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Catechism Project #27-30 {+}

Decades ago during the height of Protestant Evangelicalism’s para-church campus ministry there was no shortage of books and tracts tapping into the need for simple, formulaic modes for young people to meet Jesus, draw close to God and to keep Christian kids Christian. There was a lot of good in all of that because the goal was to address man’s essential and innate need for God as well as various ways of coming to know him.

One of the biggest campus ministries overflowed into mainstream Evangelicalism via the Navigators who developed their own publishing company, NavPress. One of the big sellers I recall was a series of devotional Bible study guides called Appointment With God. I couldn’t know then just how much of that method of study came out of classic, historic Catholic catechises. Think of modes such as Ignatian Spirituality or Lectio Divina and you’re on the right track. Hindsight continues to show me the stellar grace of God at work in my life drawing me home to the Catholic Church well ahead of my being aware of such a pull.

Author and theologian and culturist Philip Yancy was a huge force in that particular movement. At one time being a devout Christian seemed as easy as following the right and simple steps. Keep your Appointment With God and your Christian life couldn’t help but be a bowl of cheeries, a wrist band synthase — WWJD (What would Jesus do) and FROG (fully rely on God) — of perfection in this life and heaven when your done.

But then life hit Yancy hard, when churchianity hit him really hard and God went AWOL (no wrist band for that) Yancy played a pun on his own work authoring a book called Disappointment with Godin which he wore his Evangelical heart on his sleeve. It was a breath of fresh air though there were those who wanted to ban such an honest statement.

There are many cares of this life that can cause the gospel seed in us to fail to take root. The CCCaddresses of a number of them early on. When I read the list I thought Yancey’s book and of my own disappointment with God and was reminded that it is another seed crushing care of the world.

When I think God owes me something, when I perceive him as silent, or silent for way too long or indeed AWOL and when life just keeps throwing the whole crap-load at me, a ruthless inertia takes hold and if I succumb to it it kills. When that happens truths such as “I can do all things  through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” and “we are more than overcomers” sound exactly like clanging cymbals and a brick heaven.

When I say those things above I am not speaking rhetorically, I’ve lived it. I’d like to say otherwise but that would not be wise.

It has seemed odd to me, when I’ve been armpit thick in disappointment, that God didn’t show up quick. Why did he let me languish? Why, when the Psalms are full of rescue, was I left on my own?

If there’s one thing to say in favour of God’s providential tendency to go AWOL it’s that he doesn’t but he allows us to think it’s him who did the leaving when really its been us gone adrift. The truth is the Psalms also speak of that even to the point of the psalmist blaming God, “why do you make me go astray.” The Bible is honest. The Church is honest. It’s hard. Christianity isn’t a formula. God both cuts us some slack and lends us a rope until we can no longer deny the truth succinctly put by St. Augustine when he said that the human heart is restless until it rests in God.

The CCC recounts those words and also says of our desire for God,

God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.


For the Catechism Project, this is your Artist + Illustrator + Occasional Catechist, owenswain of owenswain.com/blawg & Cross-posted here.

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