Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Maroth: The Village of Miss Havisham

In the Charles Dickens novel ‘Great Expectations’ there is a character called Miss Havisham. She is a sculpted picture of bitterness turned in such a way that she constructs her own muse (Estella) to wreak revenge on all men. There she sits in a house wearing a bridal gown now tattered and torn and amongst the furnishings of the house, there is a banquet table set for a happy occasion now coated in dust and cobwebs. This perhaps is the best image of both tragedy and forlornness written in the English language.

In the book of Micah the first chapter, there is a mention of the place called Maroth. In the Hebrew tongue, it is translated as bitterness. The passage described is a place where people wait on the judgment of God in the sense of setting things they perceive being right from their point of view. Here is the scripture:

“For the inhabitant of Maroth Becomes weak waiting for good, Because a calamity has come down from the LORD To the gate of Jerusalem.”

This is a very appropriate scripture for all who dwell in bitterness. No doubt calamity has been suffered. Perhaps something in your wildest nightmare you could have never conceived. The question here is what you are going to do with it. Your choices while numerous fall into two major points of departure and if I may, I will use the Dickens characters to describe these two ways. First, there is Joe Gargary. He if you will recall was the one who raised the main character in the story: Pip. A gruff and raw man but one of a very good heart and never ceased to think the best in people. In the story Joe becomes a sure support for his charge Pip during the course of the story. He is always constant. He forgives Pip for his being ashamed of such a common and humble man as Joe was when he visited Pip in London and while Pip was on his way to become a gentleman. It is a position in the end Pip comes to regret greatly by the end of the tale. Joe represents those who know what they are in the truest sense, those who love without condition and have the inner fortitude to not let others impact their perspective and judgment concerning people. The other is Miss Havisham. Jilted by her betrothed at the very altar, she remains frozen in the moment of the tragedy and lives out the rest of her days in the cobwebs of what once was as shining and happy moment.

What is the moral of the story? If we live in bitterness and resentment, not only is it the opposite of Christ-likeness, it is self destructive and a robber of all that remains of one’s time left on this earth. Like Miss Havisham, we become frozen in the exact moment of our personal tragedy when we cannot forgive. Moreover, we are proving the fact that, while we might say so, our actions prove that we do not believe Christ is enough for us. It is Him plus a favorable outcome. This is not of the stuff or our heritage and history. In many instances, God’s people have been forced into uncomfortable and even perilous positions because they had to maintain their Christ-likeness as the boot heel of their situation ground them to powder and dust. No, my dear friend, Christ must be enough for us. His timing and justice are His own business and we tread into places where angels will not go when we seek to bend either. We have the extreme privilege to learn the lesson of loving our enemies – a lesson taught only to the few. I have heard it said instead of asking why as Miss Havisham would, we can turn the situation around by instead saying “Lord, why do you trust me so much?” Let’s face it, some of us are offered no option but to forgive or be caught in the maelstrom of our own bitterness. It is not God’s plan for you to waste the rest of your life as it says in Micah to ‘become weak waiting for good…’ The good has come. Here are the facts: 1>You know the Lord, 2>He loves you and 3> He never promised you that life would not be hard or you would be treated fairly. The true reality is that you are better off than anyone in the world is who doesn’t know Jesus; you have someone who will take your pain and heartbreak. Believe me, there are many in the world who live through your situation. It may be a living hell but it is the only hell you will ever experience and the refinement of it in your life if you let it will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. What a freeing thing to think that you can forgive as Jesus did. What a privilege and honor to be able to experience such a thing. Long term whatever you are going through, the harder it is to cope with, the more it defines you and forms you. Let Christ have it, it is too heavy for you.

In our lives, there are rare moments that shape us. It is never the mountain top of victory, it is the fire of the furnace and our own desire to hold on to God in the midst of such a terrible circumstance that is God's honing edge. In the end, it will be the crowning jewel of our lives. It will be that which Jesus recognizes first as our main accomplishment – our death to self and our raising by His love and faithfulness. Dear reader, there is no other way. As I said before, the options to you are limited. We can choose to love and forgive or we can choose to look for justice that may never come. Jesus stands by one path and the other leads to a room of cobwebs, and a figure who pines for what once was. Choose knowing the future…your future…. is at stake.

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