Decades ago I read the memoir of Sir Edmund Hillary. He described an interlude in his adventuring during which he went home to New Zealand. What chased him back to adventure was waking up one morning “hungover” – not just from alcohol but from rich food and assorted “good things of life.”
A friend and I were looking into Revelation 10 yesterday, during which John describes the vision of an angel holding out a scroll which the Apostle is told to “eat,”
And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. (v. 10)
The sweetness evokes the way that believers hear God’s word. We receive the good news and it brings us joy, inspiration, comfort and all kinds of other sweetness.
But once ingested, God’s word can turn bitter. It energizes us to pick up a cross and share in the sufferings of Christ.
Like the Prophet Ezekiel, who also received a scroll to “eat” (Ezekiel 2-3), John faces the bitterness of delivering the word to those who reject, ignore and detest it:
But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. (Ezekiel 3:7)
And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (Rev. 10:11)
What this set off in me was recognition and confession that I’m like many and probably most people who, if we think of God at all, expect the Creator to keep our experience of the creation pleasurable. I don’t want all the “adventure,” I want Hillary’s hangover from good stuff.
Yesterday the Northern Plains caught some turbulent weather. We had a four hour power outage at our place, and I caught myself getting crabby and fidgety. Couldn’t watch this, couldn’t run that, holiday food would have to wait, worst of all I had to wait.
The day before had been worse. My workplace isn’t much fun. Management is crowing about all kinds of great contraptions acquired and wondrous works to achieve, while our department remains understaffed and saddled with aging equipment prone to breakdown. As I slogged through a twelve hour shift, my inner workings of mind and emotion were in worse shape than our department’s decrepit machinery.
Oh, there’s more about which I want to whine, but I’ll stop. Enough to say that I’m seeing myself as another addict to the comforts and pleasures of life. I want peak experiences all lined up so I can hop from one to the next. If things are uncomfortable and unpleasant, then God is falling down on the job. Anglicanism, which values aesthetics, reason and order, is especially prone to this errant, cross-divorced thinking.
I could plop an uplifting quote here to redeem the other paragraphs, but that’s not being honest to where I am today. Pray for me, a sinner.