Hope in Hard Places
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Hope in Hard Places

On Christianity in the secular classroom

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Hope in Hard Places

Day after day of sitting in classrooms of cynicism and sadness will grind a soul down. Such scenes try their hand at scraping Christian imagination and hope to the bone.

They yell for a turn to break this bronco, still living, to break my heart.

They're making bets on staining the name of my Savior.

Oh, that He would save them, asking for their forgiveness, those who bet on His garments, betting He won't come back.

The enlightened students sit, chained, and the professors breathe without hope of joy. I read their papers, the papers of "young America."

Young and dying.

Young and ill.

But they rather watch Netflix on their gravestones

Than admit the need for the Great Physician.

Pictures of greasy monkeys come up on the screen.

The man at the front talks in wonder about 'our family tree,'

And a girl behind me whispers, "That ain't Adam and Eve."

The eeking, creaking progression of dirt to humans

Minus God's hand

Is spoken about in hushed tones.

Explanations about a series of mutations and mistakes

Bring us to worship at the feet of Darwin.

A loud noise seems to drown out all praise for the great Artist of the painting at which we peer.

We direct all applause to a dust bunny on the floor beneath the artwork.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day." - Genesis 1: 1-4

I listen to their unbelieving speeches, their poems, their stories. They sit beside me, looking at the same board. Sometimes we laugh at each other's jokes. I love some of them and try to love the others, sometimes. I see in them great beauty as well as great darkness. There's no denying, they are sculpted with a signature I recognize, created for something more than anonymity on a back shelf. And I cringe, and I weep, and I think how uncomfortable and inconvenient for me it would be to mention Hope. This has been happening for a few years now.

All the words shout the story of themselves, of hate for various things, and how fairytales are only for babies. They say happy endings only belong on the Hallmark channel. Two guys called my story about love "preachy." Preaching is chill only if it's not from the Bible.

They preach, preach, preach from the pulpits of desks that goodness: it's a dusty myth.

They laugh at Jesus. Boys and girls, now men and women, I guess (they don't believe that their gender is a good thing, or even real) - eternal beings - spit out his name when they drop a book, or get a certain look. The Name above all names is not even a name to them, the One who shaped them in their mother's womb.

"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." - from Psalm 139

The secular English degree is a circus that costs plenty of money, but it doesn't include cotton candy. Instead of walking past elephants, I'm walking through a cemetery, graves marked "headed for destruction."

This farse of a show is a Satanic card trick. We are stuck watching demons make dollars off the deceived. No, not dollars. Years.

Sometimes I want to throw up because of the fumes of hell in the rooms. I joke about dropping out, and on bad days, I cry on my commute home.

It'll make you wonder if you haven't hallucinated salvation and the hand of Jesus in your life. Maybe you have gone mad from the despair and dreamed the whole thing up.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" - 1 Peter 1:3

America, I weep for you. Auburn University, you haunt me. I have watched lost ghosts look at the light, emerging from the churches of their youth. They stare hard at the sun, call it fake, and walk down to the dungeon, Satan whispering on their shoulders, to shackle themselves in the dungeon of self-idolatry.

To those who read this and personally know the Son of God, I pray that you are not blinding yourself to suffering, and I know some are not and are pursuing the Lord at high cost.

But I know that for many, and for myself, the question must be asked: where are our hearts? Our hearts to seek and save the lost.. to follow Jesus in humble action as fishers of men?

Lord, "smite these rocks," that we might weep!

Who do we say Jesus is?

During the school year, life can feel more like it's taking place in a dank and evil cave deep in a pit of pain. Like I'm living in Mordor, and not on a marvelous globe of beauty spinning through a God-shaped galaxy.

Everybody's telling themselves a story. We are all watching them and reading and writing them.. The stories we consume and believe define our lives. God's story is the true story. The Word is the truest word. If we lose sight of the true story, we'll starve on scraps, lost in a maze of false trails. We must cling to the Bible with our very lives! We will lose our souls in this world if we lose sight of the Light, but with His Word, we can journey into many dark places with hope... like Frodo and Sam.

I've droned out of picture of great darkness about school and such, but in this great darkness,

The burning morning star that is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has never beamed more golden and good.

Faith becomes real in the wrestling, in the crying commutes, in the cynical and spiritually dark classrooms.

Christ never looked more beautiful than when I have seen Him, rising as the dawn to chase the blackest night with light, showing Himself a very present help in trouble.

You realize, at a secular university (and other places), that you are utterly helpless to save anyone.

But He isn't. And He often using the meek and the weak and the silliest, smallest things to shake out a sinning soul. And we humans - we think on short terms, but the Shepherd is playing the long game with His sheep.

There is that quote, "While there is breath, there is hope."

There is hope for every unbeliever, which is so easy for us to "un-believe," though we believers were once unbelieving.

God delves for bright jewels in deep mines. Many once buried in the pit of cynicism and despair will feast at the table in the great hall of heaven.

So glorious and good is He that He delights in crafting heart-bursting beauty from the hardest, most hopeless rocks. He often chooses those we would turn away as lost cause and bad case.

"Brothers, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast in His presence. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." - from 1 Corinthians 1

My friend and headmaster, John Geiger, died of a disease called ALS less than a month ago, holding hope and speaking of joy in Christ, the great Light of life, all the way up until he went Home. In something I wrote about him, I said that he "saw me and cared to know me when few did." Mr. Geiger is one of my biggest heroes because He really sought to love people like Jesus, with a grace and perseverance that is foolish in the eyes of the world, that is foolish in the eyes of many Christians. If we are the body of Christ, we are called to labor on in love as long as we live, to love the most hopeless and hurting, hurtful people. And that's hard for me to swallow. It hurts to love. It hurts to love the lost. It will cost to speak the name of Jesus to those who spit on it. But God tells us, and I've seen that there.. there in deepest sorrow comes great blessing and great joy. There is a certain rejoicing that comes most brilliantly as you sit alone in desert sands, exiled from all hopes but the Living Hope. We must bare our hearts to the bullet if we wish to look on greatest beauty. In a culture that bows to self, we must seek the Savior's help to save us from that idolatry, to be self-forgetful in our bliss over the joy of Jesus.

Christ is you and me to something more than the dull comforts we happily pursue on a daily basis. He wants to burden our hearts for the nations and our neighbors, to call us into His sowing work, and to help harvest thunderous joy in many hearts now stone cold. And what thunderous joy, that He will do the work..! In our stumbling and deep wells of discouragement, He is going to provide a way through. His steadfast love will carry us through to the end. We are to trust and obey and repent and to live in His grace and love. We have been saved not so that we may only bask in the light of the sun, but so that we may capture that light in lanterns and journey back down into the deep mines from whence we came, to weep and fight and love .. to offer ourselves up and pray that somehow, by His power, by His strength in weakness, the eyes of the blind and groping will open to see that there are some nearby holding warm lanterns, that light does exist, and His name is Jesus. We must shout that there is a sun, like Puddleglum in "The Silver Chair." Even when we can't see that sun from the mine and all seems foolishness, that "foolishness of God" will save those who believe, and that's worth betting on.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." - from 2 Corinthians 4

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