As I wrote in while singing Bach in Chicago, my relationship with my faith has been a constantly evolving one, and I have come to question it over the years, like I assume most people do. While I have always believed in a God, I question more and more the validity of the Bible being the word of God. I mostly take issue with how much focus there can be at times on the proscriptive and seemingly hateful passages in the Bible that seem to me to skew its larger message of faith, hope, and love. It seems to me that perhaps some human error seeped into it over the years. I’ve also come to question the idea of man’s unworthiness in the Bible – why shouldn’t we be worthy of God’s love? We are theoretically all God’s children, are we not? All parents’ love should be unconditional, and certainly God would be the one being capable of such greatness.
Daniel’s setting of this story begins with Shadrach leading a prayer of penitence, assuming responsibility for the sack of Judah and pleading for God’s mercy. He acknowledges that the wayward ways of the Jews were the cause of their current plight as they brought the wrath of God upon them.
As I set to learning this music, I had trouble reconciling myself to embracing this idea of a wrathful God – my emotional walls were instantly up, and I felt myself detaching from the piece. I wondered how I was going to find a way to commit to Shadrach and his logic. I judged Shadrach for being so misguided in believing that he and his people were only worthy of such incredible misfortune. I don’t believe that a performer can do proper justice to their character if they are judging them in anyway. Performing anything demands the utmost empathy and compassion.
This morning, after having struggled with this for weeks, I suddenly realized that Shadrach was not misguided at all, but actually wise and inspiring. Shadrach and his companions share my belief that God’s love for us is unconditional. He acknowledges what he feels are the mistakes of his people, and his wisdom is in seeing that the only way to move on is to learn from those mistakes with a humble heart. He does not in fact believe that he and his people are unworthy of God’s love, but are worthy of not only God’s love but God’s protection and mercy, as well. That he can maintain such faith that he is willing to risk his life by walking through fire after having endured the hardships of watching his homeland be conquered and then being held captive in a foreign land is inspiring. I would think that a lesser person would question the very existence of God after suffering hardships such as those.
We struggle with our faith in many things, not just God, and I found myself wondering this morning, if I maintained such faith in not only the good in the world, but also in myself during the times that are tough, what miracles could I accomplish? Every step would be a positive step forward, and I would never feel as if I had taken any steps back. I marveled that I was able to extrapolate a lesson from this Old Testament story. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what I believe when it comes to the Bible – lessons that apply to so many different aspects of our lives can be gleaned from its parables and stories, regardless.