The World Is Something To Be Savored, Not Transcended

I have never quite forgiven my middle son for moving away from the Bay Area and eliminating our perfect excuse to visit San Francisco.

The restaurants…the museums…the neighborhoods…the views…the restaurants.

Once, when we were visiting him in Berkeley, where he lived, I went for a run by myself in the middle of the day.

Meditations in MotionI ran down to the bay, looped around a park that smelled heavenly due to waves of wild fennel growing everywhere, as far as the eye could see, then headed back downtown.

As I ran on the sidewalk beside a heavily traveled street, a car full of young men slowed down beside me.

One of the men leaned out the window and emitted a wolf whistle, then leered, “Niiiiiice!

Behind my sunglasses, I rolled my eyes and focused on showing no reaction, not wanting to give the men in the car the satisfaction of knowing I was rattled.

This story is probably sadly familiar to most female runners.

Harassment (and sometimes worse) comes with the territory, #MeToo notwithstanding.

Recalling this incident recently made me think of Emmett Till.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story, Emmet Till was the young African-American who was brutally beaten, mutilated, and shot, then his body thrown into a river in Mississippi in 1955.

His crime? Whistling at a white woman.

The men in the car in Berkeley were African-American.

Meditations in Motion

I recently read a biography of the 20th Century Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer was executed in a Nazi concentration camp two weeks before the end of World War II for his involvement in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Bonhoeffer considered Hitler “evil incarnate“, causing suffering and death for millions of innocents, including Jews, Romani, Spanish Republicans, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and people of mixed race.

The plot to kill Hitler and end his reign of terror failed because of a quirk in the design of the table at which he sat when the bomb intended to kill him exploded.

A massive oaken plinth, which supported the tabletop, shielded Hitler from the blast that killed several other Nazi leaders sitting at the table.

It was Providence that spared me,” Hitler asserted after the failed attempt.

Was it God’s will to extend the cruel dictator’s life, allowing the torture and killing of people in concentration camps and battlefields to continue?

Was it God’s will for a 14-year-old boy to be viciously murdered for whistling at a woman?

No, emphatically not.

Evil occurs when we do not follow God’s will.

But what is God’s will? Bonhoeffer had some thoughts about that.

He believed that by relegating God to “religion“, we push Him to the edges of our lives, making Him the “God of the gaps“, used to explain things we do not understand and concerned only with our sins and secret thoughts.

But Bonhoeffer thought God was much bigger, more robust and all-encompassing, and His love wilder and more fierce than that.

Bonhoeffer wanted God to be at the very center of our lives.

He also believed that God wanted us to live here on earth, fully engaged in the world with its heartbreaking sin and beauty.

It makes sense.

Meditations in MotionWhat better sign that God wants us to celebrate our earthly existence and His wondrous creation than His own incarnation, living a real human life here with us in the dirt and squalor, and the rose-tinted sunrises and snow-capped mountains, experiencing real human suffering and exultation?

The world is something to be savored, not transcended.

God wants us to laugh loud and long with our friends, to take a walk in the warm spring sunshine (preferably with a canine companion, but that’s just my opinion), to sit by a fire and watch for shooting stars, to allow a painting to take our breath away, to be passionately in love, to say “yes” again and again and again.

God wants us to fight injustice, to champion the powerless, to listen to our conscience, and yes, to protect His earth, His magnificent blue-green creation.

 

Here are Bonhoeffer’s words: “I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too.

And here: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.

Bonhoeffer didn’t just speak these words; he lived according to this theology, willing to forfeit his life fighting injustice.

Evil exists in this world only if we allow it.

We are called to live a life of courage and action, to fight injustice with all of our will and our breath and our power.

How can we stand up to evil today, each one of us?

What form of injustice can we fight?

