On the way to school this morning, Isaac declared with the certainty of an eight year old, “I need insurance, Dad.” “Don’t we all,” I remarked and followed with, ” but why wouldyou need insurance?” He thought he could use a bit of coverage for his bicycle, he said, because what if he were to run over one of his brothers, or slam into the side of a parked car, or what if his bike were stolen by robbers in black masks? What if the bike rusted through, or the chain broke, or the breaks up-and-quit working?
“Good points, son,” I assured him before explaining that there was health insurance for his brothers, home-owners insurance for the robbers, and for everything else, there’s the umbrella. “Oh, good,” he said, and then followed with, “you’re just trying to keep from worrying, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I confessed. “And that’s the precise reason for insurance,” I said as he hopped from the car. But as I pulled from the drop-off line, the conversation lingered–I need insurance; don’t we all.
Last night I sat on the front porch with a friend, a couple of guitars, a couple of drinks, and a load full of tertiary pleasantries. After the obligatory small talk and a bit of a strumming, my friend confessed, “I know that ‘for God so loved the world,’ and all, but what if he doesn’t like me?” Sure, he knew right answers, could hang his hat on his intellectual understanding of the Word–sola scriptura! There’s sovereignty, and depravity, and election, of course. “But what about me?” he asked.
“If God likes me even a little, couldn’t he keep me from sinning? And if God doesn’t keep me from sinning, then how can I be sure that I’m elect? How can I be sure that I’m not the bearer of God’s wrath like Esau, or that God hasn’t hardened my heart like Pharoah?” he said. These are our mental gymnastics, the inner-workings of the neo-reformists. These exercises keep us awake at night, elevate our heart rates beyond the resting norm, give us lucid dreams of dangling precariously from the hands of a capricious superintendent. Yes, we too cherry-pick verses; but secretly, and in an moment of terrifying honesty, we might confess that we sometimes fear the scriptures of our reformed faith.
What if you’re not chosen for the spectacular life? What if you were not predestined for grand works, or even gainful employment? What if your marriage crumbles, or your beloved son dies? What if you can’t lick sin? What if things don’t just kind of work out? Then what? What does it mean about God, about you? What does it mean about insurance, or assurance, or some other non-assonative theological principal?
These are real questions, from real friends, and over the years, I’ve heard them gurgling to the surface of their reformed melt-downs. Melt-downs to which I’m also prone. And really, there are no good answers for the questions, except maybe to pray a little more recklessly, offer the occasional apology, and perhaps wrap a bit of Brennan Manning in some festive paper and slide it across the table to the road-weary five-pointer (and as my friend John Ray says, "add in a strong dose of Nouwen for the vitamins.").
Yes, sometimes I think we all just need a little more insurance, a little more comfort in the covering. I’m certain that we need a little more peace and a much larger measure of joy. But the truth is, we don’t do peace well. We never really have. And joy? Sometimes we relegate that stuff to the coming morning.
These are the confessions of a recovering neo-reformist.
Photo by paukrus, via Creative Commons.