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We used Newtonian physics to formulate the laws of nature. For hundreds of years, that is all there was. Objects could not be in two places at the same time. What goes up must come down. We understood these laws as defining reality itself and believed nature did not, and could not, work outside of them.
But Einstein’s theory of relativity changed all that, introducing physicists to the quantum world. Suddenly we began to discover that an entire universe existed that we had known nothing about, where the laws of nature that we believed to be immutable simply did not apply. The movement of one particle could affect the movement of another particle millions of miles away. Particles could disappear from one place and pop up again instantly in another place. Seriously. That’s what we have learned through the discipline of quantum physics.
And so what we in effect discovered was reality operating on two levels at once. But did quantum physics nullify Newtonian physics? In other words, did we have to throw the old physics out the window once we began to understand the rules of the new physics?
Of course not. Newtonian physics applies in all of the observable world. But quantum physics takes us into another world entirely, where the rules of Newtonian physics simply don’t apply. There are rules in quantum physics, but they’re very different from what we learned about the world through Newtonian physics.
The law of love as modeled and taught by Jesus is like quantum physics. It takes us into an entirely different universe, where our previous understandings of things, typical conceptions of morality and immorality, simply do not apply any more. This is obvious because one of the things Jesus did most often was show the Jewish leaders that their skillfully honed conceptions of God and love didn’t even come close to reaching far enough.
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If the line that we see the world not as it is but as we are is true (and I’m convinced it is), there are a lot of dark, fearful, negative, cynical people in the world who look around them and see only despair, only things to fear, only the sky falling down around them.
I find myself affected by this. It’s hard work running around crying “the sky is not falling” to a world that is curiously convinced that it is, that there is no hope, that we have reason to despair in this generation, that America and the world are going to hell in a hand basket. The dreariness and hopelessness are penetrating. They get under your skin and drag you into this gloomy world, where everything is wrong, everything is a cause for outrage, everything cries out, “Don’t be naive — it’s awful and it’s only going to get worse.”
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When I was younger, I had a lot of answers. Now I’m older, and I have a lot of questions. The few things I feel like I know, I know with more confidence than before. Here are things I know from experiences I have had that have radically changed my view of God over the years — my real game-changers.
Most people who get diagnosed with terminal cancer are almost certainly going to die.
No matter how much you pray.
If you’re not aware of this on some level, I’m so, so sorry to bear the bad news. But it’s critical that you know this.
There will be exceptions, of course, and I’ll pray as hard as anyone, but if your theology depends on God healing some particular person, this is probably going to get harder.
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One of the things I have learned is that I have nothing to protect. Everything in me I seek to protect and defend is false anyway. My ego, my sensitivities, my vanity, my guilt and regrets — none of it is going to last. It’s all on the way out. Shining the light on it helps it die the death it deserves.
I have also learned that those who ask receive. If I want grace, I have to ask for it. If I want people to love me and forgive me and extend grace to me, I have to remind them regularly that I am like them — a person who makes mistakes and is hurting and afraid and needs love. Wow, do I hate admitting this about myself.
But because all of these things are true of all of us, and we’re scared to death of those dark realities, most of the time we invest in covering it all up. Ironically, this leaves us open to judgment from others as the wall we build around ourselves keeps them from seeing us as human in the same way they are.
We reach past that by opening up those wounds so others can see them. As we do that, we minister to them (serve them) by affirming they are not alone in their hurt and suffering and woundedness.
We all need grace. I try to extend mine to everyone at all times. Here are some reasons why I need yours.
I’m a flawed person.
I am a flawed pastor, flawed teacher, flawed therapist, flawed husband and father. As charming and charismatic as I have learned to be when I’m “on stage” in some way (by which I mean simply being looked up to in one of my roles as pastor/teacher/therapist), I can be equally cold and aloof when the spotlight goes off.
It’s not because I don’t genuinely love people. I love you more than I can say and everything I say in all of my roles is 100% true.
It’s just that I’m tired.
I love people, but you wear me out sometimes.
It’s not your fault, it’s just my own limitation.
If you haven’t heard that from a leader before, it’s probably just because I’m the only one stupid enough to write it down.
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