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

57 comments

  1. I must definitely put Bonhoeffer on my list for reading and inspiration, Laurie. Yes, I believe we were created to savor and enjoy the creation God has most generously made for us to walk in. And we must never close our eyes to the injustice and cruelty in the world, caused by our sinful and fallen natures. Maybe, in this time of crisis, we will pull together, forgetting differences, and embracing our common ground.
    Blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Martha, I have read several books by Bonhoeffer. This was the first one I read about him. I have the same hope as you – that we remember we are all members of the same body. From 1 Corinthians: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. We can stand up to evil by showing kindness.
    My mum was robbed last week on the streets in Cape Town. Several people had observed the scene and came rushing up, offering support and consolation. One man stopped his car and jumped out to help. A lady offered her bottle of water. Another man gently guided us to a taxi.
    The amount of kindness was overwhelming. Thinking back, it cancelled out the robbery by a desperate teenager.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I knew the name Bonhoeffer but didn’t know much about him. Thanks for the information. I agree that for evil to flourish all you have to do is nothing. If you don’t point out that someone, or some institution, is lying or cheating or being greedy, then you’re part of the problem instead of being part of the solution. We’re all in this together, so why not make us better together by sticking with the truth and kindness? Seems obvious to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I first began reading his books years ago and was a fan, then I read his “Letters From Prison”, published after his death and my admiration for him grew. I agree completely, truth and kindness are needed to combat evil. And courage.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m not christian, but that quote by Bonhoeffer. is a true one. Be kind, be helpful and have compassion – we’re all humans (maybe a handful of aliens too), regardless of color, race, religion and ethnicity.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m the opposite of what you said in the comment above–I’ve read one book about Bonhoeffer, but I have not read any books by him. The biography left me with mixed emotions, so I should probably read his own words.

    There’s “set your mind on things above” in Scripture (Colossians 3:1), but also “God gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Sometimes we put so much emphasis on the first that we forget the second.

    “Evil occurs when we do not follow God’s will.” Yes. I get so frustrated when people blame God for evil. May we do our best to spread His truth and fight against evil.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you are going to read one of Bonhoeffer’s books, I would recommend “Letters From Prison”. I think I know what you mean about Bonhoeffer. As a person, he was sometimes difficult, even abrasive. His theology is fairly conservative and Christ-centered, which I like.

      I like the 2 verses you quote here. Good point!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was in a bakery a couple of weeks ago when an older white woman kept looking me up and down as I plugged in my cell phone. I didn’t say anything. As I sat minding my business, she got up to leave and said, “What are they doing here? This is my neighborhood, I pay rent here. They can go home. I don’t want them here.” I looked at her and said, “This is a public place. You don’t pay rent at the bakery nor do you live in the bakery. All are welcomed” to which she replied, “You don’t belong here. You need to leave and go back to where you came from. You’re a danger to society. Ghetto. Shut the F up” and on and on she went as other white people sat and said nothing.

    Well, I said something to them. I told them they are all complicit in her behavior because of their silence. I continued, racism and racist behavior, and language will not end until you speak up and say something. Everyone froze and steered at me while one couple shook their head in agreement. The manager got involved and said if we didn’t stop, he was going to ask both of us to leave. I went up to him and I told him he handled it wrong because if the tables were turned and I did what she did, he would call the cops and have me escorted out but that didn’t happen to her because of white privilege and because she’s a regular. Long story short, the owner reached out to me with an apology and we are figuring out how to make this right. A tray of pastries is not enough!

    I’m not built to sit silently in the face of wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yvonne, my jaw dropped open as I read your story! Racism is evil, no doubt about it. I can’t believe that scene could happen in the US in 2020! I am so sorry you had to experience that kind of hate. Good for you for standing up to the owner and the woman who made the comment. We all need to stand up to evil just like you had the courage to do!

      Like

  7. Thank you for this balanced view—all too often we taken the ‘in the world but not of it’ to mean we should should ignore everything about the world except the sin and misery—and that we must work tirelessly to eliminate it. But embracing the beauty of the world and the Creator’s gift means we fight for all of it, not just our (or our church’s) definition of the sinners.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Love the Bonhoeffer quote! Love his books! I have all but given up running outside alone for some of the reasons you mention. I so enjoy running in the beauty of God’s creation though! This is a great post, Laurie. Thanks for sharing!

    Thank you for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Another Bonhoeffer fan! I first started reading his books 20 years ago and loved them. It can be scary to run alone. That is sad! Thank you for hosting, Patsy.

      Like

  9. Thanks for these inspiring words! I love the description of the contrast between making him the “God of the gaps” or putting him at the centre of our lives. I’m definitely interested to read more by Bonhoeffer – I’ve head a few of his quotes before and his words are always wise!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Evil does exist. We know one day it will not, but for now it does. But that doesn’t mean we sit back and let it grow, or we sit in ashes afraid to enjoy life. I imagine Jesus enjoying life fully while here as a human, drinking in the beauty, joking with the disciples, hugging the poor, and yet standing up to the wrong. There is a fine line and we need to do both. Enjoyed this post. Didn’t know that Bonhoeffer tried to kill Hitler.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true, Theresa. We must always be aware of evil in this world and do everything we can to eradicate it. I love the picture you paint of Jesus – fully God, but fully human too. Bonhoeffer was part of the plot to kill Hitler as the moral and theological compass of the group.

