The "nonsense" of faith
A psalmist wrote, "I was young and now I'm old and I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his children begging for bread." How silly!
A poet wrote, "Till the tropic sun grows cold, till this young world goes old my darlin' I'll adore you." What rubbish!
A noted scientist wrote to one he adored, "There's no life without you; nothing means anything anymore." Had his intellect collapsed?
Why do people talk like that? Why do they speak like that in the face of obvious facts to the contrary? Do they really believe what they're saying? The psalmist knew nothing of the righteous poor dying during famines? The poet thought he'd live longer than the sun? The brilliant scientist thought that the laws of rationality had collapsed because she was gone? Now it would be nonsense to think they thought like that.
What are people doing when they speak in that way? Well, I'm no specialist in the area (or any other, if it comes to that) but I know what they're feeling when they speak that way. The psalmist's persuaded beyond debate that God is faithful and caring, the poet's enthralled by his beloved and commits himself for always to her and the scientist is shattered by his loss and everything now lacks point—why bother? None of them has any interest in curbing his speech or putting reins on his heart. Each one of them defies the ordinary and the obvious and he's carried beyond precision and logic—the heart's too full for such things however legitimate and useful they are under other circumstances.
It isn't that they have taken leave of truth; it's that the truths that have come home to them in these moments loom larger than the other truths they're well aware of. If you reminded the psalmist that some righteous people and their children had starved to death he'd shake his head and tell you you'd missed his point. If you told the poet how long it'll be before the tropic sun grows cold he'd smile at you in his lunatic way as if you were the lunatic and if you told the scientist that other things still made sense he'd say, "For you, perhaps!"
When Christians sing hymns that seem so far removed from the facts of life and pray prayers that are so out of touch with reality—presuming they're sincere and are expressing their faith—we're not to sneer and think they've taken leave of their senses (well, perhaps they have, in the best sense of those words). No, they're relying on truths and facts other than the ones that seem to deny all they're singing and praying and proclaiming. Sometimes when their worlds come tumbling down around them it's in light of that that they sing and pray other massive truths and realities; truths and realities that take their loss into account and absorb the loss without harm.
They aren't talking nonsense and denying truth; they're expressing faith and proclaiming bigger truths. They've come to know the "bigger picture"; the bigger picture about the one true God who has shown himself to us in and as Jesus Christ and that being the case, like poets and lonely scientists they speak the "grander sense" and defy "common sense". And a host of them do it, just as enthralled as the poet, just as persuaded as the psalmist and with as much feeling as the hurting scientist. They do!
Ervin Drake, Jimmy Shirl, Al Stillman & Irvin Graham wrote the words and music to a 1953 hit song I Believe. It doesn't matter to me that the song might not now make the number 2 spot; it's a song for believers and they'll continue to sing this kind of thing until He returns.
I believe for every drop of rain that falls,A flower grows,I believe that somewhere in the darkest night,A candle glows.I believe for everyone who goes astray,Someone will come to show the way.I believe,I believe.I believe above the storm the smallest prayer,Will still be heard.I believe that someone in the great somewhere,Hears every word.Every time I hear a new born baby cry,Or touch a leaf or see the sky.Then I know why,I believe.Every time I hear a new born baby cry,Or touch a leaf or see the sky.Then I know why,I believe.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.