I watched a small movie tonight about an orthodox jewish woman and a muslim woman who are elementary school teachers in New York, and who are both expecting to enter marriages arranged by their parents & community. In the movie, the two young women become friends and allies in a very fresh and unique way. Rather than being intrigued by the differences between my culture and theirs--I found myself taking a deep breath of relief as if someone was telling me something important about myself. I feel like telling you about how this movie got me thinking.
Firstly, this movie is a story about orthodoxy on the surface, but in the middle of that story you find out that it's really a story about individual faith. But that story, after you peel it open a little, becomes a story about uncertainty, and the uncertainty opens up to uncover a story about destined relationships. But that story of relational destiny is really just a story about miracles and about God bringing good things to the people who love Him and honor Him.
I'm watching this movie, seeing these layers peel away in the characters' lives and I'm noticing that these layers are like boxes within boxes or rooms leading to other rooms. I see that each of us approaches the miraculous through a series of rooms or boxes, one opening up into another. What is it that our generation thinks about orthodoxy? That's it's passe? That's it ignorance? That it's heretical?
It takes courage to live orthodox for any faith in a world that praises and rewards the indifferent and apathetic. Having the courage to live orthodox gives us the freedom to explore our faith without first passing it through cultural and psychological filters. This is what we do sanctifies us so that we're strong enough to ask ourselves if this is who we are.
The courage it takes to live out our faith, in purity and honesty before God, with faults, blemishes and shortcomings open not only to God, but to our own, searching eyes--makes it possible for us to encounter true uncertainty about the things that terrify and disturb us in our deepest cores. We enter into a clean, white room in our hearts where we can drag from the dark corners of the world everything black and grey and putrid smelling--and the white room closes in around us and pours water over those things for hours, sometimes days, sometimes years--until we understand them rightly, not as we first saw them, but as they truly are.
The uncertainty keeps our hearts open to hear from God--keeps us in a waiting, listening posture, as we search out how things truly are and how things truly should be. Each opportunity that arrives, like a messenger bird, carries on its legs the object lesson and answer from heaven. Or at least we think it might; we're looking to see if it does. Brushing by a stranger in a grocery store is destiny. God is intervening. Getting a letter from a brother in the mail is destiny. God is speaking. Feeling an urge to call a family member late at night is destiny. God is working. In subtlety and obscurity we're experiencing these sparks of destiny lighting our way down some eternal pathway.
The path is a miracle. The miracle isn't obtained, but lived. These rooms that enter into other rooms. This guided life: a miracle. Not just healing of the woman with an issue of blood or the cleansing of a leper. This life, these destined interactions, this hope trained by trusting: a miracle. The last door, to the outside world, armed with love and guidance. Filled with trust and patience. Guarded by orthodoxy. Inspired by faith.
It's not that I don't care about what we think of God or how our world-view defines us among our peers. It's more that I want us to ask ourselves how God would have us honor His presence in our lives, because I think He should have a say in this--I'm asking us to approach holiness as He has defined it and us, with open hearts and determined purpose. Not to receive a miracle, but to live the miraculous lives that are the mark of the people of God in every generation.
Suddenly I'm grateful for small things and receive them as miracles. Suddenly I'm asking God to lead me far away from temptation. Suddenly I hear myself saying, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, O Lord, that I might not sin against You," and thanking God for His Holy Spirit.
These are my thoughts for tonight, in total. Nothing more or less. Thanks be to God.