Faith and Fitted Sheets

I have a love/hate relationship with fitted sheets. I love how they fit so snug on mattresses, keeping things covered and neat. However, I absolutely hate attempting to fold the suckers. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I am becoming adept at this homemaker thing, until I am humbled by the task of folding a fitted sheet. I know there is some magical trick, my mother has taught it to me. It’s just that I can never remember it in the heat of the moment.

On my good days, I end up rolling it up into a ball. On my bad days, I end up cursing under my breath and then rolling it up into a ball. Either way, the result is the same.

Fitted sheets perfectly fit their role, which happens to be to fit tightly around a pad of materials with certain dimensions, shapes and curves. The two were made for each other.

photo-8In my experience, the Christian faith is like a fitted sheet. It is neither simple nor neatly folded or packaged. It is funny-shaped. But it’s shape fits the shape of the human experience.

G. K. Chesterton likens the creeds of the Christian faith, the most basic outlines for what the Christian believes, to a key. He is a lot smarter than me, so maybe we should go with the key rather than the fitted sheet. It sure sounds more sophisticated.

Chesterton notes that, from its inception, the Christian faith is like a key in three main ways.  “First, a key is above all things a thing with a shape. It is a thing that depends entirely upon keeping its shape…Second, the shape of a key is in itself a rather fantastic shape…A key is not a matter of abstractions; in that sense a key is not a matter of argument. It either fits the lock or it does not…and thirdly, as the key is necessarily a thing with a pattern, so this was one having, in some ways, a rather elaborate pattern. When people complain of the religion being so early complicated with theology and things of the kind, they forget that the world had not only got into a hole, but had got into a whole maze of holes and corners. The problem itself was a complicated problem…it is enough to say that there was undoubtedly much about the key that seemed complex, indeed there was only one thing about it that was simple. It opened the door.”

A God who is three but one, one but three. A Savior who is both fully God and fully human. A God who is both just and merciful. A God who is sovereign, yet holds His people responsible. People who must admit their deep sickness in order to be deeply healed. Just a few of the mysteries of the Christian faith. Christianity is not a flat sheet, easily folded or explained. It is strangely shaped.

But, in answer to the historical question as to why in the world this “key” of Christianity was so widely accepted as to change the landscape of human history, G. K Chesterton writes:

“I answer for millions of others in my reply; <em>because it fits the lock, because it is like life. </em>It is one among many stories; only it happens to be a true story. It is one among many philosophies; only it happens to be the truth. We accept it; and the ground is solid under our feet and the road is open before us…It opens to us not only incredible heavens but what seems to some an equally incredible earth, and makes it credible…<em>We are Christians and Catholics not because we worship a key, but because we have passed a door</em>; and felt the wind that is the trumpet of liberty blow over the land of the living.”

I don’t own fitted sheets because they look normal or neat. I own fitted sheets because they serve the purpose of wrapping themselves around my mattress better than anything else.

Likewise, I don’t believe and live by the creeds of the Christian faith because they make perfect sense to me, nor because someone told to me to build my life upon them. I believe them because they have alone make sense of the brokenness and beauty I see in the world and in myself. Christianity answers the deep questions my soul asks. Christianity fits the human experience like lock and key.

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