December 1st, 2021

in the soup

Help thou my unbelief

The distraught father brought his afflicted son to Jesus. The young man could not speak, and would often try to hurt himself. The father told Jesus, “if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus replied “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” The father, having done all that he could and just wanting help, replied miserably, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22b-23)
We are living through a time of unbelief. I am living through a personal time of unbelief. Unbelief doesn’t mean disbelief, nor does it imply unfaithfulness. It means slogging on toward an end you think is really there, but which you doubt you will reach. The victory must surely come, but I may not see it. That sort of thing.

I have spent my life in the ministry of The United Methodist Church, which is on the point of dismemberment. The separation we all desire has been delayed by the pandemic. Meanwhile, the outrages continue. I never wanted to leave, but I recognize that I must leave. So I just want to get this awful time over with and get on to something else. I don’t want to give up, but I am trapped in a nightmare, of sitting up with a body with no funeral in sight. We are perpetually mourning, and I am exhausted with trying to be a faithful Christian and a faithful elder of the Church.

Speaking of the pandemic, we are all tired of putting up with that. And even more than the disease, I am tired of putting up with the authorities and their feckless (and hypocritical) directives. It’s long past time to get back to normal and learn to live with covid-19, including its variants. We do it with the flu, we can do it with this. But so long as people are worked up about the virus – and the government keeps everybody stirred up about it – we have the inconveniences of masking/not masking, of vaccination regimes, of supply-chain issues, of travel restrictions. I say, Enough, but I don’t get to make that call for everybody else. So we trudge on, trying to ignore the little tyrants all around us.

Speaking of which, can I say that ten months of Joe Biden is ten months too much of Joe Biden? And beyond him, of his accursed cohorts who are determined to wreck the country? Half of them want to pillage the village and spend us into oblivion, and the other half want to extort from us enthusiastic praise for the emperor’s new clothes. Meanwhile, the very real dangers that face us care nothing for redistributive or freakshow politics. But we’ve got a long way to go. Another year before the Congress might be taken out of Democratic control, another three years to get rid of this awful administration; all the while hoping that enough Republicans see Donald Trump as the anchor that he is and avoid hitching their wagon to his star again.

One of the bright spots in my life is my continued involvement with Scouting, but even there, times have been tough. BSA is in long-term decline, the bankruptcy is not yet resolved, and the spectre of wokery hangs over the institution. BSA is in danger of becoming a niche organization, a thing mostly of yesterday. I want Scouting to be there for my grandsons and other youth. I want the churches to see a vital ministry in it. I don’t really think it’s going to explode and sink, but if I take my eye off what I see directly in front of me, I worry about Scouting’s future.

This has been a year of frustration and setbacks in my goal of building my final retirement home. It seems like I’m never going to get it built. Meanwhile, in addition to getting tired and discouraged with the lack of progress, I feel the eroding of my physical strength. I am in a race with myself to get this project done. Now, my personal strength and health is usually robust, but I’m getting old. Perhaps enough said about that. I’m okay with getting old, but it darkens the mood when there are so many other things in question all around me.

Part of me keeps telling myself that it’s only a matter of time. We’ll get to the end of the UMC mess and there will be a new start for those like me. The pandemic will be over eventually, and we’ll be able to go where we want and do what we want again. There’s a great deal of ruin in a country, as Adam Smith said, meaning that America is not doomed to a lesser, and less free, future. Scouting is a thing of the spirit, and the trail still calls and there is still companionship to be had and discoveries to be made, whatever happens with BSA. And though I grow old, God has never failed me, and even if I die with things undone, yet will I live. I believe this – all this. So I keep slogging ahead. But Lord, help thou my unbelief!

At that point, the spirit threw the boy down so he appeared to be dead. But Jesus took the boy by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose, the disabling spirit gone. When the disciples asked why they couldn’t free the boy from the spirit that bound him, Jesus replied, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Keep going, and keep praying.