Brokenness Awaiting Advent- a Devotion (1/4)
I stand at the open door staring at the number of single socks accumulating on top of the dryer. The other darks — underwear and jeans — were gathering clean, folded, soon to return to their assigned spots in my dresser. As the items piled up, I wonder how many socks must be removed before two can be paired and moved to the folded piles. For me the general rule of thumb — one of every pair.
Strange thoughts run through one’s mind — at least my mind — at the most curious of times. Random thoughts. Serious thoughts. Even theological thoughts out of the blue and disconnected at first glance from the matter at hand.
As I lay down sock after mismatched sock, I ponder a metaphor about the messiness of life forming in my head on this laundry day.
I remember a scene from the 1991 movie, Grand Canyon. An immigration attorney attempts a shortcut around a traffic jam in Los Angeles. His bypass takes him deeper and deeper into the dark and menacing section of the city. His expensive sports car stalls on a street where those who walk them carry guns. He manages to telephone for a tow truck but before it arrives, five young ruffians surround and threaten him. The tow truck appears just in time, and as its driver works to hook up the car to the winch, the gang members protest; they have other plans.
It’s then the driver takes the leader of the gang aside. “Man, the world ain’t s’pposed to work like this. Maybe you don’t know that, but this ain’t the way it’s s’pposed to be. I’m s’pposed to be able to do my job without askin’ you if I can. And that dude is s’pposed to be able to wait with his car without you rippin’ him off. Everything’s s’pposed to be different than what it is here.”
Socks in the dryer. A stalled car in a menacing neighborhood. Relationships fractured by disagreement. Everything’s s’pposed to be different than what it is here.
Genesis 3 reveals the back story. A talking serpent tells a half-truth: “Eat the fruit of that tree God warned you to stay away from and you will know good and bad things He only knows.”
The temptation proves too great to resist, perhaps because the first humans possess no frame of reference for bad.
The blame game begins when God confronts them with a “why are you avoiding me” question later in the day.
“The woman you gave me as a companion,” said Adam. (The “you” hits me like a quick blow to the gut. Adam blames God for the mess he finds himself in, the first but not the last to lay responsibility at the feet of the Maker of heaven and earth.)
“The serpent seduced me,” protests Eve.
And what was, to that point unknown, becomes common to everyone’s experience in every generation. The socks metaphor, witnessed in a 1991 movie, and experienced in relationships fractured in spite of the best of intentions bears witness to the mess we find ourselves in.
G.K. Chesterton, when asked to contribute an essay to the London Times on the subject, “What is the problem with the universe?” answered “I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.”
Unlike the blunt honesty of Chesterton, we play hide and seek from the cold, incriminating facts of our own culpability. We do not readily cry with the apostle Paul, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me… What a miserable person I am. Who can rescue me from this body of death.” (Romans 7. 21,24 NIV)
God’s curse of the seductive serpent hints of the rescue longed for in Paul’s rhetorical question. “From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3.15 NLT)
Centuries later, the promise, Adam and Eve’s hope and Paul’s “thank God” answer converge in the one we know as Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7.25) But then as now, God swaddles his promise in the blanket of waiting, the paradox of “already but not yet.”
“There is one thing which gives radiance to everyone,” Chesterton wrote. “It is the idea of something around the corner.” Christians know the something as Someone. The promise to Adam and Eve. The “thanks be to God” exclamation of Paul. The already but not yet of the theologian.
Until then, we wait in hope.