Wednesday, on the way home from seminary, I stopped to see one of my mentors, Pastor Don Jensen (a.k.a. PJ). He was my predecessor at Village, a much beloved pastor. We had just visited a couple of weeks ago at a gathering, and we reflected on ministry. His eyesight is nearly gone, but he is ever vigilant, still sharp and full of wit. I told him that there have been few men, I know, who stand for truth like him. Too many in ministry today have lessened their grip on the Word in order to be accepted by culture. They choose to be celebrities rather than shepherds. But Don has been steady as a rock. He has never moved an inch from his calling. Some men walk with a certain gravitas. Don does.
That was then. But Wednesday, I saw Don in a hospital room. His life hangs by a thread. A fall on Monday, a bone break, and a stroke during the operation have left Don unconscious and on a respirator. I hoped his eyes would open, but they did not. But taking his hand and praying, I suddenly realized Don was—in some sense—very much alive. It was Don who took my hand and held it tight. How does this work? I can’t explain this. Something in this moment told me this is PJ—still in His grip—and me in his.
Who can explain the ways of life—the ways of God…how He works…who He is? I read this excerpt last night—written years ago by the theologian, Karl Barth. His words do not answer these questions, but they explain them—
“God is not the opiate of the people, not One who merely makes them comfortable in their current existence, who makes their lives bearable, but One who upsets them, confronts them with a ‘crisis.’ The crisis is in part God’s judgment on the pretension of human beings, who think they have God figured out. The crisis is also the knowledge that the God whom human beings thought they had figured out is utterly elusive, that He is not only beyond this world but beyond the Beyond.”
In a strange way, I am comforted by these words. Barth was refuting the human centered culture of his day, and a religion bolstered by a liberal ethic that presumed it could explain God, tame God, predict God, manipulate God and conform Him to their ways. Our world is not much different than Barth’s.
I need the constant reminder that God’s ways are beyond our ways. And in the everyday experiences of life, if we are awake, His mysteries will sneak up and take us in their grip.