Monday, February 11, 2008

Breathing Underwater V: Go For A Swim!

Yes, yes I did have a birthday this past week. Because of it I was reminded of what Eubie Blake said on the occasion of his 100th: "If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."

Most days, my goal was to keep my head above water. Every day without drowning became a good day. Joe McKeever

Brokenness is the heartfelt admission that without Jesus Christ I can do nothing.

We are stubborn independents with a drive to manage our own life. We don’t yield the baton of our life too easily, even to brokenness.

Listen to the words of Frederick Beuchner concerning AA:

I'm not an alcoholic but I have had a lot of alcoholism, one way or the other, in my family, like so many people. Through that I have found myself going with some regularity to meetings of groups like Adult Children of Alcoholics and Al Anon, families of alcoholics. I have been as nourished really by what I have found going on there, as I have been in a spiritual way by anything else I've done. For people who don't know what is going on there, it is very instructive that there is no preaching, nobody lectures anybody else, there is no program as such, there is no building. The AA groups and the related groups usually meet in the basement of a church, or something like that. There is no budget.

No hierarchy. Nothing like that. It is simply a group of human beings coming together with the common problem of alcohol, or in this case -- my case -- alcohol-related problems, saying we simply cannot live full human lives without each other and without -- they don't say God because some of them do not believe in God -- what they call our Higher Power, which might be God if you are a believer or might just be the power of the group itself. Miracles happen. I've seen them happen. In little ways, I think I have experienced them happen in myself. I just can't help wondering to what degree this is perhaps what the church originally was, that is to say, if you went back to the earliest days of the Christian community before there were these great buildings and programs and preachers and rummage sales and choirs and all the rest of it, I suspect you would have found something like this. A little group of people coming together wherever they could and simply helping each other and helping each other find a God who would help them became human beings. I think there is good reason for that. Not only is it my feeling, but I have a feeling there is also a good scholarly reason this is true. Another thing that impresses me so much about them is that, if you are an alcoholic or in any of these related groups, if you find yourself having bad times anywhere in the world, all you have to do is look up AA in the phone directory. You will find a stranger, a member of that group, who is not really a stranger, who will come at any hour of day or night to somehow be there for you. The question I have asked myself so often is "If you as a Christian found yourself having hard times in a foreign port or a strange town, (A) Would you think of calling up a church and saying, 'Come, help me'? and (B) Would the church be prepared in any way to come and do whatever you needed to do?" I am not going to answer that question but I am going to say that if the church would not be there to do such a thing, then you wonder what is so big about the big business of the church.

The trouble is that the churches have become so big, so organized, so rich and so complicated that I somehow think the best thing that could happen to these huge churches would be for the building to burn down, their money to be lost, their church calendar to blow in the wind like dead leaves and all they have left would be each other and God. I suspect strongly that would be the best thing that could happen.

I believe with all of my heart those words that Beuchner wrote.

Some of you may not have been ready for Step four that’s okay God is very patient. He’ll just wait until the pain builds up enough…we have to want to be delivered. This brings us to Step 5:

Submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to begin removing my character defects.

I spent a fair bit of time in dental offices as a youngster. Teeth removed, braces, broken teeth, you name it- it wasn't fun times. I always stiffen up at the thought of going to the dentist, even to see my good friend Dr. Nathan! I still don’t like the way he hides the needle, though!

We often view God as a mean dentist, especially contemplating Steps 4 and 5: "Get in the chair Stew, I have some work to do!”

Listen to what Jesus says about us in our brokenness & of how He will treat us:

Matthew 12:20
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.

God the Father loves you. His son Jesus has shown that love in human terms. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to accompany us on the journey to eternity. Eternity has already begun.

John 1:12
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

“I will never leave you or forsake you,” says God. We’re in good hands people.

You matter to God. With that in mind...

What change am I ready to embrace?

The 12-Steps idea has actually been around for a long time. Read Daniel's account and see the steps:

Daniel 9:1-19
"Darius, son of Ahasuerus, born a Mede, became king over the land of Babylon. In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, was meditating on the Scriptures that gave, according to the Word of God to the prophet Jeremiah, the number of years that Jerusalem had to lie in ruins, namely, seventy. I turned to the Master God, asking for an answer—praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing rough penitential burlap, and kneeling in the ashes. I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God (Steps 1,2, 3):

'O Master, great and august God. You never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We've done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths. We've turned a deaf ear to your servants the prophets, who preached your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we've been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we've been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin. (Steps 4 & 5)

Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we've forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to you when you told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what you said. We defied your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we're paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God's servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against you. You did to us and our rulers what you said you would do:
You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem! (more 4 & 5)

Just as written in God's revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving you a second thought, oblivious to your clear warning, and so you had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you. (say goodbye to blame)

'Master, you are our God, for you delivered your people from the land of Egypt in a show of power—people are still talking about it! We confess that we have sinned, that we have lived bad lives. Following the lines of what you have always done in setting things right, setting people right, please stop being so angry with Jerusalem, your very own city, your holy mountain. We know it's our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents' sins, and now we're an embarrassment to everyone around us. We're a blot on the neighborhood. So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who you are, not out of what we are. (4 & 5)

Turn your ears our way, God, and listen. Open your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after you. We know that we don't deserve a hearing from you. Our appeal is to your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope: "'Master, listen to us! Master, forgive us! Master, look at us and do something! Master, don't put us off! Your city and your people are named after you: You have a stake in us!'"

