When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher required that each of us read a passage from the text book. I don’t recall the exact passage, it was a piece of literature, or perhaps a poem. As I dutifully read my assigned portion, I remember feeling my teacher listen intently. When I finished, she paused before moving on to the next student and said to me, “You have a beautiful speaking voice.” What I’m sure was a simple comment to Mrs. White, was revolutionary for me. My life was for ever changed by the validation of my voice. Through the years, I’ve learned to rely on my voice to make my way through life. When I was much younger, I entertained the idea of going into broadcasting. In High School, I enjoyed anchoring our student news cast, I was a disc jockey at our local skating rink, before landing my first real radio job at KCJH in Stockton, California. I love those memories of seclusion in a radio studio, imagining the audience listening. I also enjoyed crafting a show with segments that I hoped others would find inspiring, entertaining, and enjoyable.
Through the years, my voice evolved. I learned how to manipulate my voice to make points, to persuade, to draw others in with modulation and variation. My voice served to provide all kinds of opportunities and has provided much good for me and for others. My “voice” has also at times gotten me into trouble. As of late, it seems my voice is a source of disruption. And there is no quicker way for folks to be turned off by your voice, then by disagreeing with them or questioning a generally accepted and tightly held belief. Increasingly my voice has become a voice of challenge. But if you think what I have to say to others is often a source of discomfort, you should hear the uncomfortable conversations I have with myself. I’m often in conflict with the thoughts that challenge my mind. And what you hear coming out of my mouth, or emerging from my keyboard, are the direct result of those conversations. And I think that is ok. I don’t find nearly the comfort that I once did in claiming to have answers. These days, questions congregate in my mind.
I used to think that people who died in the “faith,” were those who had every question answered and every conundrum resolved. I no longer believe that expectation of faith is realistic. If questions are a significant part of my life, shouldn’t I expect that they will be present at the time of my death. In fact, what good would my hope of heaven be, if I did not believe that at some point I will have an opportunity for my questions to be answered. For the conflicts and contradictions of my faith to be resolved. This is the hope. That one day my competing voices will sing in unison.
I was impressed by these words written by Robert Farrar Capon, “When we die, we lose whatever grip we had on our unreconciled version of our lives. And when we rise at the last day, the only grip in which our lives will be held will be the reconciling grip of Jesus’ resurrection. He will hold our lives mended, cleaned, and pressed in his hand, and he will show them to his Father. And his Father, seeing the only real you or me there is to see, will say, “Wonderful! Just what I had in mind.” This is the essence of the gospel of Christ. This is good news! It is good news because my life is visible only in Christ. My life is not dependent on my works, good or otherwise. My eternal life is dependent on Christ. No matter how contradictory my voices, and the voices of others. His is not. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.”
Capon then poses this powerful question in light of this glorious truth, “Since he has already made me new-since there really isn’t any of the old me around to get in my way anymore-why should I be so stupid as to try to go on living in terms of something that isn’t even there?” There is a real mystery to this idea of faith, it is more than just a mental assent. But it is dynamic, as is all of our true beliefs, in that it has implications for how we live our lives. We always behave as we believe. Again Capon is helpful here, “Strictly speaking, faith does not save us; he (Jesus) does; but because faith, once given, inexorably leads us to try to stop contradicting what he has done, it becomes the only instrument of salvation that we need…”
Instead of placing our faith in Christ and what he has accomplished on our behalf, we default to faith in ourselves, or tangible objects, possessions, money, or any innumerable idols manufactured as poor substitutes for an Almighty God. We substitute these idols for God, quite simply because we don’t believe in God. At least not in the God he has revealed himself to be. We conjure a god based on our own experiences, expectations, or emotions. We listen too intently to our own voice. We make God in our image. An image that always disappoints. We are jealous, petty, simplistic creatures that lust after objects, envy others, and are quick to hate, judge, and dismiss those who refuse to kiss our pathetic, depraved ass. No wonder the God we often imagine and impose on others is a lot like us.
Capon concludes by quoting Christ’s warning to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” But this warning isn’t an ominous one rendered by mere mortals as we often read it. But rather as Capon writes, “What we are watching for is a party. And that party is not just down the street making up its mind when to come to us. It is already hiding in our basement, banging on our steam pipes, and laughing its way up our cellar stairs. The unknown day and hour of its finally bursting into the kitchen and roistering its way through the whole house is not dreadful; it is all part of the divine lark of grace. God is not our mother-in-law coming to see whether her wedding present china has been chipped. He is a funny Old Uncle with a salami under one arm and a bottle of wine under the other. We do indeed need to watch for him; but only because it would be such a pity to miss all the fun.”
Or as the Apostle John said from Patmos at the end of Revelation, “Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly.”