We took a trip to the Far East…of Maine. There we visited the, ironically, West Quoddy Light. The next day we enjoyed the power of the Reversing Falls as the tide rushed in. A little while later we stood as miniscule people in proportion to a huge Cruise ship docked at Eastport. Corona virus brought her to a stand-still. The docking fee is $50,000 a month. It’s a win-win for the people of Eastport. They get help with their new pier costs and if a natural disaster should strike, the entire population can fit onboard!
One can’t play all week so we headed home by way of a road less traveled. We drove there by way of Rte 1 with quaint towns and much traffic. We went home by way of Rte 9 into Bangor. It was beautiful scenery as we made our way down out of mountainous range gazing at the valleys stretching out below us. The road was wide and well cared for and less traveled.
As we approached Bangor to its northeast great black ominous clouds piled up like a mountain range of its own. Occasional raindrops crashed on our windshield. We pulled into town and found food at a drive through. Then we got out of Dodge heading southwest. But one cannot eat a well dressed chicken sandwich with barbecue sauce and drive. We pulled into a rest area, and so did the rain!
After eating, the restrooms beckoned. I pulled out my umbrella, opened the door, raised the umbrella and pushed the button. As I stepped under its circle of grace I noticed two things. First how the rain surrounded me like a curtain and secondly that the rain was a warm summer rain. I experimented with tilting the umbrella this way and that but concluded it was best straight over me.
I began to muse how it is to walk under an umbrella of grace. It’s not that the rain does not touch us or affect us, but that we are adequately protected. It walks with us. It can tilt according to our needs as we walk along. How like walking with Jesus in our heart. He is both a historical reality and a spiritual living dynamic that does life with us. Life can touch us and affect us but we are adequately protected.
Imagine with me I am tired of the constraints of grace. After all I am not completely protected from life. A wind gust might make things difficult or a misplaced umbrella might let my back get somewhat wet. Besides, the rain is warm and I just saw some other people playing in the rain. So bit by bit I abandon my place under grace.
Indeed the concept of boundaries and consequence becomes the problem for me. I begin to prefer to build my umbrella out of the god of tolerance. Everybody do whatever they wish, well to some degree. But an unintended consequence comes with my new philosophy. I find I am offended by certain things and others are offended by what doesn’t offend me. So it seems good to remove the visible signs of boundaries. I remember praying at a public school graduation just one day after the ruling against prayer. The local Catholic Priest and I were the last to ever pray over students going out into the world. It would be offensive. We see battles over the Ten Commandments and other visual reminders of a right and a wrong to life. So we live our lives on the basis of offensive vs. non-offensive and the media trumpets popular opinion vs. contrary opinion in 2 minute sound bites, whatever sells better. And we watch as the news tells us how trustworthy they are as they all broadcast the same stories with varying opinions.
The umbrella which was once grace is now the law of unintended consequences. The restless tide of popular opinion creates a roaring fall as it goes out and does the same as it returns. It’s twisting current writhes and circles seemingly without reason. Who can say what is right and what is wrong? “I discovered God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really it is all absurd without meaning – like a chasing of the wind.” So we thought to ourselves “let’s rewrite the rules. Let’s change the labels and life will be better.”Ecc.1:13-14
We are discovering the boundaries of grace are neither weak nor wimpy. Right and wrong is not just a matter of interpretation according to who is in the driver’s seat. Grace is massive. There is a radical wildness about it orchestrated and driven by the Creator. The matter of opinion concerning offense does not determine its character nor its judgments. To enter this place, to become a Christ one, one must become a man to whom something has happened. He is offended: by his own heart and behavior. He cries out for a new heart, a transplant brought about by God’s Radical Acceptance in Christ Jesus no Exceptions.
The ominous towers of deep black layers and layers of clouds are gathering just to our northwest. Flashes appear in them. Lightening back-lights some cloud peaks. Rumbling is in the distance. The wind is picking up. Fat rain drop are precursor of the massive storm on its way. What umbrella what road what rest stop will you find in the midst of your storm?