When I first came here, I was drugged into a stupor by idealism. Everything was shiny and new. Everything was good and unaffected. The sugarplums dancing in my head were shaped like community involvement, change in Southside, spiritual growth and connectedness. Life was good. I was happy. Now, after having been here for three years and change, the finish is worn off. I see the unadulterated dysfunction of the people around me. I see community fail. I feel alone and far from home. I see the lie of Us-Them mentality in its festered fruition and I am sad. I am discouraged. I feel withered and small. As it turns out, strip off the pretty and they are all just as sinful as me.
The death of illusion is painful and ugly. I don't want to endure it. I want to escape to dream my dreams somewhere else. I want to go home. I want to find something more than depravity wrong with this place and escape like Peter Rabbit under McGregor's fence. But what are these illusions but idols? What is this reliance on men and women but a fetter from which to be freed? Christ, in His mercy, will have our illusions stripped, our idols burned and our faith in other folk obliterated. We are like full-grown babies sleeping comfortably in the dark under warm blankets only to have the lights turned on and the blankets snatched away. "Wake up, Sinner, and Christ will shine on you." And it hurts.
At this moment, when Christ would lead me to a new level of trusting Him and leaning not on anything else, my old Evil Friend, Cynicism, creeps up and seeks to devour. "Everything is tainted," he says. "Everything is a lie and you are the ultimate mark." For me, the Old Fool, it's easy to be angry with myself for ever being dumb enough to hope so much. It is tempting to give in to his lie. After all, isn't this Cynicism protection against the pain? Yes, perhaps, but more than that Cynicism would keep me from the victory of the mortification of my flesh. And that is, painful as it is, our greatest good.
Oh, how my hopes have been abused! But I have always been comforted by the truth that in Christ is no disappointment, no darkness, no hoping for what will never be. I've been let down more than most, but never, never by my Jesus. A small spark of Hope ignites the darkness. A small flame of joy illuminates my path. Hope has come in the night to whirl me around with my eyes closed. Hope has come in Christ's skin to remind me who the hero really is. My mind's eye is borne up to the rare air of heaven and I see the seminary degrees, the struggle for power, the divisiveness of here, burn in the pure flame of a holy word from a Holy God.
Oh man, I have no faith in you. Oh Cynicism, I know you speak a lie. Oh Jesus, it is you who will not disappoint. Amen and come, Lord Jesus, to strip the comforts that would keep me from you.