The strongest thought trying to gain entry was not that Jesus didn’t exist or that God wasn’t real, but that he wasn’t so much relevant now as he was 2,000 years ago. After all, we haven’t really heard from him since he ascended into heaven, and his book has been torn asunder by generations of exegetes (or eisegetes, as the case may be), many of whom have found far too many differences in one text. If thousands of scholars over centuries can’t agree on what one book says, how can it be true? How can we know Christianity is still real when our book is so old? How can we differentiate a real movement of the Holy Spirit from a simple event felt by a person who desperately wants to experience something? How do I know the Holy Spirit is real when it seems like most “movements of the Spirit” can be explained by a cynic? How do I really know that Jesus wanted me to sell my house and move from Washington to Minneapolis? How can I pray, even now, that he help me know whether we should buy a house here? Or that my career best matches my gifting? Or that I was meant to be an administrator rather than a pastor?
Jason, I whispered to myself, you are tired. These doubts only have strength because you are tired and weary and mildly depressed about coming home and re-entering the rat race. By God’s grace—and I don’t say that lightly—the doubts receded and I was able to get ready and head off to work, knowing that after this brief reprieve I would have to go out and face the horde of orcs, much like Aragorn and company rested briefly before counter attacking out of the inner keep.
But instead of charging into a renewed battle with gallant courage, knowing that I would face certain death, and then being rescued by Éomer, the Savior came to me sooner, before I even entered the battle again. He came in a couple of blog posts.
The first was by Andrew Peterson about Harry Potter:
I couldn’t get Harry’s story out of my head. I doubled over in the back of the auditorium and sobbed with gratitude to Jesus for allowing his body to be ruined, for facing the enemy alone, for laying down his life for his friends—Jesus, my friend, brother, hero, and king—Jesus, the Lord of Life, who triumphed o’er the grave—who lives that death may die! Even now, writing those words, my heart catches in my throat. In that moment I was able, because of these books, to worship Christ in a way I never had.
Let me be clear: Harry Potter is NOT Jesus. This story isn’t inspired, at least not in the sense that Scripture is inspired; but because I believe that all truth is God’s truth, that the resurrection is at the heart of the Christian story, and the main character of the Christian story is Christ, because I believe in God the Father, almighty maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only begotten son—and because I believe that he inhabits my heart and has adopted me as his son, into his family, his kingdom, his church—I have the freedom to rejoice in the Harry Potter story, because even there, Christ is King. Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried? Remember when Santa Claus shows up (incongruously) in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? It’s a strange moment, but to my great surprise I’ve been moved by it. Lewis reminds me that even Father Christmas is subject to Jesus, just as in Prince Caspian the hosts of mythology are subject to him. The Harry Potter story is subject to him, too, and Jesus can use it however he wants. In my case, Jesus used it to help me long for heaven, to remind me of the invisible world, to keep my imagination active and young, and he used it to show me his holy bravery in his triumph over the grave.I think it fairly obvious how this passage by Andrew began to fight back the hordes that had been standing outside my mind’s door all morning.
Continuing down the Rabbit Room blog, I read the following about U2, written by Stephen Lamb:
Crawling into bed that night, I picked up the book on my bedside table, Ian Cron’s Chasing Francis, a biography of sorts in which a man documents his spiritual journey through journal entries addressed to St. Francis. I opened the book to the page where I had stopped reading two nights earlier and picked up where I left off. Here’s the first thing I read:
This brief excerpt is not all that caused the next thing to happen. I suggest you read the whole post, but as I completed these two blog posts, an overwhelming feeling of God’s goodness, the Holy Spirit’s presence, and the saving work of Jesus Christ washed over me. My eyes were hot with tears, and I slid my chair back and leaned over my knees and cried. I was not thinking about Harry Potter or U2 at that point. I was worshipping my savior who would deign to take the time to reach out of heaven and touch me, as if to say, “Yes, Jason, I am real and powerful and here 2,000 years later. I don’t always come riding to the rescue like Éomer and Gandalf charging the orcs with 2,000 Rhorrihim at their back. Instead I work through little things, through foolish things, through love and word and deed and art and music and small cold glasses of water. I am even present enough to meet you, right now, through two blog posts. I can touch you and show you, through the written word, that I exist.”Dear Francis,
A few years ago I went to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, just three months after 9/11. Most of us in the arena that night probably knew someone who’d died in the Twin Towers; we’d lost three people in our church alone. I’ll never forget the end of the concert. As the band played the song “Walk On,” the names of all those who had died were projected onto the arena walls and slowly scrolled up over us, and then up toward the ceiling. At that moment the presence of God descended on that room in a way I will never forget. There we were, twenty-five thousand people standing, weeping, and singing with the band. It suddenly became a worship service; we were pushing against the darkness together. I walked out dazed, asking myself, “What on earth just happened?” Of course, it was the music. For a brief moment, the veil between this world and the world to come had been made thin by melody and lyric. If only for a brief few minutes, we were all believers.
It only lasted a minute, but it was real. I realize that many cynics can, at this point, say I simply had an emotional response to two emotionally charged blog posts. But I don’t think so. I am a doctrinally solid believer in Jesus Christ and his written word. I believe that God speaks primarily through that word. I have a working understanding of proper hermeneutics and theology. I don’t think it is normative for God to touch people like this. Yet, I don’t doubt that in many cases this happens. I am not so naive that I don’t think I will ever doubt again. After all, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields happened after the Battle at Helm’s Deep.
But for now, I am content. Soli Deo Gloria.