For the last three years, I have entered poetry in the competition. It's an outlet for my poetic senses, a chance to dabble in one of my favorite hobbies and find my way into a temporary network of people who share my love of rhyme, rhythm, cadence, structure, sound, and words.
This year, two of my poems were selected for display in the exhibit, and each won a prize.
Tuesday nights, several young women and I get together at a local coffee shop for fellowship and coffee and a chance to vent and lean on one another. It's a group which is ever evolving, changing locations, changing members. We've discussed books by C.S. Lewis and Lauren Winner, chapters from the Bible, watched one another grow... and we've debated some of the big theological questions. The biggest among them seems to boil down to the idea of predestination.
Time after time, we arrive at the doorstep of this idea. I am on one side; the rest are on the other. I am alone in my current belief that God knows and knew and designed it all and will not be thwarted by our own selfish plans. I am alone in believing that reason and time do not apply to God at all, that He exists above and beyond and outside and in every other way as an exception to the rules by which we mortals, His creation, are bound.
Anyway, we debate this. In particular my dear friend, who doesn't mind meandering with me through these discussions, debates this with me. I posted the first installment of our written dialog about the concept earlier this month (Meandering - Volume I). This is her rebuttal. (My points are in bold, and her responses follow.)
The grandest change of all was, of course, the new covenant of Jesus' blood...
We need to look at the idea of the "old covenant." I'm assuming you mean the implementation of the Ten Commandments and Levitical Law? But you could also mean the covenant God made with Abraham, or Noah for that matter. Regardless of which Old Testament covenant you look at, I'm not sure how I see how the old changed in relation to the new. Blood atonement was always needed in regards to sin. That did not change because Jesus came. What the covenant with Jesus did was simply to make the continual sacrifices unnecessary. He paid the price. He fulfilled the prophecies harkening all the way back to Abraham and Isaac on the mountain. I don't think the God of the Old Testament looks different than the God of the New Testament.
Before I begin, I must say that my heart belongs to a Weimaraner named Scout. Part of his story is told here, but I can't really tell it all, both because I was not privileged to know more than his first few years and because his not being with me any longer makes me too emotional to tell the truth about it. That's Scout, upside down and gazing at me. It's how I remember him best, vulnerable yet dignified... a girl's best friend.
When I was a little girl, I'd spend summer afternoons on the concrete steps of my neighbor's house. She was a single, middle-aged woman who owned a townhome across the parking lot from ours, and she owned four cats... Rory (an extremely affectionate, extremely large yellow tabby who, later in life, was hit by a car but survived, though he lost a leg... watching him get around tripod style, without losing any weight, was impressive), Sheba (a shy, nattily groomed Persian with big blue eyes, declawed in her front two paws), Maggie (a scruffy, gentle Calico who loved sharing her fleas with the neighborhood kids), and a fourth who I almost never saw. Anyway, I'd kneel on the steps, letting the scratchy concrete warm my bare, knobby knees, and stroke and pet and scratch those cats until they were purring thunderously. But I still never wanted a cat of my own.
Dogs were my bag. I wanted giant, rough-and-tumble, fetch-playing, drooling, smiling, lazy, galumphing, stout-hearted dogs. I wanted dogs with barrels of whiskey secured under their chins, dogs who could flip their floppy ears and jowls 360 degrees as they shook water from their coats, dogs with baritone barks and ponderous paws. I wanted Bloodhounds and St. Bernards and Newfoundlands and Huskies and Ridgebacks and Dobermans and Mastiffs and German Shepherds and Wolfhounds and Chows and a thousand other big, beguiling breeds. You get the picture.
Cats were too quiet, too prim. They screamed when they fought at night, and their careless claws left fiery welts on my tender skin. They couldn't do anything but rub against my pant legs or purr into my flat palms. No hero or heroine of literature had ever taken on the Oregon Trail, the Mississippi River, or the Pacific Ocean with a cat. Dogs were the right choice for adventure, always. Think of Where the Red Fern Grows. Think of Old Yeller. Think of Island of the Blue Dolphins.
