The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf. -John Calvin
Self-made-man. Autonomous individuals. Man liberated from the oppressive rule of God. The last century was supposed to be our graduation from dependence upon God to reliance upon nobody but our strong selves. Man, after centuries of work, progression, evolution and growth was finally ready for his crowning achievement- living life on our own. Another way to phrase this idea is that we, or better, our great-grandfathers, had settled into becoming audacious despisers of God.
After a hundred or so years of our bold talk we can no longer deny the fact that we secretly tremble at the sound of a falling leaf.
The fact that we are afraid of the world around us is certainly no new news. And speaking of news, there is no better example of our constant fear than a quick look at our news media outlets. Who could miss the tragic news from New Zealand yesterday that left nearly one hundred people dead from a massive earthquake that leveled a major city?
I was a young child when the massive Loma Prieta earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, collapsing the Bay Bridge and taking 63 lives. As much talk as there was about my home state of California experiencing a massive earthquake and falling into the Pacific Ocean there may have been previously, you can bet that there are still plenty of people who keep that possibility in the back of their minds.
The list goes on and on. Remember the tsunami in 2004 that claimed some 230,000 lives in the Indian Ocean Islands? Remember Haiti just last year?
For all our bold talk, we have to admit that we have very, very little control in this world.
At the end of the day it is this powerlessness that is what terrifies us the most.
So what do we do with this realization that there is so little under our command? Allow me to humbly submit what I see running rampant within my own generation (The Millennials). We are faced with the knowledge that we are mainly powerless and we do everything possible to ignore this fact to the bitter end. We flood our world with distraction upon distraction in hopes that ignoring our own weakness will somehow empower us in the end.
We may not be able to stop earthquakes from coming I can tell you several friends of mine who have already spent time in Haiti since the disaster there last year. We may not be able to stop the spread of HIV in Africa but I can tell you without thinking a handful or more friends who have spent time there giving aid to the sick and poverty-stricken.
Social justice has become the battle cry for my generation just the same as career was the calling card for my grandfather’s generation and counter-culture was to my father’s generation.
And, boy, these are all such good things. I cannot be prouder of either grandfather I have whose career with a single company spanned forty years. Neither could I be more proud of my own dad, whose own counter-cultural move was to settle down and raise up a family in his early twenties. And who could claim better friends than those who are willing and ready at the drop of a hat to put down whatever they are doing to go half-way across the globe to lend a hand?
Certainly there is nobility in serving others, right? Who could argue that faithfulness to a single calling over a lifetime of work is a bad thing? Nobody in their right mind.
But the subtle problem with the human condition is that avoidance of reality can present itself in all shapes and sizes. We can live lives that are characterized by wonderfully noble actions without a trace of freedom in them. We can retreat to good things like recovery, service to others, faithfulness to a job, providing for our family, preaching and teaching while ignoring our deepest and most basic issue.
Until we have encountered God, our lives can only be described in the word cowardice. We are, as C.S. Lewis said so many years ago, “men without chests.” Whether we escape to drugs, pornography, murder, alcoholism etc. or to family, career, acts of kindness and strict morality, we have abandoned our search for God. Once we have decided God is not worth pursuing, we have sentenced ourselves to years and years of debilitating fear.
Because let us get honest, we may not like the fact that the God of the bible is the type of God who “sets limits on the seas”, who commands storms or who dictates earthquakes but the alternative is much more dreadful. Once we have “liberated ourselves from the rule of God”, we have nothing to do but to try with all our might to hide out from him.
In the midst of this hiding, though, God speaks in the person of Jesus Christ that same question he has been posing since Adam and Eve:
Where are you?