Floods, Drowning and God

Credit: Michael Ciaglo/AP

Now flood every portal of my mind
And flood everything I’ve tried to hide
I am looking to the sky
And I’m calling for a flood
Submerge me, Lord, in holy water
Drown me to live in You
Flood every corner of this room
And fill all the emptiness with You
Lord, we long to be consumed
And we’re calling for a flood                        – Calling for a Flood by John Waller

Lay me down in the waves
Let the water wash away
And if I leave with the tide
In the morning I will rise
So lay me down
Don’t lift me out
Let me drown                     -Let me Drown by We As Human

Have you seen the images coming out of Colorado? Do you remember Katrina? How about the Tsunami of 2004? Have you read the story of Noah in Genesis?

Floods suck. Floods are terrifying, destructive and unpredictable. They cause death and destruction and heartache. People drown. Drowning is not peaceful or pleasant.

Let me be clear, I DO NOT WANT GOD TO FLOOD ME WITH ANYTHING. I DO NOT WANT TO DROWN IN HIS LOVE or HIS MERCY or ANYTHING ELSE.  Can we please stop using this imagery?

The word flood is used in the Bible 47 times. Only two of them are positive. One is in Malachi where it talks about the floodgates (think of these like the spillway doors on a dam) of heaven being opened up to pour out a blessing too big to be able to be received. The other is in Isaiah where it says, “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream”. Neither of these sounds like the life threatening floods mentioned in many worship songs. Often these songs allude to floods of love, grace or mercy sent by God that result in our death by drowning. And we sing them. Often to saccharine, lilty tunes with a peaceful feel to them.  I’ve got news for you..

The word drown is found 10 times in Scripture. NONE OF THEM ARE GOOD.  There is no mention of a peaceful river of blessing where Jesus lovingly holds you under until you can’t breathe. And no room, as the song above mentions, where people happily begged God to drown them in his presence like Charlie on LOST.

I know people try to make this flooding and drowning imagery about baptism. But the scriptures never teach this. In Romans 6:1-11 it says,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Yes, we identify with the burial and resurrection of Jesus when we go down into the water and when we come out. We obviously are not literally dead, nor do any (non cult) groups advocate actual physical death in order to escape sin. The way in which we identify with his death is by recognizing that through Jesus we can be dead to sin; that is, sin has no more power over us because God is no longer holding our sins against us. No flood. No drowning.

Listen, I understand poetic license. I understand literary imagery. I understand figures of speech. I don’t expect every song (or any song for that matter) to only use words out of the 66 books of Canonized scripture. What I don’t understand are metaphors comparing what Jesus offers to death, destruction or war. Yes, I said war. One song I have heard actually says, “If you are the war then let me be your casualty.” No. No. No.  JESUS IS NOT THE WAR and WE ARE NOT HIS CASUALTY. EVER. He is however, the author of life and the prince of peace. He died to absorb wrath not to bring it. He does not bring destruction he delivers us from it.

My friend from Colorado told me this morning that some people are using the recent flooding in her area of Colorado as an occasion to liken actual floods to God’s flooding us with blessings or flooding us with the spirit. Please, no. Make it stop. That kind of talk is insensitive at best. God’s blessings look nothing like a flood that has left thousands displaced, a rising death toll and more than 1,200 unaccounted for.

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What If God Was One of Us?

This week on American Idol Steven Tyler said something profound. The judges had just given Heejun Han the news that he would be part of this season’s top 24. Remarkably,Heejun had never sung in public before he auditioned for the show. After the tears and the hugs, Steven looks him in the eye and says, “You know, what is funny man is – that we are all bozos on the bus, until we find some way to express ourselves.” Steven goes on to say that some people express themselves through being a “lawyer or this or that” but … ” You and me, we take everything we have ever learned, and let it out (all of it) through our singing. You let it all out, we are touched by it.” Steven’s quote made me think of the above Joan Osbourne song (written by Eric Bazilian of The Hooters), One of Us.

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

When this song first came out it was widely criticized. People said the word slob shouldn’t be used of God incarnate. I think they missed the point. You know what though? God is one of us! That is the whole point. He did become “just a slob like one of us.”  Webster says that slob can simply mean, “an ordinary person.” Philippians 2:5-11 says:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

He came here, that is the whole point. He didn’t stay away. He became a “slob like one of us” so that we could see that he loved us (John 3:16-17) and that he isn’t condemning us. He found a way to express that love, he found his voice and he poured all of himself into feeling what we feel, going where we go and suffering where we suffer. And guess what? He is STILL with us. He is the best part of humanity. He represents what it is to be fully human. His image is borne throughout the earth wherever people draw breath. And he reminds us that we are all along for the ride, “bozos on the bus” if you will, just trying to find our way to express our particular facet of His glorious image; To find our way home.

Have you ever felt like a bozo on the bus? I know I do, and I know Jesus did too. You know how I know? Because he experienced what it is to be one of us.

Recently, through this blog and through all of you, I feel like I have found my voice. Listen close, lean in and find yours. On your next spin on the bus of your life, stop and take a minute to truly hear the expression of God himself in the “bozo” in the seat next to you; Because you know what? That bozo bears the image of the God of the universe.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Stop to hear the voices of the stranger (bozo) on the bus”   Matthew 25:40

recommended links:  http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/features/28380-what-diversity-should-look-like