Saturday, November 14, 2015

On the Journey with Monty Newton: “If the Rock’s Too Heavy…”

I tried something last month I’d like to do again periodically, and that is feature a column written by a friend or family member.  John Kiemele of Seattle area's Selah Center helped me kick it off in October. I’m going to now call this column On the Journey, and it will only happen as often as I can convince someone to share some writing on a nature theme with me! If you want to take a try at it, or if you have done something in the past you’d like to share with other like-minded seekers of God through nature, be in touch with me and let’s see what we can do.

Today I want to share something with you written by one of my longest-term and dearest friends, Pastor Monty Newton, soon to be retiring from Heritage Bible (Covenant) Church in Arvada, Colorado, one whose writing and preaching I’ve always enjoyed. Among the many things Monty and I have in common is our love for the reflection afforded by nature’s silence and solitude, and maybe even for a certain little cabin in the northwoods of Michigan where we have found such a gift. He wrote this several years ago for his church newsletter, and I thought you’d enjoy it. Be blessed with its message.

In August I drove thirteen hundred miles to a little lake located about fifteen miles northwest of Watersmeet, Michigan, which is about a hundred twenty-five miles east of Duluth, Minnesota. I have a friend who owns a cabin there and he has graciously allowed me to use it for study leaves and vacations.

My first visit, he sent me a little guide for using the cabin, which included how to get there, how to open up the cabin, unshutter the windows, turn on the gas and light the pilot, and where to find the panel to turn on the electricity and the pump for the well. He also warned me about ‘the rock.’

The rock was submerged in about five feet of water just off the end of the dock. Apparently when the previous owners built the dock they either did not know the rock was there or were unable to remove it, so… divers beware! When my brother-in-law and his son, and my son Corky came up for a weekend from the Twin Cities, I cautioned them about the rock before they went in. Naturally, everyone then had to dive in and check out this monstrous water hazard.

Corky was somehow able to get a hold under a corner and budged enough to discover that the rock seemed to be fairly flat on the bottom side. I am tempted to give you the blow-by-blow description of the ensuing battle between the man and the rock, but suffice it to say Corky refused to be defeated by it. In the end he was battered, bruised and scraped, but the rock now rests at the shoreline.

I thought of that rock this week when someone stopped by my study to chat. It was not an easy discussion… Some questions are not all that readily answered, and we both felt a bit frustrated by the fact that the mystery was still a mystery. That’s when she said something to the effect, “Maybe it’s like what Pat says her mother used to say when she didn’t understand something – ‘If the rock’s too heavy, let it lay.’” If the rock is too heavy, don’t pick it up. I think that is one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard.

There are things that mystify me. In that I am cynical enough and curious enough, I generally rather enjoy poking around in ideas, concepts, questions and issues that I cannot quite get my mind wrapped around. As an amateur theologian I am intrigued when I hear someone suggest things like the Holocaust was the judgment of God against the Jewish people, or that the terrorist attacks in 2001 were God’s judgment against the moral and social sins of the United States. How did, does or will God deal with the issue of sin and judgment?

Or how about questions regarding the sovereignty of God in predestination, foreknowledge and election, and the free will of man? Does God decide who goes to heaven and who does not? Do we have any say in the matter? Or how about, if we all, i.e., Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. pray to the same God, how can we say that Jesus is the only way to heaven? How could God let anyone suffer and how could a loving God let anyone go to an eternal hell? Why are children born with birth defects? Why is it that all are created equal but not all are equal? When we die, do we go straight to heaven? What is heaven anyway? Where is it? How about hell?

The questioner in Job 11:7 asked, "Can you solve the mysteries of God?" The prophet Isaiah in 45:15 says, "The Lord works in strange and mysterious ways.” And God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9, “My thoughts are completely different from yours and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

So it is… Sometimes we can wrestle with the rock until we finally get it to shoreline. But sometimes we just have to let it lay.

Thank you, friend Monty.

~~ RGM, November 13, 2015

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