Friday, January 14, 2011

A Momentous Conversation

When I was in Cambridge England traveling on a bus, I sat next to a man and offered him a piece of the Cadbury chocolate bar I was eating. He accepted. We fell into a conversation (really more like him pontificating) that was a moment that impacted me a great deal.

Once he learned that I was in England to "test" my calling to ministry and enter seminary, he began pontificating about why no reasonable person could ever believe in any notion of "G-O-D," as he put it. The cornerstone of his argument was that there were 257 current wars happening right then in the world that were wars that were essentially taking place in the name of some form of "G-O-D." He was quite loud and animated and we were both sitting in the front of the bus. His language was also very "colorful" which brought about the chastisement of the bus driver who told us in good British fashion to "mind our language; some of the passengers are complaining."

Frankly, being a relatively new Christian at the time on a trip out of the country for the first time, I was terribly intimidated and at a loss for words. It wasn't until much later, that I formed all the answers to his questioning and visualized him falling to his needs in a great spiritual awakening, and apologizing for being so blind and wrong, thanking me for the reasoned and inspirational insight that he had never thought of before. Ah, hindsight is not only 20/20, but hindsight makes us look so good!

I still think of that experience often, and if truth be told it framed a lot of my seminary experience. It recently came back to me again while reading Thomas Merton's, Seven Storey Mountain. Here is a quote from the book that I simply share for thought and prayer in the context of this past event in my life, for whatever it is worth:

"It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago. People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce man and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us? Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from, when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences, only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace?"
— Thomas Merton (The Seven Storey Mountain)