Growing up in Houston, with all its art museums and the sculpture gardens I experienced this on a regular basis. And what is fascinating is time and again, how different the piece looks when you see it from different sides. It’s still the same piece of art, still creative and wild t to look at, and yet, looking at it from one side or another, you come realize it is more than what you thought initially.
More and more do I find the same thing happening in my understanding of life, God, me, others and all that makes up this beautiful mess. Over the past few weeks there has been this sense that everything is coming down on me, that the amount of unknowns is starting to crack me –unknowns about money, calling, relationships, not to mention the bigger ones revolving around the universe, God, etc. What keeps showing up as I talk with God about it all are these two chapters in Daniel – 9 & 10. Part of it is his confession about the state of things, about the state of him, about the state of his nation. And then there is the response from God, and what is REALLY going on. As if Daniel is at his wits end with the way things are and his only recourse is honest, humble acknowledgement that he’s not sure how much more he can take…he gets a perspective check.
Then this Gabriel shows up to tell Daniel that his cheese hasn’t fallen off his cracker, that he is God’s delight, and that there are some big things coming down the line. Not too soon after this Daniel has second encounter with another Angel. (Both which cause him to fall in fear and wet himself. Which I merely point out is quite the contrary to how our cheesy-poof world likes to think of Angels – all soft and fuzzy and chubby, or some cute Irish lass with some grizzled black woman - see “Touched By An Angel”…then again, DON’T) This time around, Daniel gets insight into what’s been happening, why his prayers feel like they are falling on deaf ears. The reason? Well, this Angel was on his way to deliver the answer when he was stopped by this Prince of Persia (otherwise known as Angel of Darkness) who wanted to tussle saying “You ain ‘t coming through here to help that guy!” And thus ensued what seems to have been a three-week fight that only progressed b/c this Angel had to call in the big guns to come and kick some Prince of Persia ass. These are the words he said to Daniel: “Don’t be afraid…for from the very first day you gave your heart to understand and to humble yourself before God, your words were heard.”
Daniel must have, at some point, felt like his words had flown with the wind to nowhere. Turns out they were heard right off. Now I am not explaining all this to say some awfully over used cliché like God always hear our prayers and all that fluff. My point is that Daniel was part of something bigger than he could have imagined. Here is this guy who is living life in a way that is more alive than most – and actually looks harder by the way – and so logically (our poor logic that is) God should be more willing to answer him than some loser who isn’t living well.
Seems that isn’t how the universe works. Seems that our perspective on this artwork called life is a bit one sided. For Daniel it takes an Angel scaring the shit out of him to shift him to another view of how the piece of Art looks. God actually thinks more highly of me than I do. And all the chaos isn’t my fault or his failing…it’s part of the bigger picture that I too often am unwilling to consider.
Reading Buechner the other day on the birth of Jesus…a similar observation is made about our perspective. He makes note that when Jesus was born there are different versions of the story and really, only Matthew and Luke speak of Angels, and stars, and visions. Mark and John don’t even talk about it. Paul never talks about it. So what really happened? If we - as we are apt to do – only want the facts then there is a baby, a mother, and father, hay, animals, night like any other night – birth no more or less marvelous than any other. “But if that is the case, what do we do with the legends of the wise men and the star, the shepherds and the angels and the great hymn of joy that they sang? Do we dismiss them as fairy tales, the subject for pageants to sentimentalize over once a year come Christmas, the lovely dream that never came true? Only if we are fools do we do that…As for myself the longer I live, the more inclined I am to believe in miracle, the more I suspect that if we had been there, we might well have seen things that would be hard to reconcile with modern science.”
Perspective. We can chalk up Jesus’ birth to mere facts, and nothing more. We can chalk up struggles and doubts to mere facts that would leave some at the end of a rope. OR is there something more going on? Is my perspective the only one that tells the truth? Was Daniel high on crack, a schizo who heard voices and was out of his mind? Was he only adding color to the current geopolitical situation that was directly affecting his life? IS prayer nothing more than echoes on the wind to an empty space? OR was there a bigger war going on that Daniel played an integral part in? Is prayer something mysterious that God runs the gauntlet to let you know you are heard and are treasured?
“And again, as far as I know there is only one way to find out whether this is true, and that is to try it. Follow him and see. And if the going gets too tough, you can always back out. MAYBE you can always back out.” – Buechner.