The Wineskin of God

The ACU campus is in grief. On Friday an ACU bus carrying 16 passengers from our Agriculture Department--twelve students, three faculty members and one faculty spouse--crashed south of Abilene as the group was traveling to a children's home for a weekend mission trip. Many were injured and some remain in the hospital in critical condition. ACU student Anabel Reid was killed. She was 19.

Unfolding details can be followed at this website.

Last week I was reading Psalm 56. It contains a beautiful image in verse eight. From the New Jerusalem translation:

You yourself have counted up my sorrow,
collect my tears in your wineskin.
I'm aware that the bible speaks of a New Heaven and a New Earth where there will be no more crying, where God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

I don't, however, find that vision all that comforting. Yes, crying will one day cease. But what about today? What about these tears? What about all the tears we shed before we get to heaven?

Are they noticed? Wasted? Lost?

I don't know the answers to those questions. But Psalm 56.8 speaks to my lament, my feeling that the cosmos is indifferent to our suffering. The psalmist says no tear falls to earth unnoticed. None are lost, wasted or forgotten in the winds of time. Each one is counted and collected in the wineskin of God.

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13 thoughts on “The Wineskin of God”

  1. I appreciate your comment that intellectual consolation is not emotional comfort, especially for the families affected. Our prayers are with you. May His healing be on everyone.

  2. The absolutely worst event in this life which I can contemplate would be the loss of my daughter.  I am truly saddened by this terrible accident.  My hope and prayer is for comfort and healing for those directly affected, and for the entire ACU family.

  3. Sometimes, when I sit in meetings about children going through all kinds of things that children should not have to go through, I hear a certain word used in two completely different ways.  Sometimes I stop the speaker briefly to explain this, to stop others from missing the point. 

    The word is ‘contain’.

    When some people talk about ‘containing’ a child, they mean to stop their bad behaviour from spreading, from damaging or infecting others.

    When others talk about ‘containing’ a child, they are looking past the challenging behaviour to the raw, pulsating, unmet need, to the terror and the pain beneath.  They mean that it is our job to understand, to give a name to, to normalise, to not be scared, to hold, to embrace, perhaps even to transform.

    Sometimes, when I read the Bible, about people going through all kinds of things that people should not have to go through, I read a certain word used in two completely different ways. 

    The word is ‘wineskin’.

    When Pharisees and experts in the law explained the way things were, they pointed to their valuable, old wineskins, keeping the carefully matured, traditionally crafted vintage safe from light, from oxygen, from warmth, from dirt, from damage, from impurity, from others.

    When David and Elihu and Jesus talked of wineskins, bulging to bursting, overwhelmed by the smoke of injustice, they talked of something new; of that which could expand and stretch: that could contain the seething, fermenting, potentially-explosive.  They understood that God’s work is ours also: to understand, to give a name to, to normalise, to not be scared, to hold, to embrace, perhaps even, eventually, to transform.

    For now, just for now, we are the wineskins of God.

  4. "The absolutely worst event in this life which I can contemplate would be the loss of my daughter."

    How true. Words cannot ever describe the loss that any of us would feel. But then imagine your even more indescribable joy when your are reunited with her, and Anabel Reid is reunited with her family. Now THAT will be a glorious day. And that is what drives my hope in God.

    Your prayer will be answered Sam... just not today.

  5. Oh my days, how horrid. Web-based love and actual prayers for you guys. Your God is a great big God and he holds you in his hands. Somehow. Much love, N

  6. "Intellectual consolation is not emotional comfort." How true, Michael. In times of tragedy, I'm reminded of this expression of grief and vexation from A Grief Observed:

    "Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to
    me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't
    come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect
    that you don't understand. The conclusion is not 'So there's no God,
    after all' but 'So this is what God is really like, the Cosmic Sadist.
    The spiteful imbecile?'"

  7. I have often been terribly disturbed at how it seems that nature and the cosmos are as indifferent to our greatest joy as to our worst loss and sorrow. It is a horrible quandary. Only a personal God makes it just.

  8. My heart goes out to all at ACU...  Praying that God's healing grace will surround and comfort each of you touched by this tragedy.

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