Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Spelunking; redemption

We spent yesterday preparing for, driving to, descending into, crawling around in, and recovering from Moaning Cavern, near Angels Camp. I was too cheap to pay $40 more to rappel down the main chamber, so I took pictures from the 144-step spiral staircase instead. From then on, though, we slid, crawled, wiggled, and climbed through the cave's passages together. Jenny's friend from school, the instigator/catalyst, came with our family. At the tour, we were joined by two young men: a Marine who had done four tours in Iraq, and his buddy.

This "Adventure Tour" was wonderful; I think everyone should try it once.

At one particularly narrow point, we asked our guide about large people who made it through the "meat grinder" passage. A 270-pound man had crawled through it! A 300-pound fellow did not fit, and ended up taking the "panic escape" back to the main chamber. The oldest tourist was 89 years old, and she rappelled down the 165-foot drop and did the whole crawling tour. Wow!

Next time I think I would like to try rappelling into the main chamber. As for the crawling wriggling [etc] part, though -- once was enough. It's like what the Japanese say about climbing Mt. Fuji: you should do it once, but only a fool does it twice.

But that's not what I mainly wanted to tell you about.

I was reading a couple days ago in Searching for God Knows What, and came across a thought, which, while not exactly new, was well put:
Imagine how much a man's life would be changed if he trusted that he was loved by God? He would interact with the poor and would not show partiality, he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake.... (p. 176)
A good word. It's like the standard Bible study question, "If I really believed what says, how would my life be different?" -- applied to something as simple (or profound) as "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Or "Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God."

But that whole discussion brought to mind the perplexing verse from the book of Hebrews. Talking about priests, probably the high priest, it says:
He can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
This perplexes because, for the most part, my weaknesses tend to make me impatient and insecure and... ungentle. (It's certainly not my strengths that make me that way.) What is the difference between the high priest, even a merely human high priest, and me? As I thought about it again, two differences came to mind.

First, what the priest does lots of and I do too little of: talking to God about men (to quote E.M. Bounds). He talks to God about men, bringing their hurts and joys and wants and weaknesses to God. As he does this, bearing men's burdens (thus fulfilling the law of Christ) and spending time in the presence of God, he is changed, as Moses was, and reflects more of God's glory.

Come to think of it, as he talks to God about men, he also shares in the sufferings of Christ. After the Mien Youth Camp two summers back, one of the counselors talked about the boys in his group. They knew what they should do but they weren't doing it. He got kinda choked up about them -- the way Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the multitudes, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.

Second, and this may be a by-product of the first, he thinks about his own weaknesses; he's conscious of them. He's in the habit of bringing man's weaknesses to God, so he brings his own too. As he draws near to God, God draws near to him and the devil flees (as James says).

And as he approaches the throne of grace, he receives mercy and finds grace to help in time of need (as it says just a few verses earlier). Because as you and I are priests (as Peter says we are), we ourselves have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. So as priests (including you and me) draw near to the throne and receive help, he fills us, so that we need not be mastered by our needs and weaknesses.

Because if I'm not paying attention and just do what comes naturally, i.e., what the flesh naturally does, I'm controlled by my needs and I sin without thinking. But if I can be aware -- aware of (some of) my sins and weaknesses, I don't think myself superior to my brothers (male and female) and I receive encouragement/comfort/help.

Then, as Paul says to the Corinthians, because we receive comfort (or encouragement) from God, we can -- and should! -- comfort/encourage others with that same comfort we have received from God.

So does that sound like a way that God might want to work in us? In me?


No comments: