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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Spacious Seas vs Tumultuous Ones

As time goes on, have you seen improvement in the way you handle storms? What difference does your faith in Christ make? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1399).

Storms never put my behavior in the best light. I live in St. Petersburg Florida and every year we have a hurricane season. I would only be kidding myself if I pretended to think that if a storm directly hit my city, I would be tranquilly sitting in the back room studying the sermon on the Mount completely devoid of fear, anxiety, and guilt that I could have and should have done more in preparation. When my wife was deathly ill, I prayed – but without much comfort. I was on a continual emotional roller coaster from one day to the next as her prognosis fluctuated from optimistic to dire. And I can readily anticipate my state of mind if I should find myself in the dark within a remote secluded area miles from any city stranded among high weeds on the side of the road with a flat tire. No, I am definitely not the man for all seasons.

The sobering thing to consider is that I have not really changed that much in my ability to handle storms with equanimity. Rather than standing tall like John Wayne, I look like that crazy, neurotic cat whose fur is always sticking out on end in a state of berserk terror. They say desperate times make everyone religious. Not so me. For me spiritual uplift requires a degree of space. It does not come easy in times of strife and turmoil. Take any of Jesus' parables—for example the Good Samaritan. I am a good Samaritan mostly where there is a degree of—for lack of a better word—abundance. If I am in the middle of a financial crisis, that is not the best time for me to assume and address the welfare of my neighbor. Actually, in the parable, the good Samaritan seems to have a fair amount of personal resources.

Now some might counter that it's entirely possible to be generous in spirit if not in resources. I think of the story of the lad who aggravated the busy waitress with his meager resources—delaying a bit sorting though his change then ordering the cheapest thing. When the boy left, the waitress realized he bought the cheapest thing so he would have enough money left over to leave her a tip. Personally, I leave bigger tips the more affluent I feel—liberated, as it were, by an enabling credit card. It is much easier for me to add $8 to the bill as a tip rather than laying down green currency. Again, I think generally speaking a sense of affluence fosters good Samaritans whereas scarcity elicits parsimony. In this sense, rather than religion being the opiate of the masses, it is the context by which the affluent exercise generosity.

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