Faith is the evidence of things not seen, but oh how I wish it was the other way around. We like tangible things. At least, I do. I am pretty certain that Thomas and I would have been friends. I wear my emotions on my sleeve just like he did. I get sad or depressed and it can easily come out as anger or frustration. I can jump from calm to storm in a matter of seconds - all from a minor circumstance. I don’t particularly like that part of me. I know others have made sure that I know they don’t like it either. I wish it were different, but hey… sanctification and all. But Thomas and I would be friends and I would have wanted what he wanted. Ideal version of me wouldn’t have shown up. Angry, frustrated Chad would have been on the scene wanting real evidence. Give me proof, Jesus.
If I had to pick a story to be zapped back to in history, believe it or not it would not be Easter Sunday. I love Easter. My soul loves the impact of Easter. My heart wells up with emotion at the thought, but I am a behind the scenes kind of story teller and I want to have the backlot tour of the first century rather than the front row seat. I want to see the moments when the cameras weren’t rolling, when the key players were in between takes, eating lunch, folding clothes, buying an ice-cream. Maybe its because the events we read about in Scripture can feel like old movies playing on TV, not even in theaters for the first release. We know what’s going to happen next. We can recite the lines by heart. We don’t jump in surprise at what happened. They are too familiar.
I need to peel back the layers of these stories, let them sit with me for a bit, stumble into a sweet spot. A breath in between the action. A holy pause in between the story. An invisible map on the back.
Like Jesus building a campfire. Baking bread. Cooking fish.
I love Philip Yancey. He’s not afraid to say it - you know, the stuff that can get under your spiritual skin, ruffle your church feathers, and shuffle your deck of pharisaical cards. His blog from this past week on the Resurrection of Jesus opened up a crack (for me) past the bigness and familiarity of the Easter story. It wasn’t his point, but the campfire in John 21 snagged my heart and hasn’t left me.
That’s the story. That’s the one I would pick. Send me back to that moment. You’ll find me a stone’s throw up the beach, just out of sight of the resurrected Jesus (but can you ever be out of his sight?), but I would be there watching Him. I’m not sure how they started fires at this point in history. Maybe it was flint, clipping and clopping together two rocks to propel a tiny spark into a small bird’s nest of dry tinder. Or maybe they rubbed sticks together. It probably doesn’t matter so much as Jesus had already walked through a wall, vanished at will… oh, and rose from the dead. So starting a fire at this point wasn’t much of an issue. I like to think about it though. I like to picture him knelt over a small glow of a flame, his face just catching the light as he gently blows enough oxygen to breathe life into the small campfire.
Had he purchased bread in town? Fish? Had he just summoned it from heaven the way he had when he fed the 5000? Since no one was watching (except for the hypothetical me) did he even need to do anything but say: “Breakfast fire with fish and bread!” I don’t know, but I like to think about it. There’s something about imagining my Savior prepare breakfast for his beat up friends that makes my heart feel a bit of life.
As I stumble and stutter through my own faith, I find that it is the in-between moments, where I don’t feel my best, that He surprises me with a resurrection campfire. Maybe like the disciples I have gone back to work, ignoring the astounding and miraculous events from the last few days because… come on, who could really believe that He rose from the dead? I go back to what I know just like Peter and the boys (Let’s face it, Peter had a rough night a while back with the whole cursing denial moment). I can handle this. I am good at trying to achieve self-righteousness. I have learned to push back the subtle nudges from your Holy Spirit which try to remind me that it won’t work and I go to work anyway. You let me. I spend all night. I produce nothing… just as before. And I feel the anger… just as before.
Then as day breaks, I see a figure in the distance. The tiny glow of a fire on the beach, breaking through the gray and cold of an empty night of work. You call out, but who are you? You ask my soul the question I have already been answering all night long and I bark out the answer. I have nothing. Still you invite me to sit around the embers of your fire and warm myself from the shiver of my own attempts at fixing myself. There are millions who need to hear about this earth-shattering news of life, but for the moment you are inviting me to have breakfast. My eyes catch yours and they are full of kindness, compassion and defiant hope. You hand me my portion of the fish and bread. There’s no look of condemnation for all of the running and quitting I’ve done. Just breakfast… around a campfire with the Resurrected One stoking it’s coals as well as the embers of my heart.