Saturday, April 14, 2018

The God of Circles

I am amazed when I read the stories of so many in the Bible. I see circles. It is the geometric that reflects the very nature of God, complete, no beginning and no end.  If you think about it there is a circular pattern in most of nature:  the circular pattern as the moon orbits around us and the earth around the sun, the waves of a drop of water in a still pond, sound waves, water in a weightless space. Even the planet is a circle in three dimensional space.  Then I ask myself what I really see when I see the circle. I am tempted to look at the empty void between the rims of that perfect patterned circle.  It is fitting a proper to look at all of it: the circle itself and the void inside. If you think of it, time itself bends in a circular fashion. Why? God’s will is circular with us in a random fashion arcing towards the perfect. Let me give you a few examples.

I. A man, a Son , a Widow and their Circles

Abraham- this story of Abraham is a circle. God led him to a promised land where he dwelt with his nephew Lot. He entered the land and set up an altar to His God who had brought him to this land with so much ahead of him. In time, there was a famine in the land and Abraham went to Egypt. While it is not mentioned as this being  ‘out of God’s plan’, if we read through the lines, Abraham went through much tribulation in that land yet in spite of all that was he not only blessed but upon his forced return to his inheritance, he re-entered the land by that same path and rebuilt the altar no doubt in disarray from time. He rebuilt it and with each stone replaced, it confirmed the will of God of him being there in the land – moving long the rim of God’s will. You see, we cannot break through that circle only dwell within its view and follow it or labor in the bleak expanse within the circle. Think of it for a moment. The very ground he had first entered the land was being trod as he re-entered. The circle was complete. While it is never said, I believe this was the bedrock of Abraham’s faith as he raised the knife to strike his son in God’s name only to hear the bleating a split second later in the thicket. He saw the silver rim of God’s will from the void he had walked through to Mount Moriah. He had walked void before. In the end, again God had taken and given back but even more. If we find ourselves in the void,  we must be like Abraham and seek the arcing of the rim of the God of circles. Life is full of the void, the in-between time while we approach the golden rim once more.

Joseph – also a circle: favored son of an old man betrayed, beaten and sold as a slave. The dark days did not end but increased as a young man imprisoned and where he learned to survive in the void between the circle’s arcs. Yet the very place of prison where he was became the launching point for perhaps one of the greatest in the history of man. Saving a nation but even more he saved his own kin from a slow waning death from starvation. In the end through the throes and eddies of all that story, he wept with his brothers. From the void, he saw his father in the distance and ran to him kissed him. The rim of the circle was found as he embraced his father. I am reading between the lines here but I believe that what Jacob saw was not the time that had passed. We do not remember the void when we have found the rim of God. All the pain and anguish and long sleepless nights of mourning are washed away in such a place as against the rim. Joseph’s life was two points that were on the circle with so much void in between. It was not the void that was important to Joseph, it was the path back to the rim and to His father experiencing the full circle of the joy that leaped within his heart.

Naomi – a circular life. She was the wife of a man named Elimelech who determined like Abraham his forefather had done before him to leave the land of his inheritance because of famine. His outcome was not a favorable as Abraham’s. He died as well as his sons in a strange land leaving his wife and two daughters-in-law alone and unprotected. No doubt  Naomi purposed to go back to the land of her family hoping to find some support and shelter from relatives—as Abraham, there was little choice: she had to return to the place where she had departed.  All hope of the family line was gone.--Her husband and sons dead. That was the void that she walked along with her one loyal and loving daughter-in-law Ruth.   All her children were taken, her hope and her inheritance flown to the wind never to return.  Upon the return, it was not her who could be used by God to bring about change. She had given up and renamed herself according to her plight. Her name now meant bitter( Mara). Life was now a slow poison that had taken hold and was petrifying her one cell at a time. Yet in the void so dark she could not even see the rim of God’s will, that perfect circle, Ruth was now leading her. Ruth: the future wife of Boaz mother to Obed the grandfather of David the King.  On the rim now, Naomi dandled her grandson on her knee. I think of the roads of the void on the way back and what she must have felt – if anything at all. Pain at that level makes you numb. There is no more feeling there is only a twisted dance where Death is the leading partner. Yet back on the rim of God, the pain was forgotten. There was only the present and a future with a family. It was as if the past was washed under by all the love of the present. What she longed for she had found and all the pain a distant memory as she dandled the flubbery bundle of joy that represented God’s unbroken promise that she had either not believed or had forgotten about. Her circle was now completed. She was on the rim to stay.

II. There is no map, only a straight line

I tell you these stories so that it might encourage you that wherever you are, you are within the boundary of God’s will. Like I said, it cannot be breached and there is no escape from it. There is only the void between. Here are some suggestions from a void-dweller. We cannot see in the void but the only thing to do is try to move in a straight line. It is not about trust or faith at that point because like Naomi some of us are beyond that possibility. No, we move for survival or just to function. We become forward moving machines with all else drained from us. But there is a current and perhaps even a force that directs us in a straight line so we do not get lost in the void between the rims of the circle of God’s will. I am sure there is because where I am today is not where I was just a short few years ago. We continue to push through the void in a straight line. We had faith, lost faith and somehow had it given back to us. Maybe our story is yours in some way. Maybe you walk through your own wasteland and see no shimmering ring at all. My advice is to keep moving even when there is nothing to move for or towards. Keep moving and you will eventually find yourself where you can be nothing but surprised. Perhaps a land recaptured, a family rebuilt or a long awaited reconciliation. You see, circles are all about that. They begin and end in the same place and we are bound by the boundaries of the circle of God’s will. The comforting thing is no one walks the rim continuously with no veering except  One. We are bound to a life in the void at worst or skipping along the rim from time to time at best. It is the nature of life. But be comforted because in any direction you walk within the circle of the will of God and no matter how far you are from it, if you keep walking you will eventually find it. The most interesting thing is it will be exactly the point where perhaps you left it. Like Abraham, Joseph and Naomi. How we can walk in a straight line and end up where we began can only be God. My son and daughter with their families are in the void. I know this because I am one who has been a void dweller. I know that where there are  discrete breaks in fellowship and unity, there is  not the will of God. This is proven by the fruit produced: in the void, one’s love for anything grows cold and one goes into survival mode – one becomes ruthless. Although they try or seek to emulate their leaders, my son and daughter will never be that. To them I say: the way out is straight but not easy. It is easiest to become a dweller and quiet the yearning to see what one cannot see in the void – the shimmering rim of the will of God where there is only love, forgiveness and a continuity of life as if one had never left the rim. Oh there are cities in the void-- large and prosperous ones-- but they are not the city of God.  One must follow their heart not the words or whispers who say ‘Stay’.  There is much in that place along the rim and it is everything you hoped it would be. Keep walking…along the rim we are waiting.