“Isaac,” the stern deacon said, “if you cannot be reverent, you can at least keep your mouth shut about things which do not concern you.” When Isaac and his brother Enoch remonstrated that they were not only criticizing the hymns that were being used (they had called them “cheap” and “ugly”), but that they hoped to prepare their own hymnal, the elder laughed and said, “That old hymnal was good enough for your grandfather, and your father, and so I reckon it will have to be good enough for you!” ~Controversy
Isaac may not have gone about it the right way, but he had a vision. He had a gift. But not everyone could see it. Some embraced the “newness” of his songs. Others, like many of us, had trouble letting go of the way it’s always been. “They took issue with one of his most popular songs calling it ‘man-centered’ and ‘focussed on human experience’ . . . The year was 1707, the composer was Isaac Watts, and the song was ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’” (Radford). Sometimes great things are forged in the gap between tradition and vision.
In the London subway (or “The Tube,” as they call it), there are signs everywhere that say “Mind the Gap.” The wording seems odd to us, but it’s there as a warning, calling you to attention the space between the platform and the train. It’s meant to keep you out of trouble. If you don’t “Mind the Gap,” you could wind up in serious trouble, i.e., with a broken leg...or worse!
I think there’s a bigger gap we have to “mind” in life. It stands between reality and possibility. There’s the way things have always been. And there’s what might be. There’s what we hope for our children. And there’s who they have become. There’s what we want. And there’s what everyone else voted for. To “mind the gap” is to hold on to hope that a third way will emerge.
“I hold no illusions about how hard it is to live in that gap. Though we may try to keep our grip on both reality and hope, we often find the tension too hard to hold—so we let go of one pole and collapse into the other. Sometimes we resign ourselves to things as they are and sink into cynical disengagement. Sometimes we cling to escapist fantasies and float above the fray” (A Hidden Wholeness).
In faith, as in any human endeavor, to cling to the past (or reality) is to disengage, to close the door on the future. To focus on fantasy (possibility) is to check out or “lose touch.” There must be a third way! As humans, we crave resolution, but at what cost? Too often we settle when we could have waited and found something far greater.
When we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives, it’s easier to dismiss it, to give up the question and fall back on our old clichés. But if you can wait, if you can hold the tension, if you can “mind the gap”--God may show up in an entirely unexpected way. And who knows where the train might take you!