Dante’s Divine Comedy starts our with the line “In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood. The true way was lost…” Chapter 1 of One Thousand Gifts is Ann Voskamp confronting that her way was lost.
I. The most stark of these passages starts on page 9 and continues for a couple of paragraphs. From…through: “For decades, a life….snapped shut to grace”
This little graphic above highlights the problem. One reaction is the reaction of the law which is curved inward. Cutting off more and more of yourself in reaction to loss. Eventually trying to save yourself, you lose yourself. The opposite reaction is grace which moves outward.
II.The next passage that digs a little more into this starts on page 13: “I keep my eyes…branded our lives”
Mull in your heads her Dad’s words. What way is her Dad spiraling? What amount of control is he attempting to exert? Who does he not trust?
Taking a step into the religious realm , does the law (the 10 commandments as a handy substitute) make sense? Even at a simple level do we grasp what they are asking? Do they sound like a good thing? Can we do them? What is the end of the law? (Or what is the end of AV’s Dad’s life of trying to control everything?)
Compare that to the cross, does the cross make sense?
The law makes sense and even sounds like a good thing, but we can’t do it. We can try. We can cut our lives down. We can curve inward ever more, but even that smaller life is uncontrollable. The end point of the law is death, a life closed to anything other than pain. When you compare that to the cross, the cross makes no sense. We don’t get the cross, but a life lived under the cross opens up. We’ve observed those. Yes there is pain, but something transcends that pain. A life lived losing it, is one that ends up saving it.
III. Passage Starting on page 15. “From all of our beginnings…all of the remaining paradise”
What is AV’s diagnosis of sin or our natural state? In grasping for the apple/in grasping for control what are we saying? Who are we turning toward? (Compare that to John 1:1 – “the word was with God” in our English has the Greek preposition to or toward. A very wooden literal translation is – “The Word was towards God”.)
I’m Lutheran so I have another reference point here – Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation (1519) Thesis 19 – “The person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as thought they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened.”
In the middle of loss what is the worst thing that we have all heard?
Per Luther #19 – a) don’t talk to me a deeper reasons. God hasn’t told me those. And he probably isn’t going to tell me. b) but like AV’s dad we want to know the invisible things. We want them to make sense.
How has sin altered us so that we no longer see? Why does that outward curve look so scary?
Here is Ann’s clue or her witness. Thinking of John’s witness…What is the great lie of “our” lives? What does following that path lead to? What gets “cut off” to keep the illusion going?
V. Passage starting on page 22: “They eat the mystery…To more God places?”
What does AV describe losses as? What do losses force us to confront?
Luther Heidelberg Disp #20 – “He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God see through suffering and the cross.”
In what is God most made manifest? How is the cross the start of an “emptier, fuller life”? Why is that such a scandal?