Sunday, August 17, 2014

In the Cold

I was reading the story of Jacob’s reunion with his son Joseph. What a story teller God is. The weaving of a life that dissolves into resolution, reconciliation and peace.  One of the phrases struck me in a very telling way shaking me to the core with the reality of life and the putting away of the flotsam and jetsam of dreams unreached and love unrequited. The world is full of this. As much as the Christian denies it, there is heartbreak, lack of success and in the end we all look back and think to ourselves ‘it could have been better.’  It is almost laughable the soap box religion we settle for because it is easy, has a nice scent and keeps us at least in other’s perceptions…clean.  We run from danger and tragedy and disappointment calling it the enemy and we somehow believe if we live close enough to the God we have constructed, the plague at the door will find some other host. How tragic to live a manufactured and contrived life. But for God. He takes us places we would never imagine. We wade through the things the strongest heart will shudder when it is contemplated.  The cold of it is sometimes stronger than whatever fear we might have had. We are numbed by the exposure to a life that that has God in it. Yet in that forlorn place, the pit, the prison, the cave and even the grave we are changed and we become something that is extraordinary. In that place our thoughts are washed and purged and what comes are the whispers of the Almighty. In that moment where life is the stillest and we are closer to the abyss than perhaps the television evangelist will ever come, we are changed. In that place we see the powerlessness and the hell that life is and desire a better place. In that place we become a pilgrim and no longer one that desires a kingdom here collecting people places and things and the building of a ministry that we will pass to who? The future becomes something where we used to dwell and we begin to live in what Erasmus called the ‘Eternal Now’. A place where prison can be borne and forlornness offered as something we pour out on the ground to God and whisper that we are blessed just to know Him.  In the cold we learn that God is the hope of life and not in the circumstances this world offers like a cheap substitute. Whatever we thought we would become and what we would do for God is seen as the cheap rustling paper swept along some side street back alley. Now we are ready to be used. Not because we want to do something for Him or even because HE calls us to do it. We do it for Him. We don’t do it for others or their expectations on us or their vicarious dreams.

It is at this moment that we become a tool in the hands of God. It is neither our talents nor our willingness He wants. It is our brokenness and our arrival at honesty that we will never achieve what we once heard in the false words of others. We have put down the dreams and the words and finally stand free of self expectation and the haunting voice of the past is drowned out by the dirt of experience that now covers us. It is at this time the words of the Apostles come rushing to us in hard realization: We are not of this world. Eldon Ladd once said that we were a part of the new age to come and after what I have been through, I believe those words. Here is the true test of our separation to God in my opinion:  our lack of care for ourselves and our care for others. So much so, we overlook the sin they did against us and the hell they put us through. In a way, we become thankful for our time in the burning because what we realize in the end, there was no stench of smoke and it was the time in our lives when God walked closest to us. We have no need to look any further than that pitch black afternoon on Golgotha to know that God does His greatest work in the dark.
Before Pharaoh the ancient stood. Taken to a place and saved by a son he thought long dead. Pharaoh asks him a question ‘So old man how old are you?’ Jacob, the man who had twelve sons, lost one, lost a wife along the way and the one that wrestled with God on the bank of a river to walk away forever marked. There was no waver in his voice. It was a strike for honesty and for truth. “I am a hundred and thirty seven and evil and short have they been….” Wow; This from a man who was perhaps one of the top vessels of God and the holder of all that would be manifested in the world.  No cotton candy religion here. No squeaky clean ending. He took no short cuts, God did not allow it. Why do we think God will allow them for us? He has things for us to do and what stands in the way of it is ourselves