Tolerance

August 17, 2012

Isaiah 6:1-5

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple….And I said: 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'"

Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell

They say that those who, because of unpopularity or paranoia, suspect someone might one day try to poison them can defend against this eventuality by taking tiny doses of common poisons, gradually increasing them until they can withstand huge amounts.  (I have no idea if this is true, or if it is, which poisons it works for, so if you are unpopular or paranoid, please do not take this as encouragement to ingest anything Mr. Yuk wouldn't want you to.)
 
The same principle works for good stuff. I bet every marathon runner in the world felt like they were going to barf the first time they ran a mile; they had to work up to it.  Or take marriage: deciding to move from the small doses of someone that dating provides to the massive dose of togetherness that is marriage requires a gratifying buildup of tolerance.

I think God's like that, too.  Without a little practice, a full-on encounter with the creator of heaven and earth would be too much to bear.  Which is what church is for.  The music, the Scripture, the preaching, the study, the serving: they give us hints and tastes, small doses of the Divine, until our capacity for grace and beauty is enough not to comprehend all of God when we meet her, but rather to not be completely undone by the experience.

Probably there are saints out there who could look God in the eye without any practice, just as there's probably somebody who could run a marathon without training.  Good for them.  Meanwhile, I'm working on my tolerance.

Prayer

God, make my capacity for you truly miraculous.  Amen.

About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell, a United Church of Christ minister, is the co-author, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.

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