“Don’t put a question mark in place of where God has put a period!” For the life of me, I cannot remember when or where I heard that quote, but I must have thought that it would have some major significance, because I wrote it into my notes for this book. Well, voila, here it is and how apropos! For some, a most difficult task, and for others a most easy task, is to put what is behind us and what we cannot change into its proper perspective and move on. Alcoholics Anonymous most aptly reflects this in their prayer of:
Dear God, please help me to change the things that I can
the courage to accept the things that I cannot change
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Couple this prayer with what I had earlier paraphrased from the Bible, ‘forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,’ and I think you should get the message of what God is wanting for us. My dreams were evidence of that as well. Yet why do so many insist on sticking that proverbial question mark where a period belongs? The answer; ‘o ye of little faith!’
Modern culture has become a fertile breeding ground for cynicism and arrogance. It has become so acute that even those considered the most strong of faith are allowing their perspectives to become clouded by it. Just look at the state of modern day Christianity. Many a church is skewing farther from redemption and more towards revenue. The holiest of observances, Christ’s birth and resurrection, are no longer times of celebration and worship but opportunities by which to profit from. More focus is being put towards cash flow and revenue rather than evangelism and salvation. Many so-called Mega-Churches and Tel-Evangelists are sucking the life’s blood out of the country churches with extravagant productions meant to entertain rather than redeem. The end result is a vicious cycle of coveting higher cash flows from which to put on bigger productions to gain even more cash flow.
Somewhere in the Bible, it says something to the effect of, ‘where ever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in their midst,’ as well as ‘be still and know that I am God.’ Nothing against Mega-Churches and Tele-Evangelists, mind you, there are many large congregations and television ministries who do not fall into that classification. But are we using the church, mega, televised or country, for its proper intent?
We have all seen the obligatory annual surveys and poll results that purportedly gauge the spiritual mood of the country asking the same old tired questions. Do you believe in God (by the way Satan believes in God, so what value does that question have)? Do you attend church regularly, occasionally or not at all? Etc, etc. Those are easy polls to conduct and participate in. The next time a polling or research organization conducts a poll to gauge the spiritual climate of the population, would it not be interesting to see the results to these questions. Instead of do you believe in God, why not ask, do you love God? Or how about, what comes first in your life, God, career, money etc.? Talk about gauging the spiritual mood of the country! Unfortunately, therein lays the conundrum of faith versus arrogance and cynicism and how this paradox impacts the power of perspective.
The wonders of technology, science and social evolution have caused us to focus more on outcomes rather than inputs (faith). We are so indoctrinated and inundated with the expectation of quick results (arrogance) that we ignore the stark reality that nothing in life comes easy. But, when stark reality finally does bop us upside the head, deep disappointment and doubt sets in (cynicism). Faith is the period; arrogance and cynicism are the question marks. Putting your faith in God and not into the antithesis of God, lets you put that period where it needs to be put and allows you to move on. The converse will keep you mired into a lifetime of no answers and waning hope, the question marks.
The story of Job in the Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures provides for an excellent example with respect to the dichotomy of periods versus question marks and how it relates to faith, arrogance and cynicism. For those of you, who are not familiar with this story, allow me to provide you with a condensed version in a modern day narrative.
Job was a man of great wealth, stature and power. Job was also a man of great faith and virtue. One day God and his adversary must have been sitting down for coffee discussing the universal grand scheme of things when the topic of Job came up. The example that Job must have been setting apparently was a burr in the adversary’s saddle. The adversary told God something to the effect of, “well no wonder Job thinks that you are so great, he has everything that a person could ever want. I bet if life were not so peachy for your boy Job, it would be a different story between you and him!” God responded, “You are wrong about Job, but knowing you, for the sake of argument you are going to want me to prove it.” “You bet,” said the adversary. God replied, “Okay, to prove my point that Job is a righteous and faithful man in spite of his good fortune, I will allow you to have your way with Job, with one exception, you cannot touch him physically.” Gleefully the adversary said, “You’re on.”
A series of calamities then came down on Job. Over a short period, Job’s riches, his livestock, his house and his servants were gone. In addition, through a series of four messages Job was also informed that all his children had perished in various disasters. Reduced to rags, Job fell to his knees and prayed to God, “You gave me all that I have and you have the right to take it all back. I am still blest for all that I am!”
As you may be able to guess, that did not set well with the adversary, so he came back to God and said, “Well okay, I’ll give you that one, but Job is only suffering emotionally. I bet if he was hurting physically it would be another story.” Confident in Job’s strong sense of faith, God rescinded his previous conditions and allowed the adversary to touch Job physically but only to the point of not killing him. Once again gleeful, the adversary said “Agreed!”
Job quickly becomes afflicted with many diseases and is in excruciating pain. Reduced to the lowest possible state of existence, the adversary also decided to toss in a couple of question marks to stack the deck in his favor. In addition to all the maladies that Job was suffering from, now Job’s wife began to chastise him and demanded that he tell God to take a hike. Three of Job’s closest friends also jump onto the blame game wagon and tell Job that his situation was a result of something evil that Job himself had done. God was merely punishing him for some past transgression. Sound familiar; remember the balance sheet?
An argument ensued between Job and all his question marks. Job refused to believe that God was out to get him, but you cannot help to think that his faith was beginning to waver a bit as the arguments of the question marks permeated into Job’s thoughts. When Job begins to formulate a bit of a question mark in thinking to himself, ‘So God, why is this happening to me,’ God apparently had seen enough and decides to step in.
“Job, when you obtain the ability to create the moon, the sun and the stars, then you will have the right to ask me why. In the meantime, what you need to do is to have faith in me and trust that what I am doing is best for you, all my creatures and for the world. Never again put a question mark where I have put a period!” Job asked God to forgive him and his question marks and was restored to a new life but this time tenfold of his previous one. The adversary silently slipped away in defeat.
Period people and question mark people are as distinct as day and night and you do not have to go to church to find them. Just look around your workplace or circle of friends and you will see them. I travel extensively during the course of a year, lecturing and teaching. In my travels I also meet many people. I can distinguish between period people and question mark people I have never before met, within a matter of minutes. The congenial ones and the grouches, that very well sums them up. One wants to be there and one has to be there. The ones that want to be there are excited about the possibilities and opportunities. The ones that have to drag themselves there are just trying to even up some artificially imposed balance sheet. The good news for all the question marks out there is that grace can take away the squiggle above the period in a question mark and help you to just leave the period.