we can only open to it with complete abandonment and joyful embrace.

The confusion and chaos of life exist to defeat our proud attempts to understand. The darkness that lurks at the edges of life serves to break open the hearts of those willing to learn the lessons of a broken world. When our hearts are broken open, we discover the strength and power of God’s risen life. The aroma of love is released and we become that image of God in which we were originally created.

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