Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Shadow of the Almighty

It's 4am, I am in a McDonald's in Panama City...and thinking about life. The reasons I am where I am is later in the morning I say my final goodbye to my mother. Her name was Betty and probably for the rest of my life, I will hear her voice calling my name. I tell you her name because she lived and she mattered. In a few hours we will gather together as a family, there is just the four of us now. Dad and Mom are gone on. There will be a moment that will hang in the air of my memory for the rest of my life. It is bittersweet and yet good in the sense that I find myself a believer in whom God has placed eternity (as The Preacher of Ecclesiastes penned), yet the reality is the flesh fails and is soon gone. It is an interesting moment reflecting back on the pain expended in the act of living. I have seen moments and people come and go; some I thought were permanent; some I never thought that they would be mere vapors and it is times like these it is the permanence of God Himself that comes into focus. It is in His shadow I am learning to dwell. In Him there is relief and the only true and lasting peace. Pouring myself out like water in the desert, I have tried in self effort to make a life that, let it be said, my own pride tried to build but in that process of expending of life, there was nothing but dissipation. I have learned the currents and eddies of life take us to places we would not have expected and surely places we never thought we would come to be lodged. He is a powerful river and takes us from the shore and the force of Him can rip us from the shores of self confidence and self expectation. We are like a tree shore-side of a mighty flood stage river and the force at which we can be moved is truly terrifying. At that point, what is important is not the doctrine we have learned, it is not the leaders we trusted, it is not the support we have garnered--it is faith because none of those trappings can deliver us from the current situation. Faith in the God who by His power caused us to bend and twist and be torn from our path in life to His. I have come to realize it is in the most painful moments, the true love of God is found.


You see, it is rescue He is interested in. It is His good and perfect will for us that sweeps us away from perhaps what we thought or even hoped it was. We have to come to an understanding here. We all want God to be with us and to be in His total power but what does it take to get to that point? It takes becoming a living sacrifice. So let's define what that is because we all have our definition of it...and if you are like me you have listened to voices that claimed they knew what it was. Here is a secret. Perhaps when you left a life you knew in a church or religious group that were convinced that they were the true followers of God, the pain of that separation was unbearable. People--perhaps even family--would no longer be in your life. The terror in that possibility keeps many in check an so in their own private hell. I have come to the conclusion that it is only God who can tear away a person from such things. I have come to know that I did not have the power to break free. There were years I spent in silent agony knowing I needed to be somewhere else yet by the rote I learned and the club of doctrine, the way was barred. There was no way to face that Goliath. On each approach there would be laughter and in a way a taunt was voiced that my flesh would be given to the birds of the air. Yet for God, He had other plans. On that shore of indecision, God had mercy. The storms came the river rose and a twig of a man was swept away in the powerful force of the river of God. Those that I left behind on the bank call it judgment but I call it mercy. It is in that moment like that the paper gods we construct are seen for what they are: turbid trash upon the water of His river. What is being a living sacrifice? It is bending to the power of a God in whom we are fully convinced loves us. Make no mistake, it is a great gift that only God can give and no one in their right mind would ask for. Yet it comes, and it is in that moment, we see the clearest. We see the importance of dwelling in the shadow of the Almighty. You see in the river we might be lodged and forced down between the rock and the force of the river but it is only for a moment in eternity's perspective. What do we feel in that moment? Pain, pressure and suffocation. We are trapped, we cannot move, we are seemingly imprisoned...what is that place? Is it the judgment of God? Is it the evidence that we have left God for something else? Is it the outer darkness where only the damned dwell? I know these thoughts; I have had them and they are the debris in our live that has caused the lodging and holding fast under the power of the current. They come not from God but the voices in our heads from which we were perhaps swept.


What is this place under the ripping current? It is the shadow of the Almighty. It is in that current whatever was not from Him is pulled and ripped off, it is those things that caused our lodging and God must remove them...before He can move us on. Where is the shadow of the Almighty in the scriptures?

It is the path to Mount Moriah that a father and son set to sacrifice to their God.

It is the Negev where Moses tended sheep in flight from a King that once kissed

It is the sitting place of Job his sickness as his life was oozed from him like
toothpaste from its tube.

It is the journey of Ruth and Naomi, husbands gone and facing starvation.

It is Gideon in the winepress.

It is Joseph in the long night in the dry well before his being sold to passing

It is Hannah pouring her heart out before the Lord over her barrenness.

It is the widow waiting in the next room while the prophet closed the door where
her dead son lie.

It is caves of David, the pit of Jeremiah, the look over the shoulder of Zerubbabel
, the night walk of Nehemiah, the searching of Hosea for his whore-wife, the belly
of the Whale, the Centurion seeking Jesus, the syro-phenician woman begging
Jesus, the dark night of denial of Peter, the grief of Mary as she watched her Son
die and the blindness of Saul groping his way to Damascus.

Here is the point, that moment passed and yet without it, there could be no true realizing of God's true and perfect will. Like it or not, our pain and even loss is the gain of heaven. It is God's mercy to us to not leave us where we are but to love us enough to take us with Him. There is no power that can stop that kind of love and care...not even ourselves. Maybe that is what Calvin truly meant by God's will being irresistible.


It is 5:30 now, I am ready to say farewell to one of the dearest I have ever known. The sun is about to break upon the world, here and now is the greatest place...the Shadow of the Almighty. It is in this place death has no sway, There are welcoming hands, there is the warmth of the cozy love of God. Here my mother now lives and I find myself glad to be here in a sense with her. So I reach out to those to whom I love and who now will not respond...they see a hand reaching from the darkness to pull them away from the perceived light where they is a hand of a father extended from the shadow of the Almighty.