Stay Gold

I am Judas. What I mean to say is that there is nary a difference between him and I. I have often read of his mistake and I thought I understood it.  But I, like he, am disappointed in a God I do not understand. And my disappointment is my betrayal.

Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf, So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost

I have been but a child in the guise of an adult. Wisdom and maturity elude me like a light in a fog.  I am foolishly confident in my course without ever seeing where I am really headed.

In my youth I saw Frost's morning gold and I wished it for myself, my children, and my fellow man.  I saw the magic of God's creation and His love and thought that I could help bring it to the world.  I heard Jesus' Word, but like Judas I failed to understand it.  I heard of love, faith, suffering, and perseverance and I saw the value in those things. But my impatience expected a different God. A God of quicker action, a God of activism, a God more like me.

I wished for a political God, a temporal Savior fashioned in my own image to fight the battles I wish Him to fight.  Inevitably I now my find myself bereft, weeping for myself and my fellow man knowing the hardship to come.

In my youth and hubris I thought I could spare my fellow man the road to Calvary through prudent tax policy, originalist judges, and effective voter turnout programs.  And in doing so I preached a gospel ancillary if not sometimes contrary to that of my Lord and Savior, a gospel of the here and now. For this I am truly sorry.

But I have learned the lesson that Judas never did, there is no road to Heaven that does not go through Calvary.  And this lesson, this is the only thing that keeps me from that unforgivable sin, despair.

I now know that my Lord does not ask me to preach to the world about programs and progress.  My God wants me to preach to the world by staying gold, by shining in the darkness and illuminating the path and the destination in a way that the fog light never can.  I know this now because of a plane ride.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Last week I spent the eight days following a numbing electoral defeat in endless meetings and corporate dinners two thousand miles from home.  At the end of it I wanted nothing more than to be home with my family.  My already late arriving flight was delayed even further by a temporarily missing plane.  I got little rest on the plane and found myself anxious to get home to New York as quickly as possible to hug my wife and find my bed.

As the seat-belt sign went dark I thought of little else other than grabbing my bags and getting off the plane as quickly as possible. As the exit queue formed I stared at my toes as that seemed preferable to any other surely annoying human interaction at the at moment.  But as my toes turned out to be as boring as my inner dialogue, I eventually looked up.

My gaze eventually landed upon a middle aged woman and her teenage daughter looking worriedly toward the back of the plane.  Watching the way she stared at the overhead compartments I could see that she was fretting over luggage stowed behind me on the full plane.  I could see after a moment that she decided to remain in her seat resigned to wait until the plane cleared to retrieve her belongings.

Having been in that position a time or two myself, I though I might help.  I asked her if she was looking for her bags and she replied 'yes'.

"Where are they?", I asked.

"It is that pink one two rows back and that brown one three rows back on the other side.  And my daughter's bag is that blue one just behind that."

I grabbed the one bag I could reach and handed it to her.  I then turned to my fellow passengers behind me and pointed out the bags and the people I thought could help.  Within a moment happy faces grabbed the bags and handed them forward to other happy faces until they end up in the possession of two very happy faces in front of me.

So grateful and even a little misty the woman thanked me profusely.   When I demurred, she confided to me that she had been a little afraid to come to the 'big bad city' but that my actions and the actions of my fellow flyers was a great comfort to her.  "If all New Yorkers are as nice as you, then everything will be alright."

I wished her well and then it struck me.  Had I ever represented my Lord or my religion as well as I has just represented my city and my state?  Had anyone ever looked at the way I lived my life and the way I treat others as a Christian and taken such notice or comfort?  To my eternal chagrin, the honest answer is no.

My faith-formed politics and advocacy have had the front seat in my life and on my lapel for a long long time.  It is only now that I realize that the faith that I allege informs those positions has taken a much smaller role,  a role like Kevin Costner in insufferable film "The Big Chill." A young Costner played the role of the character that informs and motivates the entire screenplay, but his life and death ended up on the cutting room floor. Nobody ever saw it. The story is supposed to be about him, but nobody would ever really know. I fear that such is my faith, Jesus is supposed to be the main character but in reality He is mostly on the cutting room floor because He didn't help the story I have been telling.

Nobody would ever see Jesus in me precisely because I fail to see Jesus in them.  I have been more interested in convincing people that lower taxes and smaller government benefit all than in convincing them that Jesus loves them.

I could convince swarms of merits of my beliefs on the proper role and function of government and yet not help a single person to get to Heaven. That stingy Scrooge could not fear a sadder and more impotent epitaph than "Here lies Patrick, he believed in smaller government."

I have warned repeatedly about the consequence to life and liberty that our chosen course surely portends and I still believe that.  But I suspect something worse is coming, something much worse, something beyond politics. Can you feel it? I think I can.

I fear it, but I am reminded that there is no road to Heaven but by Calvary.  And if in my fear and suffering I can remain gold, if I can help the many to see and trust in a Jesus that loves them by showing them what Jesus' love has done in my life, I will much better prepare them from what is coming than I have ever before.

Frost's lament on corruption, loss, and Eden is true only to a point.  Sin and its consequences seem inexorable in their mission to dim the luster of gold.  But my Lord and my God gave us the chance to restore that luster with faith, penitence, and love--or in short, Calvary.

So whatever comes, I now know my true calling and yours. Stay gold. And help as many as you can.

And to that lady and her daughter on the plane: Jesus loves you.