What is it That We Fight For?
How do you read the bible? As literature? As story? As a lesson book? For me, sometimes I read the bible as war–as struggle?
What do I mean?
It seems that most of our lives are filled with the constant battle to make sense of our lives, how we fit into this world, into the vast expanse of time and space and at the same moment, how we occupy our few short years upon this planet. We wrestle deeply with meaning and purpose. And it seems that there’s a few years where we are most impressionable: our youth and our aged years.
Why youth? In our youth, we wonder, and we have ideals, and we are not yet occupied with the busyness of life. So we stop to pause and wonder–is this all there is? Is there something more? (Let me say in passing that the more we stop this pondering of youth the more we stunt greatness and the meaningful search.)
Why the aged years? It’s in our latter years that we finally stop to pause and look back, and we ask ourselves the question: was it worth it? Did it matter? Did it all add up? Did my life make a difference? Is there anyone who loves me? Did I love anyone? These are the questions of life’s tapestry woven together, finely, intricately, delicately.
Unfortunately the years between youth and the aged are marked by years of tyranny–the urgent crowds out the meaningful. We race hither and there. The pace creates the deafening storm. It is all we can do the hear our next steps let alone the search for beauty, meaning and truth.
And in the pace of the storm, we sometimes pop our head out of the foxhole and ask ourselves the questions that matter–if only for a few seconds. And that’s where I read the bible.
Witness: “Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth or every your formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90.1)
Here the writer of Psalm 90 is searching for something stable in the midst of the shifting sands. He’s looking for a dwelling place–something with foundations, something permanent. And the writer makes the recognition that mankind is not permanent — only God the Lord.
Witness again: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90.17)
The writer asks for favor of the Lord. Why? The Psalmist recognizes that a life outside of the Lord is one of trouble, conflict and despair. Only the Lord brings light to life. Amidst the uncertainty of the world, and the uncertainty of our work, our very human writer asks that God “establish the work of our hands.”
Establish? It’s very definition tells us the struggle of the writer. Establish means to “set up on a permanent basis.” In all of our lives, we search, we comb through mountains of life just to find something solid–something we can grab onto and point our lives toward.
That appeal by nature is an appeal of the soul, and hence the anguished cry of the Psalmist who recognizes there is nothing permanent in this world except the Lord and what he establishes in and through our lives.
There is more here. There is more to wrestle with, but let me encourage you to read the bible as struggle–the struggle of the finite for the infinite.