Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Poured Out Yet Recaptured: Rebuilding a Life

Life is a series of transitions and in the middle of those events there is time. We can measure it in many ways but I think one of the best is the recognition of a breath. After all, both the giving of life and the measure of it is breathing. So what do we live for: the points of transition or the time in between? One thing I have learned in my life experience is if one is not careful, everything we deem really important is set in the future: our point of arrival to some major goal that has been held out. Breathing becomes only the time between the events. This is perhaps the greatest source of personal damage. Our very lives are expended in the process of waiting for something: some spiritual goal we have expended much effort to achieve and yet when in sight the goal changes to something else. In it there is endless expending of energy for something that never seems to be obtained. Yet like lemmings we ran towards the greatest precipice not understanding nor even perhaps knowing the finality of that last event. You see, in groups such as I have described people just haven’t got it: there is no destination, it is merely diversion and this is the tragic element in it. What is robbed from members? Time, the procession of breaths the only time one will take those gifts of life given to them and expend them for something never obtained.

Rats on a Treadmill

Even when one finally gets it and they realize that they have not been on a highway but a treadmill and get off, the mentality developed in that other world does not just disappear. It lingers. There are stages to the capturing back of a life and then there is the giving of that life back to God. Notice that these too are events, two transition points and again there is life lived between them. Where one once chased a ghost through their house to capture but a glimpse, they then begin to rifle through the house to find a way of escape. Some of never do – some stay trapped by looking forward to a particular event that will somehow make all the pain and anguish worthwhile. At this point, have asked myself ‘what is that event that I am living for?’ In dysfunctional religious groups the power is to control the transition points and to hold them like a carrot in front of members while the member drives the donkey through the eye of the needle. They, unbeknownst to the member by doing so, the group annexes the time in between and so a member's life melts into the goals and aspirations of others. What is the end point of that? It is a wasted life. Time given to a cause or person that cannot be redeemed and cannot be recaptured: What they take is life itself…your life and perhaps the lives of those you love…all in the name of God. What is the nature and source of that? I remind you that it is not God who breaks in to steal and destroy…He binds the strong man.

The binding of the strong man

We must understand at this time that the scriptures offer us a key to the living of life. There is perhaps a possibility we have not yet considered: Our effort to regain control of ‘our house’ can never be achieved nor was it ever the point. Perhaps in the group we are in or were in, the whole point of it was to reach a level of spirituality where we possessed our house and it became a fortress and beacon and example for others to look upon. The table was set properly, we were trained in how to sit at it properly, the service we offered our ‘guests’ was completely proper and each piece of flatware had a definition and specific purpose. Yet the guest more than likely never stayed for dinner because we noticed their clothes were not proper attire. There was mud on their shoes and perhaps they never chewed their food properly and my goodness reached for the food and always had their elbows on the table while they ate. They became a nuisance and an embarrassment in such a fine house as ours. Who was the real strong man in this scenario? It was us. Enter Jesus, the real Jesus. All of the sudden he ties us up so He may take reign of the house. He begins to invite people in that are not like us at all. They are publicans and sinners and they sit at our table! He takes from our goods and prepares them a meal fit for royalty; laughter and joy…a sound rarely heard in a house of industry…begins to fill the house. Light enters and one begins to see the darkness that was there all the time before he entered. We sit powerless and watch the sovereignty of God transform our houses. They become more than cold palaces of ice and steel and now have a warm hearth at its center crackling and roaring. We begin to practice the art of breathing once again. We begin to live between the points of transition; no longer controlled by milestones but the living of life with the Lord in our houses. He unbinds us and lets us go. Jesus gently reminds us that it is not process nor form He has come to give us it is Himself. After all he states that He is the way , the truth and the life. He is not waiting up the road at some transition point where we arrive at spirituality and have achieved a spiritual merit badge. We are not cub scouts and he is not a scout-master. No friends, he says that we were to take His yoke upon us for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. We must understand that there are two places in that yoke: one for us and one for Him. He is not up the road but alongside us. In fact, perhaps the way has been difficult up to that point because we saw another row to plow that He did not intend for us to expend effort upon. Perhaps that is why it has been difficult: it was never intended for us to go ‘that way’ and it is only after a process of tearing us away where our bodies were bruised and perhaps it required some bones being broken but we have come now back to center.

In the book of Hosea there is a beautiful passage:

Hos 6:1 Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

He tears because He has to. We need to be ripped away from something: a life lived in vain. There were hooks in us and chains and flesh had to be torn for us to escape the prison of our own making.

The Great Escape

What is the truth? We were looking for a way out of the house we were dwelling within when the Lord was thinking of remodeling. When one comes out, the first impulse is to escape the house. The only way to do that is nothing short of ending one’s own life. No, the house was not meant to be abandoned and that is not God’s way. He does not abandon anything but there is always a sure return. In Judah after the captivity, the people came back to a temple that was razed to the ground. All that was left was the ancient foundation. God told them to rebuild it. He said the latter glory would be greater than the former. We said ‘Oh really?’ I am reminded of the passage in 1 Cor 3:10. It is ironically a scripture worn out by such groups to induce members to tear all they were building with away and let the group supply the ‘right material’. Yet folks, look at your house now. Is there nothing left but the foundation? What has happened? Well, the Lord has come early and rescued you. He has set fire to all that you built and well, nothing much is left…but the foundation (Is 28:16). He is all that is left…and He is enough.

He is the material and it is time we built a house of Him instead of something else. How do we build such a fine house? We do not re-build again using the same plan as before. We allow a new plan to be entertained and studied. What is constructed in the time we have left? It is a house fit for a King – our time, our breath, our heart and our lives lived each day in the building of it. A house that will be unfinished when we leave this world and shed the mortal coil: here is the greatest secret, we are not intended to reach the milestone of it ever being completed, it is the living of life in between then and now that is the real gift – a life in partnership with God building our house with Him alongside. Oh, our house will be completed make no mistake but it is Him who will drive in the last nail.

Was it all For Nothing?

It is a question I have asked myself. I think the answer is twofold.

Yes in the sense that what I was doing was never going to work. Me in my stubbornness kept believing somehow I could make it work but in the end, I couldn’t. Who is to blame for that? Me. I have no illusions about whose fault it was. It was my choice to stay. When there was no other choice except capitulation, there was nothing left to do but to make for the exit.

No in the sense that what we accomplished as a church still lives on today. Oh, not in the way I first thought about it. To some I know it is a place that cannot and will not have the Spirit of God darken the door. However, what I have seen since that time is literally hundreds of people come to the altars that were built. I have seen marriages put back together and the poor in spirit lifted up. To those who helped in the building of it, it was not for naught and ironically, it might just be the major portion of reward (if there is any to be had) that anyone associated with the work will receive.