Yes, wackiness. And not just any wackiness. Theological wackiness.
John Elderidge has published a new book entitled Beautiful Outlaw; and judging from the excerpts that blogger Tim Challies shared, it smells like a stinker. A big stinker. See for yourself:
I have had similar encounters with Jesus in healing prayer. Last year, as a wise old sage was praying with me through some of the painful memories of my life, I was immediately reminded of the time in middle school when my first girlfriend broke my heart. These wounds can linger for a lifetime if you let them—the first cut is the deepest, and all that. We asked Jesus to take me back to the memory. I saw us, the girl and me; it was that fateful summer day. We were in the living room, just as it happened. Then I saw Jesus enter the room. He was quite stern with her, and it surprised me. That mattered to you? I wondered. Very much, he said.
Then Jesus turned to me. I felt his love. I realized I could let the whole thing go. It was so healing. To understand that Jesus is angry about what happened to you is very, very important in understanding his personality but also in your relationship with him and for your healing. What I love about these encounters is that every time—every time—Jesus is so true to his real personality. Sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle, always generous, and often very playful.
My son was having a tough freshman year at college. So many students there are bound under the religious fog. It was a lonely fall, filled with misunderstanding. One afternoon, just after a classmate said something particularly hurtful to him, Blaine returned to his room and slumped onto his bed, about as low as a young man can get. He looked over to his desk, and “saw” Jesus sitting there, in his desk chair, a smile on his face. He was wearing a pirate hat. Then he disappeared. A whiff of the Emmaus road.
But wait, there’s more:
I was going to call this book Jesus of a Thousand Hearts, because of the way he continually breaks into my life. He “speaks” to me through hearts. I’ll find stones in the shape of hearts in rivers where I’m fishing. I’ve seen them almost step-by-step up a mountainside when on a grueling climb. Praying in the morning I’ll look out the window and passing by will be a heart-shaped cloud. Dinner rolls, seashells, stains on my jeans. I’ve won the lottery when it comes to hearts from Jesus. But I am ashamed to admit that last summer, I grew a little impatient with them. I was going through a trying time and seeking God for the answer to many questions. Often, he would simply give me a heart in reply. I’d be walking down the sidewalk, and there in the cement see a heart-shaped hole, made by a bubble when they poured the sidewalk.
I actually grew a little dismissive of them. I didn’t want hearts—I wanted answers.
So, Jesus stopped giving these treasures of our friendship.
Last fall, while walking through an alpine meadow bow hunting, I was asking him, How come you don’t give me hearts anymore? I asked it in a pouting kind of way. At that moment something gray caught my eye. I looked down midstride, and there in the grass, about as big as a dinner plate, was a dried piece of cow manure—in the perfect shape of a heart.
If I didn’t know Jesus adores me, if I didn’t know he is playful, and if our relationship didn’t allow me to receive a playful tease, I might have misinterpreted the icon. But I loved it. It was both, Oh, so now you want a heart? and, I adore you still. A cow-pie heart. That is so Jesus. Wish I’d taken a photo of it—we could have put it on the cover of this book.
I’m still trying to figure out how someone could write this kind of stuff and keep a straight face. It’s a complete mystery to me.
I think all of it would be a whole lot funnier if it were written only in jest. But it’s not. As Challies pointed out, Eldridge has put himself beyond parody. Such being the case, I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, or throw up.