Ever since reading Voskamp's book and writing these reviews, I've been pondering the idea of transformations, or changing something into something else.
That's what magic does.
Magic changes Ron Weasley's normally land-locked vehicle into a flying car and instantly alters the house flag colors draped over Hogwarts's dining hall. Magic transports Dorothy from Oz back to Kansas instantly, and turns Gandalf's staff into a weapon of power in Theoden's court. Magic changes things in super-human ways. We love to put magic into stories, don't we? We're longing for the supernatural to act.
Because when God acts, He transforms things. He makes a mute donkey speak. He makes blind people see. He changes water into wine -- instantly. He turns dead to living. Every day, He enters dead human hearts and makes them alive to whole new spiritual realms. Transformation is magic, and we love to see it. It's the stuff of Heaven, and we really want to see it on Earth.
That's why Voskamp's book is so exciting to readers. She's promising miracles!! She tells us, if we offer a prayer of thanks, the painful, bad, fallen things in our lives will be transformed by that thanks, into healing, good, unfallenness. Into a state of wholeness. In essence, she's claiming to transfigure this poor planet, in small ways, into a little bit of heaven. Is it bad to wish that? No. Is it bad to claim to do it? Maybe.
Why does Proverbs 17:15 tell me, "He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD," and then also describe God Himself as "Him who justifies the ungodly"? Why does God get to do the very thing He says we're not allowed to do?
Because He's God. He actually does really justify me, the sinner. He has the magic. He has the power, or as Scripture calls it (I love this term!!), the "attesting miracle." Attesting to what? When Jesus heals disease and drives out demons and stops storms, what does all that attest to? His supernatural status as Creator, as King, as The Boss.
I'm not He. I have no attesting miracles. And it would be very wrong for me to claim such powers, when I don't have them. It would be very wrong for me to say I'm transforming anything from one state to another.
And here's where I wish Voskamp would be more precise. I do not think she's taking on God's role and putting herself on His throne. I just wish she were more clear about exactly how her own transformations take place. Only God transforms. Her prayers are not magical. Thanks isn't magical. Even a thankful heart is not magical. Only God transforms anything evil into anything good, and He does it on His own terms. He rarely transforms as we'd like Him to (i.e., remove this thorn in my flesh, please Lord!), but usually in unexpected ways (Ah! He'll leave the thorn but give me strength instead - how bizarre!)
Mystics (and I do think Voskamp is a Christian mystic) often take one piece of theology and make it the absolute centerpiece, and ask everyone to realize it as such. They get their perspective a bit skewed. They are essential in the church because they take things we've often pushed to the periphery (like thanksgiving) and bring it back into a prominent place. Dry theologians limit the faith down, always paring away, and mystics broaden it again and encourage us to embrace the things we've mistakenly tossed aside. Both are so useful.
Thanks for listening. I hope this made a bit of sense. I do not think Voskamp is far afield, but I do think she's a little afield. Mostly, I wish she'd be more clear, but mystics don't tend to do that. Oh how we long for heaven, with all its magic -- all its "signs" -- and as my Bible teachers often said, Heaven is "now" and "not yet." We must keep both in balance.