“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? . . . It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.”- Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”- Luke 2:9 (KJV)
In Prologue 3 (“Crash Helmets in Church”) of Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen, Scott Sauls talks about the prophet Isaiah. Because Pastor Sauls describes Isaiah as one of the beautiful people whose best attributes formed as a result of trial.
As Isaiah reports in Chapter 6 of his book, King Uzziah died. As a result, decades of peace and abundance gave way to a bleak marker for Israel. Thus, Assyrian oppression turned light into darkness, with no further prospect of a rising sun.
However, Pastor Sauls notes, Isaiah’s deepest distress came less from his outer world and more from the inside. Because a direct encounter with the Lord uncovered the true nature of the prophet’s heart. After Isaiah’s vision, the weighty stuff of earth felt light when compared to the weight of God’s holiness.
Consequently, the prophet felt wrecked, undone. A common experience among people seeing God as He really is. Rather than how they imagined Him to be.
Above all, Pastor Sauls stresses, note that the Lord never corrects anyone for responding like Isaiah or the shepherds near Bethlehem. As if they’re taking a far too serious stance toward their religion. If anything, Scott astutely observes, they (and we) fail to take God seriously enough.
In conclusion, Pastor Sauls states that the Bible only repeats one attribute of God three times — His holiness. And in the language of the Bible, repetition always conveys emphatic force. When a thrice holy God shows up, the earth shakes.
Today’s question: What do you think of Annie Dillard’s concept of wearing crash helmets in church? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Human heart = greatest mountain”