by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca), Kingston, Ontario, October 2006
My friend, Michael Mence, has a tough assignment setting up communications in a remote area of Africa. We correspond daily by e-mail. I asked him about the tent he is living in. One of the critters who shares with him is a beetle. It climbs again and again laboriously up to the top of the tent, and then falls to the floor. Often it lands on its back, and after a struggle to right himself it climbs slowly back up again. I wondered what the theological meaning might be. And this is what Michael offered:
"Maybe we are the falling beatles. We climb towards god,
then we get scared
or tired and fall down landing on our backs and it hurts - but eventually we
get ourselves turned onto our bellies and get going again. Driven by the
spirit of god in us to find our Father, so off we climb again."
I wondered why he did not put he word god in capital letters. In the next e-mail he said the slip was accidental, but it seems there is an important truth in it. Maybe what we climb towards is not God at all. As Paul explained, "Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven (that is, to bring Christ down) or who will descend into the abyss (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead), but what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ that is the word of faith that we proclaim" (Romans 10:6-8). God is as close to us as the words we speak.
Some imagine knowing God must be a very difficult
undertaking. People love to make faith a matter of struggle.
Like the beetle they fall flat on their back and then try
the upward journey again.
Jesus did say "search, and you will find (Matthew 7:7), but the search ends as soon as we turn in faith to the Son of God.
So the climbing beetle warns us against the preachers and writers who love to explain how hard it is to become a Christian. What is hard about faith is its simplicity. We have to accept the love of God like a little child accepts the love of his mother. It is also true that having tasted and enjoyed the love of God, we may want to express our love and gratitude, as Paul did, in costly service. But that is never the way in.