Last night, I was sitting at one end of our kitchen table reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s Bread of Angels. Charlotte was at the other end of the table working with papers for her new first grade class. (For a number of years, she taught reading, but she is now back in a regular classroom teaching first grade.)
I read an interesting chapter entitled "I’m Sorry, I Don’t Dance." The chapter was based on the story of Daniel and his three friends who found themselves in Babylon dealing with the king during a difficult time for Israel.
Nebuchadnezzar said to them: "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?" (Daniel 3:14-15)
After reading that Scripture, I wondered if Daniel and these three friends ever thought about how much simpler things had been back in their homeland. Now, life is so complicated.
There are so many things that I do not understand about life.
- I do not understand why time seems to pass so quickly (unless you have a small baby who is crying through the night!). Why does it seem like I just graduated from high school? How could my own children’s high school years pass so quickly?
- I do not understand death. It can be so jarring. One day a person is here and then that person is gone. Yes, sometimes death is gradual but so often it seems to happen with a jarring thud.
- I do not understand motives. I love God and yet in my more honest moments, I have to admit that my motives can be mixed. If an autopsy were done on my heart, I wonder what might be revealed.
- I do not understand the love of God. How incredible! Unbelievable and yet I do believe that he is far more loving and forgiving than so many of us give him credit for.
- I do not understand sin. I do not understand how I can continue to grow in my walk with God and yet in a fraction of a second a very disgusting temptation passes through my brain. Yes, I know that all of us are tempted. I’m just telling you that I don’t understand it.
The good news? I know that in spite of what I do not understand or comprehend that I am loved and cherished by God — right now.
Meanwhile, we live in a world that can seem very complex and trying. Yet, you may remember that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were committed to obey God no matter what. Nebuchadnezzar gave them a chance to change their minds, yet they knew who they were and what they were to be about. That has a way of bringing clarity to life.
It was that simple, and as far as I am concerned the high point of the story was right then, when all three of them said, "We will not." Everything that happened after that was extra. The moment of sparkling clarity was the moment when three stubborn human beings declared what — for the love of God — they would not do. Period.
Now that does have a way of bringing "sparkling clarity" to life doesn’t it? I suspect that it is easier to live with some mystery and some unanswered questions if there is such clarity to what matters most.
Has there been a moment in your life in which such "sparkling clarity" seemed to happen?