Tuesday, June 08, 2010
I was dead, but now I live
This heat can sure slow you down. Yesterday was Sam’s last day to work, at least for now because there are no more funds to pay him. I finished making the table tops for the little place we sometimes grab a bite at. Any more I hesitate to name places for our experience has been that those who have a root of bitterness in them (Hebrews 12.15) make it important to plant seeds of distrust anywhere they learn we go. The really sad part of that is it appears to be church people doing this. But that isn’t unusual, unfortunately. There’s a saying I’ve heard for years, going all the way back to the days I was in bible college studying for the ministry (1978) “Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded”. A few verses before the one in Hebrews I referred to above it says (vs 12) “Therefore strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble” and that’s how it should be. It is that way in much of the church but in the few places, or perhaps just times, this isn’t practiced it shows up like a fire in the night and the whole world sees. I know this breaks my Lord’s heart. 1 John, along with pretty much the rest of the bible, talks about loving your brother and neighbor. Chapter 4 vs 21 says “This commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also”. The verse before that is blunt saying “If someone says, “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Now I know that I have given others reason to feel uncomfortable around me and have tried to remedy that. After reading the words of Jesus in Mathew 5.23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” I went to the pastor of the church we felt rejected by and asked forgiveness. He clapped his feet together four times during the conversation so I asked “Why are you doing that?”. He said “I’m shaking the dust off my feet” evidently in reference to the scripture at Mathew 10.12-14 where Jesus sent His disciples out and told them to do this anywhere they were not received. This so hurt, and is such a misuse of scripture that I was dumbfounded. This action was aimed to those who rejected the disciples and their message. We didn’t reject the church, in fact I pleaded with them to accept us, pleaded for fellowship and expressed our desire to have friends and told of the loneliness we felt despite attending there for over a year. It was the words of some who poisoned this, but I must share the blame for I keep this journal online and in it simply talk about what does and doesn’t happen each day.
To my knowledge I have never said a word that isn’t true but if I did would gladly apologize and correct it. This is a typical issue with those who have traumatic brain injuries and also for those with Asperger’s syndrome, where we say what we think openly and honestly without considering the social ramifications. So I reached out to apologize and try to mend the problems I caused, so I did what Jesus said to do, so I humbled myself. And I didn’t do it for me, I did it because it was the right thing to do and because I know that these roots of bitterness planted in others will harm them and disrupt the body of Christ. Hebrews 12.14-15 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled”. I pray for them all.
This love that the bible speaks of isn’t the feel good emotional kind of love we have for family or our spouses, it is a choice based not on emotion. Oh, emotion can well be a part of it for if you truly love and care for someone there is deep emotion when you see them choosing death over life by their actions or when you see them blessed and achieving something. Jesus says it best, as He always seems to do. In Mathew 5.43-48 he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.
It was my hope, when I approached the pastor, that he would see that the scripture I brought up applied to them as much as it applied to me, and I presumed that he understood that God, and His son Jesus, desire unification, that one of the underlying principles throughout the whole bible, both new testament and old, is restoration and forgiveness. This is still my hope, for their sake. I don’t believe there are any accidents in my life anymore, and suspect that God knew that when I came to that church with my addled brain damaged mind that I would stir things up. So I have to believe that God, who knows all and has sure had His hand on my life since I was raised from the dead, had a purpose in mind for this. He often does things to break through the walls we put up, to break through the hardened hearts of those He loves. This is God’s way, He shines His light on darkness, exposing the works done in secret in order that once exposed they can be washed away. Me, I’m pretty much like Balaam’s ass, the donkey that talked to Balaam, a prophet who was selling his religion, doing what he knew was wrong for gain and the accolades of others. I figure that if God will use a donkey He can use me. Lord knows I’ve been an ass plenty of times before. I don’t desire to cause trouble but seem to anyway.
What I desire is for all I meet to be better people, to have better lives. I don’t have much ability to do that but I know God and He absolutely has that ability. It’s been a blessing to spend time with the guys at the Stepping Stone ministry, men whom have ruined their lives in many ways but came to, or came back to Christ while in prison. They all face severe hardships as they transition from prison back to the free world. For many alcohol and drugs were at the core of their problems and it makes me aware of just how blessed I am to be free of these things. There are many I know who play with these poisons, seemingly unaware of the dangers that lurk within, or refusing to recognize them. I tried to talk to my brother about it but was rebuffed. It’s hard and sad to see how a lifetime of drinking has affected him, damaged his brain and I’m sure his liver isn’t in great shape either. His statement to me was “I’m not an alcoholic, I just have too much fun with my friends”. He, nor others I know, can’t understand that when consuming alcohol is a prerequisite for having a good time things are out of balance. Balance is a key word here.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that drinking any alcohol at all is wrong. I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with pizza and in great moderation these can actually provide some health benefits. But I spent years in bars drinking heavily so have seen both sides of the coin. It’s when you feel you need a little “Buzz” to enjoy company or that drinks are a requisite to liven up the party that things are getting out of balance. It’s an insidious drug, alcohol is. One that will slowly over time gain an ever increasing hold on your life and “denial” is a key part of this process. There’s always the “I can quit anytime” rationalization and the fact that it’s a social disease where all your friends, who are great successful people that have it all together, accept and support you in it that make this so hard to see. That’s why it is often that one has to “Hit the bottom” before they even recognize they have a problem. The sad part of that is that by then they have already done a great deal of damage to their bodies, minds, and lives.
I watch. I see so much yet feel helpless to say anything, knowing my words or opinion mean little to them. It’s the Christians who compromise their lives that tear at my heart. They blind themselves to the truths they know and let the world hold a greater sway in their hearts. There’s a scripture that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death”. Jesus said (Mathew 7.13) “For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”. I’ve learned these truths the hard way and have been granted a second chance at life, a rare thing indeed. I am surrounded by temptations, by things that “aren’t that bad” but I know how it works. I bend a law here, compromise a little there, knowing that God will forgive me, but in taking that path I’m straying from the truth I know. After a while each compromise becomes easier and soon that which is deplorable to God no longer bothers me at all and I end up fooling myself and believing a lie, where good becomes evil and what was evil becomes good. Who am I to say these things? What right do I have to express such judgment? I was dead but now I live, I was a genius but now struggle to remember what happened yesterday, I was an adult but became a child in my understanding, I was rich but now am poor, ultimately I am blessed with so much being restored. My life is a gift and my desire is to give life to all I see.