Monday, October 3, 2011

Singing of Glory

It was the first blustery cold day of the season as Asherel and I headed off to the Civil War. If you get the chance to see the play, Civil War, I highly recommend it.  I don't know how anyone imagined they could pull off a play about so serious and sad a subject as the Civil War with nearly every line sung. It is a musical. Somehow musicals bring to mind subjects like Mary Poppins; not horrific subjects like slavery or the carnage of war. But it worked.  It was very sad, very moving, and while Asherel didn't learn any facts of the war she didn't already know, she perhaps experienced just a touch of the despair of those times.

I came home and was exhausted. I went to bed early. I was mourning for our country. For what we had done to Africans in enslaving them; for what we had done to each other in fighting the Civil War. And as a people, we had been able to justify all of it. Honestly, I don't know how God manages to hold His hand from wiping us all out once and for all, despite promises to Noah. Individually and collectively,  we have a lot to answer for. Before going to bed, I saw a picture from a friend on Facebook. It was of a tiny baby, oxygen and feeding tubes coming from his little form. He was covered with ant bites. The baby had been rescued from a dumpster.Depression was crouching at my door.

I cycle continually through the Bible. I am now back to the Old Testament, and just finished working my way through Leviticus. This is not the easiest book to read word by word. It is filled with laws, some very nit picky and tedious and some that no matter how I try, I cannot relate to my life (thou wilt not have sex with an animal). Oh really? Good thing there is a law against that! And the reward for slogging through Leviticus is you get to read Numbers. Numbers is filled with, yes, numbers. Numbers of all the tribes of Israel, of all the subsets of the tribes, and of all the animals, bowls, and cooking utensils of the tribes. I would have to say that Numbers is the dryest book of the Bible. But if I manage to faithfully stick with it, invariably I come across some buried nugget that makes the traumas of the day recede a little from the forefront of my mind.

In Numbers 14, The Israelites have just sent Caleb and Joshua along with ten other spies out to explore the Promised Land, which they are just on the verge of reaching. The ten other spies return to tell their people that the land is inhabited by giants, and they can never hope to enter the land God promised them. "We will all die in the wilderness," they moaned. Caleb and Joshua believed God, believed in the promises of God and told the people, "We can do this! Remember who fights with us!" But the pessimists won, and then comes the part that struck me. God tells them, (paraphrase) "Fine. You don't wish to follow my commands.I guess a few miracles like the sea opening up to swallow your enemies, or water from a rock, or manna from heaven, are just not enough proof that I am able. You think I have brought you out here to die in the wilderness. I will give you exactly what you claim I am doing to you.  I won't let you enter the land. You will die in the wilderness. I will let your kids in, because it's not their fault they are saddled with parents like you, and of course Joshua and Caleb, who believed and trusted in me, but you will die exactly the way you thought you would."

And so they wander forty years in the desert on a trip that normally would have taken a week.We are told none of those doubters entered the Promised Land. I hate to admit it, but I can relate to those grumbling, disillusioned, frightened, pessimistic Israelites. God reveals Himself time and time again to me, in miracles that I  have even written down (It will be my second book....), and yet, I continue to sink into despair when life doesn't seem to go the way I think it should. I find doubt and dismay a little too easy to fall back on. But God makes it very clear in the otherwise rather drab book of Numbers- God is not pleased with Pessimism.

The Civil War play ended with the whole cast singing about Glory. It was not the glory of victory, because the victory of the war brought about the reality of brothers having killed brothers, and a nation unified by law, but divided in spirit. It was the glory of a horrendous wrong made right, of a God-given right being restored- liberty to all.  It was the glory of optimism, of survival, of trusting in God when the whole world seemed to be bent only on evil.
"Did you learn anything new?" asked Asherel as we drove home.
"It is not so much that I learned anything," I said, "I think the point was to experience the horror of it."
But not to wallow in it, because after repentance and immense suffering, they sang of Glory.

Numbers 14:
28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Psalm 106:46-48

46 He caused all who held them captive
   to show them mercy.
 47 Save us, LORD our God,
   and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
   and glory in your praise.

1 comment:

  1. Vicky,
    Sorry to disagree with you, but "WE" (the eventual United States of Amereica, and its precedents) did NOT 'enslave' Africans. We had no soldiers nor outposts in Africa. Even the most famous 'slave' ship in our literature, loaded with slaves, carried only 6 americans aboard who sailed and manned the ship. The vast majorioty of Africans were enslaved and sold by their tribal chiefs, or captured in African wars and held in Portugese or Spanish (I doubt English) prisons in Africa awaiting sale to countries for 'pick-up'. Check this out. . . . DAD