Sunday, October 13, 2013

The God of Parting

When I think of all the partings that are to be found in the scriptures, I am turned back to the partings that I have experienced personally. It was first my grandfather when I was ten then my grandmother followed suit many years later in my mid-twenties, then my father in my thirties, after that my Uncle Bob, my ‘favoritest’, my father in law then my sweet mother. It says in the scriptures that it is precious in the eyes of the Lord the death of His saints but on this side of it, it is anything but precious…it is loss. One thing I am convinced of in this life, we as the last in a long line do not face strength but weakness and the proud knee will bend to the weight of time but also in the awe of a God who never changes.  If there is one crime that goes unpunished it is the crime of stolen time. Stolen by misconceptions of right …and wrong, the twisting  of scripture to bend it to one’s will and purpose and the sweetest of deceptions that whispers in our ears that there will always be time. We can stand on misguided principles that we ourselves question yet all the while it is not conviction that drives us to our stances but fear. What fear? The fear we do not belong.  If this course is pursued it does not lead to more light but more darkness and hardness calcifies in our hearts to the point where we feel nothing at all.

If there is one thing I could say to those who take such pleasure in being set  in their positions and look in the end at the Last Judgment to be vindicated, I have a surprise for you. The industry of your religion will not save you and in the end, you will be as all the great and small as this great sea of humanity gives up its dead. No, it is not about the building of churches and the crushing of self-will, it is about loss. Loss is not something that can be taught or trained into a person by discipline, it is the living of a holy life. Not in the sense that it is without sin, on the contrary, it is living a life set apart and one open enough, honest enough to be exposed to fire and light of the presence of God. It is said that this light causes those to run and hide and to call upon the mountains to cover them and some even desire the floor of hell rather than the great halls of God. What is the light…really? It is honesty with one’s self. To lay bear one’s very person to the light of God. To admit failure and sin and darkness and…our depravity and yet to embrace the hand of God who would lift us from the miry clay and plant us unbelievably in another world.

It is to be honest enough to admit:

1.       The reprobation.

2.       That we doubt.

3.       Our faith is weak and impotent

4.       Our love grows colder with each passing year

5.       Our hearts point back more than they do ahead.

6.        Confusion over just what is the will of God.

7.       We grow weaker with each passing day, we truly are but a shadow

8.       We are prideful to the point of causing personal and collateral damage

9.       We are fearful that we have failed.

10.   We are horrified that our lives go up in the balance and are nothing.


Quite a requiem for a Christian isn’t it. Yet I would venture to guess more than one of my points resonates in your inner most self. Why? Because as I said it is all about loss, in the list above all grandeur and self aggrandizement is lost in the sands of the Negev that strips us of life, expectation and position. It is in this crucible, that the man or woman of God is truly forged – in the forge of honesty – the courage to face who we truly are in all our ugliness and to despair of having any semblance of life outside of the grace and mercy of a Holy God.

The other day, I was on my usual run through the neighborhood at dusk. Turning up a hill and feeling the strain of moving uphill I bent my head low as if to somehow compensate for the upward slope when my eye caught a small object in the road. I swept past it barely missing it and kept on. But something made me look back again and again. Drawing up to it I found it to be a fledgling that had somehow popped out of its nest and onto the street. Quietly sitting there in the middle of the road waiting on something or someone. There we were eye to eye. I did not know what to do, so decided that it was best that I continue my run and leave it where it was. I made up my mind that I would return to see if it was still there and hoping that it would not be. That somehow, the mother would count the heads and decide one was missing and so search and find it, taking it home to the nest. Thirty minutes later as I returned to check on it, my little friend was still where I had met him. I decided that I was going to save him. Take him home and take care of him if need be. My wife was surprised to see what I had brought  in and the look on her face was one of compassion and yet helplessness. What could we really do for it. We gave it some milk believe it or not and it perked right up. So much so it started to pop out of the large cup where we had made it a little resting place. We covered over it and through the evening we would check in on it to see if it was doing okay. It was but you could tell it was only a matter of time before it would succumb to the inevitable every created thing will one day face. My heart broke. There I was a grown man, with a tear in my eye for a little thing that was yesterday a bump on the road. I knew what had to be done and so on my way to work I took my little friend back to the place I had found him. As I let him go, my prayer went to heaven that this wasn’t a loss I wanted. As I let him go under a bush for protection, I saw him stop for a moment and look back at me as if to say ‘Why are you letting me go?’ and then skittered off under the bush. Driving into work, I could not get over that last moment. It replayed over and over in my mind. Maybe it was the loss I thought I could somehow stem and change but in the end, I realized by doing so, I was intervening in powers and forces too great for me and in the end the result would have been death and eventual loss. I couldn’t help but wonder why such things happen even to the birds of the field.

In my reverie, I believe God whispered something of truth to me. I remembered the scripture of Jesus regarding the Father’s care:  Not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father (Mat 10:29) – His eye is on the sparrow. It is as if God for a moment let me see the situation from His point of view and His words to me were not about keeping but letting go. It is not resignation, it is submission to the will of God and to see His hand in it all, even the parting of a man and a little bird on a neighborhood street. I thought of my children and my wife and all that had happened now years ago. The parting was so bitter and jagged. Yet God was there and saw it all. He was there and I have no doubt His heart broke. Children can a times think only of the immediate and the momentum that drives them inexorably towards eventual regret; in that frozen moment nothing is more important that what is perceived the right way. Who can blame them? I had a key part in that momentum being not only their father but pastor. And I had taught them well to be soldiers in a desperate battle and to think only of the mission and purpose and not focus on anything else…and they had learned well. They had learned to cut losses, measure relationships in a balance to find them wanting, to pack and move to another theater  and unpack, to march to the beat of an authority blindly, to take any hill at any cost of life. They had learned from me how to shoot their own wounded – no longer of use to the cause. This is the bare nature of dysfunction and misplaced allegiance, it is what it is: idol worship. When men and woman stand in the place of God all the while proclaiming themselves to be conduit of that presence yet having lost it long ago—if they ever did have it.

What did I learn in that moment where bird and human eye met? I saw it from God’s perspective and understood sovereignty more that I had ever studied. It was allowing the force take precedence and to let what had been set into motion play out. Moreover, in witnessing and letting it happen, letting his own heart break over it.  It is not that God does not care or does not see the injustice…He does. It is not that God is immune to the situations that do not go as planned…baby birds have always fallen out of nests…some are rescued and others are not. But one thing I learned that cool autumn morning….

His eye is on the sparrow…his eye is on me and my wife …His eye is on our children; and His heart breaks. His is the God of parting and in that moment where one becomes the part of another’s past,  there is God and it is as B.B. Warfield once said – ‘To believe that God Is not in control is to remove all comforts’. 

In the end of it we will all see that literally we peered through a glass darkly and this it is those who say they see that are blind…and their sin remains. To those of us who have an inkling of this opaqueness, there is a chance of compassion and graciousness and reconciliation. That is my hope. In the end, there is a great feast in the halls of heaven and all will sit down together and eat with the Master. All the soldiers from all the theaters will beat the swords into plowshares like the rest and take their place at the table. Eyes will meet and understand and all will be forgiven.

He is the God of parting and yet He in the end will draw together the loose ends and frayed pieces and weave the most beautiful of tapestries.