When we arrived in the middle of the afternoon on a trip to South Dakota’s Badlands, it was hot, dry and dusty. There was a bareness and an overriding appearance of nothing but wasteland. The next morning it was bitterly cold with strong winds and some rain. However, there was color and contrast to the land where before there appeared to be nothing. Two inches of snow the following morning highlighted peaks, ridges, rock formations and other details. Seeing the same landscape through different lenses (pun intended) was quite interesting. Nevertheless, on whichever day, the more one looked at the same area of landscape, the more detail there was to see. Still, the breadth and beauty of the land is missed if one only myopically looks at the incredible detail.
A good friend asked me the question: If one takes away all of the questions, all of the assumptions, all of the preconceived notions that we as believers have – what is left? I wasn’t sure. Readers of this blog know that I’ve been struggling to understand the nature and character of God. In all honesty, my relationship to my heavenly Father has been at best distant as I’ve struggled through such issues as the will of God in the life of the believer and predetermination as advocated by ardent Calvinists. This good friend put it like this: perhaps it all boils down to the simplicity of believing as spelled out in the Apostle’s Creed.
The Apostle’s Creed states:
- I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
- And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord
- Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary
- Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell
- The third day he rose again from the dead
- He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
- From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead
- I believe in the Holy Ghost
- I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints
- The resurrection of the body
Perhaps the will of God is indeed an impenetrable mystery.
Perhaps the debate between Calvinists and Arminians doesn’t really matter.
Perhaps it would be best to start again at the beginning – from the perspective that God is God and that through faith I am His child because Christ died on the cross to forgive my sins so that I can have fellowship with Him.
Is it so simple?
Can one just believe?
I don’t know.
Anyone traveling through the upper midwest surely knows of a certain drugstore in Wall, SD. After all, it’s next to impossible to miss the billboards. I happened to be in the area and thought it would be fun to visit what has to be one of the all-time great tourist spots. The Wall Drug facility is immense and thankfully there are store maps conveniently located at each entrance. There’s a short summary of Wall Drug’s history in the brochure that includes the following statements:
- Our families agreed that we should all pray about the decision (for Ted & Dorothy Hustead to buy a small drug store in Wall, SD in 1931).
- We asked God’s guidance.
- In the end everyone felt that it was God’s will for us to go to Wall.
- But now that Dorothy and I were all alone here (in Wall, SD), we wondered if we’d heard God right.
Did God have a plan for this young pharmacist related to a location in Wall, SD? Was it God’s will for Wall Drug to prosper during the middle 1930s when so many people and businesses were struggling through the Great Depression? If so, then is it reasonable to believe that God picks and chooses which businesses will thrive and which ones will fail? If that is so, is it reasonable for one to believe that it is God’s will for many people to suffer financially because God has decreed this current recession?
I personally don’t think so as I don’t believe God is in the business of picking and choosing winners and losers – for eternal salvation, a business adventure, one’s health, or any number of other things. Could it be that it frustrates (or even angers) God when, as per the Wall Drug founders, people act out their faith based on “feelings” and then when circumstances change or situations become difficult, people question their faith?
Although the winters are long and cold up here in Minnesota, I do enjoy the four seasons and there is no time so pleasant as the end of winter and the early breaking out of spring. There are buds on the trees trying to see the light of day. Sunlight is lasting longer into the evening and temperatures are doing their best to get and stay above the 50 degree mark. The last vestige of snow is gone except for those deep shaded areas. The ground is gray with the remains of last years foliage and it is at this point I can only imagine how beautiful it will all be in another month or so. For me, spring is a time for hope. It is a time to reflect back on some difficult times and look ahead to a new beginning, a new season as it were. The old has past away and a fresh newness has arrived. Perhaps this ties in with Easter. Jesus was dead, cold, and gray while he lay in that tomb. And tomorrow He arises in the bright radiant freshness of new life reaching out His arms drawing us in to the warmth of His love. Two old hymns come to mind; The Old Rugged Cross and Just As I Am. I’ve never really thought these songs had a commonality until I started thinking about spring and the meaning of Easter. Jesus died on that cross and we have to bring ourselves, just as we are, to Him who is on that cross in order to take on the new life He has promised.