My parents bought our first and only family dog when I was fifteen years old. Scout was and is the loveliest, most precocious dog I've ever seen, and I loved him more than I'd loved any animal in my life to that point. Every transgression (and oh, there were many!) was forgiven and forgotten by my family, even as Scout dug holes in the yard, scratched up our floors, urinated on our hearth, and nipped at the unsuspecting fetlocks of our visiting neighbors.
- Edgar Allen Poe -
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me -
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud one night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we -
Of many far wiser than we -
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling -my darling -my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea -
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
When the boys and I were growing up, Thanksgiving Week meant many things to us. Grass stains on the already stressed knees of our jeans, the anticipation of succulent turkey, hours of football with our dad (it may have been called "touch" football, but there was quite a lot of tackling going on, anyway), and long, deliriously beautiful days without school. But most of all, and best of all, Thanksgiving meant Grandma.
She lived in Illinois, two thousand miles from our little home in Newark, California. But, being a good grandmother, she wanted to give the California grandchildren some regular face time, and so she flew in the weekend before the holiday and flew home the weekend after, every year.
It was our week. While Mom worked and Dad slept (he was working the graveyard shift at a local correctional facility), Ted, Curtis and I got Grandma. We played games, went for walks, listened to her stories. She crocheted dresses for my Barbies and read aloud to the boys.
Then, on Thanksgiving Thursday itself, we'd all trundle out to the field for our big football game. Grandma came, too. She wore sweats and sneakers, had her game face on, but she wasn't a fullback by any definition. Delicate and soft at all her corners, Grandma may have been a great sport, but she was no athlete by the time we knew her. Dad would toss the ball to her, gently, and then charge at her, wrapping her in a giant hug, declaring her tackled.
I have a dear friend with deep convictions. When she curls up at the other end of my couch and wages theological battle against me, no matter how minor our topic might actually be, it makes me happy. Talking with her like this, my twenty-one-year-old friend who is the essence of earnestness, gives me the oddly unsettling feeling that I'm actually sitting across from a version of my past self.
Her volume, her animated hand gestures, her ferocious drive for truth, all of these things are familiar to me. Even when she is at her most combative, even when her voice reaches a decibel which is hard to hear, even when she uses expressions and phrases which could alienate her audience, I am rapt. You see, I know that her opinions are still evolving, something she alludes to though I don't think she grasps how hard evolution can be on one so vehement. I have barely acknowledged that truth myself, but I'm learning.
We aren't identical in all respects, though. Not by a long shot. Our biggest disagreement is rooted in the idea of Predestination. Over time, I've come to align myself with this idea... that all which will be and all which has been is and was destined to be so, conceived and laid out and known by God. My beloved friend "chooses" not to believe this way, and she defends her choice adeptly.
Good news... sometimes our debates sometimes move from voice to paper. (Her points are in bold. My responses to each point follow.)
Why do we insist that God remain unchanging?
The very reason I have struggled with the Old Testament and its relevance is that it appears God "changed" multiple times. First Eden. Then Noah's flood. The appointment and removal of a series of kings. The grandest change of all was, of course, the new covenant of Jesus' blood. In this basic reading of the facts of Biblical history, it's not negotiable that God appears to change course frequently. That's when it's most important to remember that our definitions are not God's own. What I see as a 'change' is not/may not be that at all. None of us are privy to His overarching plan. We have His word, and that's all we have beyond our own, flawed intellects.
Being fortunate enough to exist after the sacrifice of Jesus, I have the luxury of surveying history in this broad sense and drawing conclusions based on Biblical principle. My conclusion is this: God WAS, IS, WILL BE. Never was the state of the world outside of his control. Never is the condition of humanity a surprise to him. In His perfection, change is unnecessary.
God is omnipotent. If He wants to change, He can change. But our God is also Perfect, All Sufficient, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Alpha and Omega, Everything. It is not that I believe He cannot; it is not that I insist He must not. There is simply no reason for Him to change. And I'm not even talking about of mere human interpretation of reason. I'm talking about infinite, supernatural reasoning. Perfect is perfect, however you slice it. God does not change because there is nothing for Him to change to that isn't in contradiction to Himself.