This post is incomplete. It’s not incomplete because I procrastinated or because I ran out of time. It’s incomplete because I honestly just don’t know what to do with it. Because when it comes down to it, I’m not sure I know how to answer my own question. And because I want your help. I guess this could be seen as another “long quote” post, but it’s more of a long post with a short quote. TTAF, though, is about community and learning together, so today I ask directly for your input.
The other day I made a grilled cheese sandwich, cut it in half (diagonally into two triangles, of course), and shared it with my three year old daughter as she sat on my lap watching Bambi. Now, I don’t know whether or not you’ve ever seen Bambi. I have. In fact, I watched it for the very first time just the night before the two of us sat there with our grilled cheese halves. I wish I hadn’t, but I did. So I knew I was in for one of the saddest Disney movies of all time; that I was about to witness one of the most heart wrenching scenes in movie history. But my daughter loves Thumper and my wife needed us out of her way, so there I sat. And in the midst of my efforts to distance myself from the reality of the situation, I began to watch my daughter eat her sandwich, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
To better understand the situation, there’s probably something you should know about me: I just don’t really like to get messy.
I used to, for sure. As a kid, a mud puddle was an invitation. I was the baseball player who would slide for no reason. Playing in the rain is a favorite pastime of mine. But maybe I got it out of my system too early; because at this point in my life I do everything I can to not get dirty. When it rains I’m walking on the tips of my toes, jumping over instead of sliding into puddles. It takes me twice as long as it should to cook chicken, because I do everything within my power to not actually touch the uncooked meat while I trim it and season it. I enjoy our vacations to the beach, but the constant battle with sand, which has an incredible ability to find its way into places you never thought possible, can sometimes send me over the edge. When I discovered a “chimney starter” for my charcoal grill, that keeps me from having to actually touch the charcoal at any point in the fire-lighting process, you would have thought I’d just discovered fire itself.
Don’t get me wrong, if I need to get dirty, or if I know my day is going to be all around messy (yard work, camping, fishing, etc.) that’s fine. But if I’m otherwise clean and plan to remain that way, I just don’t like getting messy. It’s why I eat boneless buffalo wings, and its why I eat “around” my grilled cheese sandwiches. Anyone over the age of 4 knows what I mean by this: when approaching the sandwich eating process, the most logical place to take the first bite—whether the sandwich is cut in half or not—is on one of the corners. The second bite is taken off the opposite corner, and you continually work your way “around” the sandwich, with each bite isolating the piece that protrudes the greatest distance from the whole. This, of course, ensures that no part of your sandwich touches the sides of your mouth and serves the sole purpose of keeping your cheeks nice and neat.
My daughter is not over the age of 4.
When my daughter is handed a grilled cheese sandwich, zero thought is given to the potential “messiness” of the situation. She does not consider greasy fingers, dirty cheeks, or melted cheese spillage. She merely picks up her half, aims right for the middle and takes the biggest bite she can muster. Her second bite? Deeper, and again . . .right in the middle. She gets messy.And she loves every second of it.
I was recently reading the book Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, and was absolutely gripped by a character in the novel named Corrigan. Corrigan is an Irish monk in a religious order left unidentified, who moves to New York City where he resolves to live in the Bronx, in poverty, and with a handful of prostitutes as his best friends. It is these prostitutes for which he provides shelter, food, comfort, protection, and a gentle heart. When Corrigan is first introduced, he’s a child still living in Ireland, sneaking out of his house in the middle of cold nights to offer his blanket to the homeless, contrary to his mother’s wishes. The narrator states:
“It was a simple equation to him—others needed the blankets more than he, and he was prepared to take the punishment if it came his way. It was my earliest suggestion of what my brother would become, and what I’d later see among the cast-offs of New York . . . all of those who were hanging on him like he was some bright hallelujah in the shitbox of what the world really was.”
Corrigan, throughout the book, makes a point to provide for, protect, befriend . . . love . . . the down and outs, alcoholics, prostitutes, pimps . . . the hopeless. He’s described as liking “those places where light was drained.” And it’s messy.
I’ve got to be honest; initially, I didn’t know how to take Corrigan. I still don’t fully. But as I read on, I came across this quote that has completely engrossed a lot of my thoughts lately (pardon me for quoting at length):
“What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth—the filth, the war, the poverty—was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven . . . Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it. Out of that came some sort of triumph that went beyond theological proof, a cause for optimism against all the evidence.”
A fully believable God.
Believable. This is the idea that has been turning in my head over and over . . . a believable God. Notice that what Corrigan asks for is not a proven God, or proof of God’s existence. Not a God that made sense or was logical, that could be explained or rationalized. What McCann’s character longed for was a God that he could believe in, even in the midst of the filth and grime, of the downtrodden and hopeless people around him. A God present in the real . . . messy . . . world in which we live. Because the “hard, cold truth” is that we live in a fallen world, replete with sin, selfishness, iniquity, and suffering. So the question is this:
What does a fully believable God look like?
Seriously, I want your feedback. No matter your faith perspective. Christian or not. What would it take for God to be believable to you? Or, how do you make God more believable to the world around you? What does a fully believable God look like?
Help me finish this post.