If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you may recall reading Java Jives: The Asia Project. Here’s an excerpt:
“God, I want a penis the size of a forearm with a clenched fist…” is not your typical Sunday morning prayer. But Asia Samson, a poet and cancer survivor who calls himself “God’s faithful servant”, is not your typical minister.
Asia finds purpose in suffering, and this is very evident to his audience. About a month and a half ago, Asia’s sister had to have brain surgery. She was recuperating at home and was expected to recover completely when she suddenly experienced complications, fell into a coma, and within a few short days, she passed away. I wondered to myself how Asia might respond, especially after seeing status updates about his faith being shaken to the core. A little over a week ago, Asia posted, “Today’s the 40th day of my sister’s death. In Catholicism, it’s when we pray to God to let her into heaven.”
From a theological perspective, there may be some (protestant evangelicals, fundamentalists) who scoff at the idea that I believe Asia is a “minister,” as in “called by God,” because first, he prays for the post-mortem salvation of his sister, and second, he doesn’t mention that Jesus Christ is the only hope for anyone who would enter into the reign of God. To the first objection I would respond that there are some concepts in which the Catholics are closer to the truth than the Protestants, and vice-versa. To the second objection I don’t need to respond, because the Asia Project website does it for me:
Doesn’t this remind you of what the Apostle Paul wrote?
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on…
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely…
Each of us is an original…
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed…
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
We become who God created us to be in the same way that babies mature into adults. We babble before we speak words. We combine our words incorrectly until we learn how to form complete sentences. We crawl before we walk. We stumble along until we learn how to keep our balance. We drink milk before we have teeth. We learn to chew on tiny, soft pieces until we are able to eat a steak. We do the best we can and rejoice in a hope that is not disappointed, the hope that He will finish what He starts in us. The same is true of suffering. Some of us may believe we are spiritually mature, but when we experience some devastating loss, we learn that we are infants. The scriptures are loaded with stories of people who became giants in the faith only after having been trained by hardship, having been oppressed by others, or having suffered in some other way. For more on that, read Hebrews 11. As to whether God simply permits unthinkable loss or orchestrates it, whether we can understand it this side of the grave or it must remain a mystery, if there is purpose in it or if it is the result of living in a creation that has gone renegade, these are all ideas that are being explored in this blog series called Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith (Guest Blogger Mary Vanderplas), The Shaking of the Foundations, The Impossible Chess Match, The Climax of All Misnomers, Road Hazards, and The Soul’s Complaint, based on the book, What Shall We Say? by Thomas G. Long. This blog is the seventh in this series.
Click the link below to hear Asia’s spoken word poetry dedication to his sister and see a slideshow. I wanted to include his testimony in this series, because Asia is familiar with suffering and effortlessly exposes its emotional core. His poem informs us of what it’s like to collapse under the weight of believing God for something and realizing that God has something else in mind. For him, the tension of that moment gives way to resignation at first, and then hope for something more from the One Who is able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine – an awakening, from winter to spring, from death to life.
Next blog in this series: Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom