Can you name anything that appeals to you that is totally irrational? A like or a love or an expectation — a favorite thing, story, or experience — that really makes no sense? Other than God, Jesus, and all that, what other things?
How about pulling for the Gamecocks last Saturday against Alabama? It was College Gameday, and #1 versus us USC at #18…why on earth should any of us logically expect Carolina to win? But we do, we hope against hope for it, and that’s true for any underdog.
My sister is a campus minister. She and her students are very connected to a humanitarian agency in Nicaragua that especially tries to aid locals in owning and profiting from their own businesses. One huge undertaking is to establish a fair-trade organic clothing line, with Nicaraguans owning production from start to finish — cotton growing, spinning, and sewing. Most recently, the already-bought-and-paid-for spinning equipment (hundreds of thousands of dollars) was denied them by shady dealings from their supplier, Coker International (in Greenville, SC). So my sister and three or four students jumped in to help however they could…by showing up at Coker to picket out front.
Now, that’s the kind of story most of us love, David/Goliath and all that, a handful of not-exactly-powerful people trying to leverage the corrupt corporation with handmade signs and protest. The story hasn’t panned out yet, but they made local news. Most of us consider ourselves “the little guy”, so of course it’d be cool to know that if I were being screwed by a big company, “the little guy” would have a shot at getting some justice, yeah? No matter how unlikely or irrational that is.
The same is true for the long-shots. Every time somebody buys a lottery ticket, whether they’re serious about it or not, even if you just find one on the sidewalk, what’s that little twinkle in our eye at the fleeting thought that “this could be the one? And that’s absolutely absurd.
The stories and fairytales we love are chock full of nonsense, and we love it. The true stories we love, “The Blind Side” and Chilean miners and Aron Ralston, have no rational business actually working out and succeeding. But we’re human so we hope, and we hope our hope is confirmed.
Jesus knew that, I reckon, especially by telling the story of the widow before the judge in his parable from Luke 18:1-8. The scene kinda smacks of absurdity — a widow, the lowest of the low in her society’s eyes, is relentless to bring her case before a judge. And not just any judge, one with no particular regard for God or people — no love. But he grants her request eventually because she won’t quit and he doesn’t wanna get tired hearing about it.
It’s a huge long shot, “little gal” versus the judge. And it makes no sense. Rationally, in that culture why should any widow have thought so highly of herself to think she’d be heard, let alone so much so to come back repeatedly. Why should she have hoped to succeed against this judge, of all judges? And why should such a man have ever granted her desire? Shouldn’t have. Shouldn’t happen. But it did in Jesus’ story.
So? So, Jesus in a way seems to confirm our irrationality, and he’s speaking in the context of our approaching God. I hear him say, “When it comes to prayer, when it comes to talking to God and communing with God, don’t just be so blasted rational all the time.”
I mean, consider why we each personally bail out on talking to God, communing with God, or asking from God…. We rationalize. We decide that there’s no reason God should hear, or care, or respond. We take it personal and say, “it must be about me, I’ve done too much wrong or just personally don’t matter enough for God to hear.” We give up on what we’re hoping for and say, “It’ll never happen, that would be too good to be true.” And, mostly, we make conclusions about God, “God is just too busy, or too distant and uncaring, or too non-existent to hear from me or answer me.”
How do we fight back against those feelings of hopelessness? Why not harness the power of human irrationality.
Like, romance. Our soap operas, love stories, and real life pursuits are full of nonsensical risks (and rewards). People go through insane relationships, rebounds, heartbreak…people can feel like they have nothing else to lose and even nothing left to offer…people can think themselves not-so-attractive, not-so-wealthy, not-so-intelligent, not-so-charming…and STILL throw all caution to the wind to pursue that special someone. Really.
I mean, have you ever met a couple and wondered, “Now, how on earth did he end up with her?” Or vice-versa. Maybe it worked because one or the other was willing to go for it, to pursue the other fervently, and to not relent, even if it didn’t make any sense to the rest of the world. Well done.
We can harness the power of the irrational child. Do you know, or are you, or have you been a kid who knows how to ask for and get what he/she wants? Yeah. It can be sickening, manipulative, aggravating to heck, to deal with such. Kids can be shameless — throwing themselves bodily on the floor, screaming, pulling out the dirty tricks like, “If you love me, you’ll….” On the road trip, they never stop the “Are we there yet?” Child psychologists call it the “pit-bull mentality” because once they latch on to something there’s no breaking free.
And that really makes no sense considering that kids in a family have little or no real authority to expect anything. That’s a little old school, but they depend on others truly for everything. They can’t overpower an adult and often can’t fend for themselves. But they can win the battle of wills by never relenting in the pursuit of their desire.
If they can, with no hope in sight sometimes, why can’t we? Not to endorse how some of our culture goes after romance, or how a spoiled kid gets his/her way…can we somehow take the irrationality that pervades humanity and apply it towards our greatest good, our pursuit of relationship with God?
I mean, Jesus paints that picture, a ridiculous, impossible picture, I think to contrast the reality of our true situation. We matter immensely more in God’s eyes than a widow did in her society in Jesus’ day — God calls us children, brothers and sisters, heirs of the kingdom. And God is infinitely more loving and invested than this judge. So why should we pursue God any less than she pursued justice.
I mean, above all, here is God in the flesh in Jesus saying, essentially, “Please, please, don’t stop trying to talk to me. Don’t stop connecting to me. Never stop. Understand who you are. Understand who I am. Don’t lose heart.”