Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Second Wind: The Rest of Your Life

There is a reality that every runner knows. My Dad used to call it the ‘Second Wind’. It is that time when the body has reached exhaustion through a race and then from nowhere, new strength and vigor begins to flow….and you find the strength to keep going. I have experienced it many times in my life especially after a long bout of inactivity and the grueling climb back to be physically in shape. For the first few days after returning to running, it is about the fifth day for me and about the third mile. I feel like all my parts are screaming for me to stop. Physically it almost feels as if some force is pushing me back while I drag another along behind me. Then it happens, the second wind. I smile and my pace quickens as it kicks in.


My friends, if I might use this as an analogy to what we as expatriates from infernal regions of abuse have experienced. You and I have trod that road and possibly we are many miles from the point of departure from the dysfunctional group. Our soul and mind screams for no more…even our body seeks to rest the rest of complacency and spiritual death. Frankly, we want to be left alone by everything and everybody….and if we are honest, we even want God to turn away from us and let us live in the darkness of grief and loss. It is the squalor of a person stripped of their soul. Make no mistake about it, the group you left wanted all of you and that is exactly what they took, every bright hope and dream so it is no wonder that escape at any personal cost has an appeal…at least it is the satanic kehjt (pronounced keft) that bids you to quaff it and be remembered no more and to remember no more. It is said that hell is a place of the forgotten and if that is true, we that have been through the grinding pain of this abuse have experienced some form of the pain of the damned. To those that we left or were expelled from, it is their version of what the Apostle Paul speaks of concerning the sinner of the Corinthian church and one that Paul himself speaks of ‘turning over to Satan’ for the destruction of the flesh. Rarely do they continue on with the story where Paul himself comes to the aid of the sinner and asks that those who treated him severely (and well deserved) to accept them back into the church. You see, dysfunctional groups have a great deal of alacrity to cast out of their ‘synagogues’ those who in their estimation have ‘sinned’ (i.e. do not comply with their codex of teachings and have learned not to blindly follow them as leaders). When one leaves, all they have recently known or maybe have ever known is ripped away and as they travel on in their race, their body, mind and soul scream to stop exerting and rest. This is what many do and in the end they that do so become the shipwrecked casualties of the dysfunctional group. The party line in the dysfunctional group is ‘oh you know so and so has even stopped going to church!!…that’s what happens when you leave the church ( insert your own words here to describe the group, I used ‘church’ here to name it something)…’ To that I would respond ‘small wonder’ on those who stop going to church, in fact it is quite the norm. Research has shown that those who leave dysfunctional groups find it very difficult to adjust to life outside the group. Some don’t, some waste away in guilt and self-condemnation looking for a grace that never comes and a peace just out of reach. I wonder what Jesus thinks about such situations. If the Scriptures are any clue, there is little doubt that it breaks the very bowels of God. I use the word 'Bowels' here because in the greek it describes the innermost part of the body -- for the woman it is the womb which the place where life begins. This is the true definition of what it means when it says that Jesus was moved with compassion. We must always be reminded that what is being discussed is His people, the ones He died for not the chattel of conversation and being made a twisted example.


The moral of the story? Keep running. Run through the pain and the spiritual exhaustion. Be spent in your effort to continue the race. Paul writes in Philippians chapter three ‘forgetting what lies behind, I press on.’ It is a classic state of mind within a dysfunctional group to focus on our past or our future but rarely the present. This is the great deception. We are so busy ‘repenting of what we have done or are doing’ so that we will be counted ‘worthy’ in the future – the present like a swaddling life filled child is left unattended. My friends it is the only thing we have. The great deception is to take our eye off of it and live in a time that is either gone or untouchable and ethereal. We live for what we can never possess, the future or our past. Jesus said something in the gospels that bodes well for us. ‘Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.’ Lk 12:22.

There is a Chinese proverb about a man on a journey through the wilderness and he is confronted with a tiger. He flees the tiger blindly and come to a precipice where there is a staked rope that goes over the side. With little choice, he shimmies down the rope resting his feet on the knot at the end of the rope. He looks below and sees a few hundred feet down jagged rocks. He looks above and the tiger is licking his chops waiting for him to climb back up. Moreover the rope has seen better days and is frayed. He is in trouble. In the midst of his trouble he stares to his side and sees a small patch of strawberries cut in a cleft of the rock. He being exhausted and famished, picks one and it is the best tasting strawberry he had ever eaten.

The lesson here if you worry about the ‘tigers’ and ‘rocks’ you never have time to enjoy the ‘strawberries’. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he continued the teaching in Luke 12: ‘Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?’…

One thing about running I really enjoy, it is in the moment, it is life simplified. There is no one but you, God and the road. There is a place you started from and a place you are going. When you get there it is over and you have accomplished what you set out to do. But as one foot is put in front of the other and effort expended, in that frozen moment you are alive...sensing it all. I find it a great time for sharing with God my life. In the end, keep running. There will be a time to lay down the journey but now is not that time. You have escaped the tiger and for the moment, you have been provided a rope and some provision, enjoy them. The rocks below become only a factor if you lose grip or give up.
Don’t. Jesus will be there. His gift to you is the moment. He is there, He provided the rope and as a bonus the ‘strawberries’. He will not leave you. The Longer you wait out the tiger, the less interested he becomes. He is the one who will lose heart. Cling to the rope, thank God for it.


So what does this have to do with the ‘Second Wind’? Here is the reality. You have been through some serious storms yet the fact that you are reading this means in essence you are still clinging to the rope. What has gotten you through it? In Jeremiah 29, there is a verse 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope…’ In back of it all there is God. Before you put that next foot in front of you God has already been there. This is your second wind. It is not the tiger of doctrine that you are running from and it is not the promised destruction that they whispered in your ear the day you left. My friends, God has a plan, you are in it and in the end it will be for your good (welfare). As hard as it has been, God’s heart breaks with yours. God knows the sting of rejection more than we can know. He knows more about extending a hand in love knowing it will not always be received and often is not. We are asked to be like Him. This is a true follower of the Savior and an authentic disciple—all the rest is spiritual genuflecting. Hang on to the rope and wait. Enjoy the moment, it is really all you will ever have. If you have someone in your life, love them with all that is within you. Extend your hand to those you know who have been through what you have been through. If need be, make your peace with them, wash their feet and be like your Master. What separates us is not God, it is what we came out of and the sooner we understand that, the better off we will be and the myth those still within the group believe will be dispelled. There is life in Christ beyond their walls. There is redemption. We might have had to escape anyway we could…perhaps crawled through the muck and mire they threw at us to discourage us and intimidate us but we are out…thank God…we are free. Take a step, catch your breath, the wind is coming.