      Like

  11. I sure do understand that this world of ours is making so many changes and not all for the good. Thank you for being part of Life This Week. Next week’s optional prompt (made before COVID 19 lol) is 12/51 Out & About. 23.3.2020. Hope to see you there too. Denyse.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Totally agree with you on the subject of four legged companions in the great outdoors.
    And I was home from church (sick) on Sunday, so I watched a great documentary on Bonhoeffer’s life, and it set me pondering about the assassinatoin attempts on Hitler’s life. So puzzling that God would allow such evil to escape and such good (Bonhoeffer) to be destroyed. Clearly, God is not “a tame lion.”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Laurie,
    This world is a training ground for the world to come. How we do life here will have a lot to do with our journey in the life to come. I hope and pray that I am making the most of each day to do God’s work and build His Kingdom. Let’s savor this world and do our best to save her people. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Laurie – I am sorry. I started typing a comment last night and I had a blip with my internet – felt badly as I had already “liked” and I just shut down for the evening as it was late. But, what I wanted to say was this was a very insightful post. I have not read this author before, but then when I was finished with college, for years I just read “lighter” books and then had a 20-year lapse with no reading at all. Somehow, I’m having a difficult time to get back into reading again due to blogging. You make many valid points – I find I am disappointed in humanity very often and in times of stress like we have now, we often see the faces of humanity and isn’t pretty. It is bad enough to grab and hoard items from our fellow man, but to disparage by looks, comments or actions is 100 times worse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Linda, I am so sorry you had computer trouble. I have had that happen to me several times. With me, it’s my internet browser that unexpectedly quits. When I am in the middle of a comment, I have to start all over again. Ugh! I think you read a lot – you read blogs rather than books. I have learned a lot from reading blogs (including yours!) and made some wonderful friends, a benefit you don’t get from books.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it is getting worse with browser problems from all the people on the internet lately due to them working from home, students getting e-education … it sometimes carries over to the evening. I never know whether to try again to leave the comment, and when I do and I get the rather angry message that says: “You already said that – duplicate comment!” You are right Laurie. I do read a lot of blogs, so the books are on the back burner – blogging comes first. There have been and are wonderful connections and friends made here at WordPress – I agree with you. Think about it – whatever is going on in the world, there is still the group that remains here to share their writing or photos and friendship, oblivious for a while to what is beyond the blogosphere.

        Liked by 2 people

      • The same thing happens to me: I get the “duplicate comment” message. You are so right, Linda. I never realized when I first began blogging how many kind and interesting people I would meet. It has been an unexpected blessing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie – in my first 3 1/2 years, I had only my neighbor and my friend Ann Marie commenting on the posts, and Ann Marie was not until about 1 1/2 years later after I started blogging. She was a walker at Council Point Park and saw me taking a picture of a woolly bear caterpillar and came over and asked what I was doing. I told her it was for my blog and gave her the blog site address. No one in the Blogosphere had reached out or commented until November 2017. I had no idea of what a “family” that fellow bloggers could be.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Wow! I bet you are glad to get so much feedback now. It’s kind of cool that you began your blog that way. You made your initial blogging mistakes (which we all make) when no one was reading!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, and I have changed my style a lot – they were short and sweet, just one paragraph, a one-word title and with no pic or a small one, they look very different to now. Yes, a good time to make boo-boos back then. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  15. Fulling engaging. Yes! Sometimes we think we’re only here as a test period for the next go-round, but we’re to fully live in this experience that we’re in now. (As well as look forward to what’s next!). Good post, Laurie!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I appreciate your call to action to fight evil. We need to stand up more than ever. I would like to think that showing love to others consistently allows us to see the love of Christ. Kindness and compassion go a long way in combatting evil.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. We need to be brave in these times of worry, cling to our faith and our loved ones for support. Be good in a cruel world. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Only a couple of times in my life have I been courageous enough to speak out against an injustice I was witnessing before my very eyes. I can be impulsive and sometimes react without thinking where my actions might land me. But sometimes you do what is right without thinking of the consequences of speaking out. One of my favorite quotes was one spoken by Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s