This past weekend my wife and I journeyed with a group of friends to a cabin in New Hampshire for the purpose of a working retreat. The cabin is situated on the grounds of an Evangelical Bible camp, well off the beaten path of modern suburbia and progress; in many ways it seems to be a relic of recent ages past.
We took a study break and went trekking through several feet of snow, remarking that our snowshoes might have been a useful addition to the packing list. We shuffled past rows of cabins each named and decorated on the outside. Though it looks as though each of them could hold 20-30 campers they sit abandoned and dejected beneath overgrown pine trees. The windows are smashed and some of the doors sit half open. A sign attached to one of them reads, “Carrying our youth into the future of faith”. As I am looking at it I can’t help but notice one of the hinges holding it up appears to be ready to give out, leaving it dangling from only one support. The irony would be emancipating.
It’s depressing in a sense; you never think of your Faith as fleeting until you see an abandoned and dejected temple or monument to its existence. And there’s not even a plaque to commemorate it.
I have trouble reading my Bible on a daily basis; I am told the author is a jealous God but when I do have a spare moment in my day Jonathan Steinbeck and Internet headlines are likewise gluttons for attention and tend to have more immediate appeal. Still I keep a printout tucked inside the front cover of the holy text. It outlines a plan for reading through it in a year; I’m currently three months behind.
When I do read it, I read in silence. I try to focus. I try. I do. But though my eyes absorb the words, although brainwaves connect and spark to communicate the knowledge that is sifting through my pupils, the shirt I chose to wear that day is a little bit itchy, and I’m suddenly aware that it’s not ironed and I’m going to be heading to class and work in it. This makes me self-conscious because I work with a lot of people much older than me who seem to have mastered the art of ironing and adult-self care. And I want to make a good impression. But that’s just my pride, of course.
Furthermore, I cannot help but wonder what I will make for dinner, as tonight it is my turn. Or is it? Yes, yes I think it is. Perhaps I will make lasagna. And should I audit my second theology class this semester? It would make life easier, less hectic and more focused. I should probably try to run today; I’m feeling a little sluggish lately and have fallen out of my workout routine. Speaking of which, where are my running shoes? Are they in the coat closet, or under my bed?
Oh, and that’s it. I finished my reading. I’m done.
Sincerity never got anyone into heaven but if it did St. Peter would have to call his manager when I hand him my file. “Well, he looks like he cares…but we have these occurrences of apathy popping up here, here and here…”. My record is littered with sparks of sincerity, like a child who began building a dog house to prove to his parents he’ll one day take care of it’s inhabitant. The motive is there. It’s just teetering a bit and sometimes I lose interest. But I care.
I remove my wrinkled reading plan from its home beneath the cover and check a box. Faith without works, without maintenance, is dead. So I’m told; this I believe.
When I walk around the abandoned Bible camp, I think part of me is looking for justification. I want to know that I have an excuse for not reading my Bible daily, for being distracted when I do. I want to know that things fall apart and its not necessarily someone’s fault and probably isn’t mine.
But I don’t find it and unattended monuments dangle around my heart like the camp sign in front of my eyes. This is the way of faith, forgiveness and grace and I suppose I must find myself within that. This is the way of hope, hope for renewal for resurrection of an apathetic soul who cares too little to dig himself out of his own grave. Do you know how much energy it took to get down here?
And from among the pine trees and decaying camp and world surrounding me comes the answer: “I don’t. But I know what it took to get out”. And so I know that someday I will.