In one story of Camelot, an enemy spews out faint praise saying, “It is a nice dream… for some.” The king responds, “No vision can be right for some which is not right for all.” The power of the round table centered upon an ideal, not upon its steward, Arthur.
Like Camelot’s enemy, I once considered skepticism as a path to authenticity. I had beliefs, but didn’t want them have much influence on who I was or what I desired. I viewed confident, outward faith as a nice dream, for some. What I really needed was a wake-up call.
Back then I was Huck Finn and my older brother Scott was my Tom Sawyer. Especially during the summer, we egged each other on to risk and adventure, often striking out on some expedition over lakes, woods, or mountains. The summer following his freshman year at Harvard took me into completely foreign territory after he was killed by a drunk driver.
If home is where the heart is, then grief can be disorienting. Yet it exposed how far I’d wandered on my own. Life, centered on self, does not bring greater authenticity but lesser vision. Mourning made me admit: there is a God and it’s not me.
Some people would say, “I am glad faith helped him, but it’s not for me.” Such faint praise echoes Camelot’s enemy. It stands over an ideal with a sophistication that smacks of bitterness. I’ve heard it said often, “He struggles with faith because he’s so smart.” Nonsense. The only thing faith will do to an intellect is provide something bigger to think about. We must surrender the will, not the brain.
“Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.” – C.S. Lewis
After laying down my arms, what I’d been taught from scripture became more than distant events and ideals. The cross of Christ seemed part of my own personal history, a place of exchange of my worst for His best. The name Jesus no longer embarrassed me, because I recognized in him God’s character as a lover of souls.
The same battle rages within each of us. We strive for peace by trying harder or comparing (“I’m not as bad as…”). Only honest grief over the condition of one’s soul makes us open to the unconditional mercy of God.
Christmas reminds us that God’s message of peace came wrapped in a person. Like Camelot, it’s a story of a servant king. More than a story, Christmas is a glimpse of a Kingdom not of this world, an ideal we can begin to achieve even now. True grief over our the human condition can give way to new life. As an old Carol suggests:
“May every heart prepare Him room.”