The list we made last week was all about what separates us from God. Do we love that list more than our God?

Why do I act this way?
Why does it bother me when someone says that?
What am I afraid of?
What have I failed to accept about myself?
What am I avoiding?
What's missing in my life?

The people who followed through with Step 4 and did make the fearless moral inventory are those who are in relationship with someone else who asked them, “Did you do it? No? Let’s sit down and do it.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst.)

The more we work with our lists the more accepting of our brokenness we become. We also open ourselves up because we are willing to let God use us in ways God chooses rather than ways we choose. We become clay in the Potter's hands.

Would you give up anything that Jesus asked you to? Anything? The rich young ruler failed that test.

Mark Driscoll says the two most common religions in North America are Christianity & sex!

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes about a group of people who take a day trip from Hell to Heaven. There’s a guy in the story that has a red lizard on his shoulder. The lizard represents lust. This lizard torments him, constantly lashing him with his tail. A lot of us feel tormented by lust, but we're not sure that we really want to give it up. An angel offers to kill this red lizard, but the man hesitates. He says, “Well, maybe not today. Today’s not a good day to kill the lizard. Or, can we do this gradually? Slowly?”

Meanwhile, the lizard keeps saying, “Don’t kill me. You can’t live without me. It’s unnatural. You need this. You deserve this. I know I’ve gone overboard in the past, but I’ll be good from now on.”

The angel keeps saying, “May I kill it? May I kill it? I can’t do it without your permission.”

Finally, the man says, “Yes.”

The angel strangles the lizard, and the man screams, “You’re hurting me.”

The angel says, “This isn’t going to kill you, but it is going to hurt.”

Eventualy the angel kills the lizard, and the guy grows stronger and brighter, and the lizard turns into a white stallion, the man jumps on it and gallops off, free from lust.

Do you ever feel like that guy?

Vacillating between wanting to be free from whatever it is that holds you in bondage, but not sure you really want to fully give it over to Jesus?

Maybe you’re still hanging on to something, sitting on the fence, torn between following Jesus and following your self. One foot set toward freedom & healing, while the other foot is set back towards bondage, idolatry & sin.

What's your red lizard?
Have you told anyone about it?
Letting go of it and allowing it to be killed is a part of handing the baton of your life to God.

Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first, and the lesson afterward. In the area of sexuality & lust our lessons have hurt us deeply. God wants to free us from the pain & the shame. He wants to show us how to steward that pain in order to help others.

We keep in touch with the sad times because it is then that we are most aware of our own powerlessness, crushed in a way by what is happening to us, but also most aware of God's power to pull us through it, to be with us in it.

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

There are alternatives to stewarding your pain. The most tempting is to forget it, to hide it, to cover it over, to pretend it never happened, because it is too hard to deal with. It is too unsettling to remember.

"Don't talk about things that cause pain. You can't trust the world with those secrets. Those are family secrets. Keep them hidden. Keep them hidden from each other. Keep them hidden from yourself. Don't allow yourself to feel them." Lies!

That path will numb our hearts. What are the effects of a numb heart?

"Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation." Pharmageddon: the use of drugs to finaly relieve all of our pain. It won't happen without God!

I have come to discover that the very journey of brokenness is what the Spirit uses to pour His life and energy into me, and I in turn pour that life and energy into those the Lord places in my path. It seems to have taken me a ridiculously long time but I am a stubborn pupil...

“Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness.” Blaise Pascal

"The true Christian's nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool." C.S. Lewis

Don’t stop at partial brokenness- smell the full load! Allow God to help you make your fearless moral inventory and then,

Step 5: Submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to begin removing my character defects.

The Shawshank Redemption: chapter 32 1:57:40 – 2:00:26

We all have a journey similar to Andy's; we must go through our own inner cesspool to find freedom & God's healing.

The prayer of brokenness:
God, without you I can do nothing. I want to know you more. I desire your holiness more than relief from my pain or my own pleasure. I confess that I have many fears, many anxieties, and that I hold back. Help me to give myself completely to you, and then be freed completely by you, and give you and you alone the glory, and I’ll be grateful. Amen.


Post a Comment

<< Home