Mar 29, 2010

The Rubber Reality

One of the biggest blessings and one of the greatest difficulties of the Christian experience is "The Rubber Reality." What is the Rubber Reality? you ask. Well, in a word, it is that reality which comes from the discovery process initiated by our faith. The Rubber Reality always occurs when the smallness of humanity meets the bigness of God.

For example, consider the record of the Old Testament. During the Jewish Exodus, when the departing Israelites became blocked in their journey by the Red Sea as they fled from Egypt, the normal concrete reality would say, "Oops, this is an impossible situation. We simply have no way to cross this large body of water." But the rubber reality of faith created an entirely different scenario as God miraculously parted the sea and the Israelites crossed.

Again, as is related in the New Testament, if you go to a wedding in Cana of Galilee, as Jesus did, and the Host runs out of wine, the concrete reality would simply say, "Oops, here comes a big-time embarrassment." Yet, the rubber reality of faith created a much better and more insigtful perspective when Jesus turned water into wine.

And one more example of this elastic reality would be when Jesus attended the funeral of Lazarus. In the normal reality, we would normally think that we had just bumped into the most concrete of all realities - death. But, in fact, even this reality became stretchy when God touched it and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Thus, there is the more concrete reality which we can easily self-interpret.  And there is the rubber reality of faith where we are always playing catch-up to God's reinterpretation of the facts. 

So, this Rubber Reality of faith is much more challenging, unpredictable, and thus, more disconcerting.  Nevertheless, it is only this reality which ultimately leads to the higher levels of one's God encounter.

Indeed, the Rubber Reality is this more uncertain existence where, our faith makes us not quite so sure of the interpretation of the facts - at least at first. It is a reality in which we are often left wondering what God might be up to in a given circumstance.  
So, we hesitate to interpret events while we wonder where He might be taking us. 

That's why so many seek to put God in their little logic boxes. It makes Him much more predictable, and saves them the stress of that stretchy kind of reality. 

Normal human logic is always subject to challenge in the reality that faith creates; and people intuitively know that. And, it scares them. And besides, the rubber reality gets in the way of our own, preferred interpretations of life's circumstances.

So, rather than endure all of this uncertainty, many would simply prefer to define and predict God's actions with little simplistic cliché's: "God will never ask us to..." or "God will always..." It is basically the same escape mechanism as a logic box. But, in the rubber reality, to our chagrin, our cliché's don't work on bit better than those little boxes.

So, what is this faith reality all about. Very simply, the Faith Reality is about discovery.

It is about risking ourselves to not only to what God wants to do, but to who God is. It is about exploring His purposes to, ultimately, come to intimately know Him and ourselves - and to know who the two of us are together. And all of this discovery is simply to enable strong, and fulfilling, and durable relational bond between us.

This all makes perfect sense when we remember that, at the end of the day, redemption is really about relationship, about creating a truly durable and viable friendship with God. And, to be sure, such lofty aspirations could never be satisfied by using logic boxes. 

In the Greek language of the New Testament, there is a word: Ginosco, which means "a deep and intimate knowing." This is the word that Jesus used in Matthew, chapter 7, where He predicts that He will say to some at the judgment, who are mistaken about their salvation, "Depart from me, you that work iniquity, I never knew [ginosco] you." [Brackets added] 

The idea here is that they failed in the judgment because they failed to develop an intimate relationship with God. The rubber reality is all about finding and experiencing that living relationship through a challenging daily give-and-take. And that is why God employs it.

And, in fact, it is true that this less predictable faith reality sometimes brings us miracles. It is also equally true that it sometimes brings us perplexity and frustration. But the good news is - it always brings us God.

As we are forced to pick our way through this unfamiliar reality of God's larger and more mysterious purposes, his divine providence, His "higher" ways, we come to know him on a much deeper level. And, somewhere along the way, as we work through the twists and turns of this elastic reality where faith lives, we stop being spiritual children. We start to understand God - the way He really is and we start to reflect Him in our own character.

As this faith process works, we also stop knowing only what we have been told; and we start knowing what we have personally discovered - first hand. And all of a sudden, God is no longer an entirely mysterious God who lives somewhere off in the distance.  Rather, He becomes the God close up and very familiar. And so, through this faith reality, a living relationship and a true God awareness is ultimately created.

When you think about it, love and relationship, as basic ideas, are not really very complicated. But, both of these ideas, as we actually live them out, always require us to become more invested and more sophisticated in our thinking.

Whether we are talking about husbands and wives, parents and children, or God and the faithful, love and relationship will always call us to new levels of sophistication in our understanding of others. The first time my wife cried after we were married, I started to realize that I had to understand and respond to her differently than I originally thought or risk hurting her through my insensitivity. 

That same dynamic exists in every important relationship.  So, God's way of fanning the flames of this relational growth process is simply to ask us to enter this stretchy reality of faith where he can pose questions that do not have immediate answers. Where circumstances are not always what they seem. Where facts and projections are not so clear cut. 

Indeed, all of this is necessary to stimulate us to search out God's perspective and get beyond merely our own. It is a place where all that we know and are, will be pitted against all that God is and wants us to be.

The Rubber Reality - only the truly faithful walk there for any length of time. And while that reality sometimes makes temporary fools of us, tries our patience, and underscores our limitations - it is the real pathway to God. And when we have successfully navigated this elastic road under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will see clearly, its value. We will truly know God; and we will be intimately known of Him.

It really just comes to this.  The believer has no greater security than an intimate friendship with God that has found its way beyond delusion to a true maturity.  But, before our friendship with Him can become mature - it must endure the stretching for a season.