Untitled 1

I’m done

Done is an understatement, a word too typical and overly overused to apply

I’m underwater, beneath, low, abyss and chasms

I’m going fast with my head out the window, blown away and unable to breath

I can breath; yet and cannot catch my breath

And what I am forced, commanded, chastened to believe tastes horrible

I am healing; I am broken and unrepairable

I am capable of happiness and only capable of walking away from it

I am a fool. A fool who chooses trusts and chooses distrust.

I am trusting of the distrustful and believing in the beguiling

I’m no fool. I see behind the curtain and stare at its operator and ask

“Is there more?”

I walk beaten paths and mossy walkways

I climb forbidden trees and stare at their fruit

I bite into its produce and I never swallow

And nothing, nothing, ever taste as sweet after that

I can’t; I can’t, I won’t, I shall not

I am incapable of happiness. I am logic and emotion. I am wisdom and feelings

I am attracted to the tangible and attached to the intangible

I am not God. I am not god.

I give and I take away. Myself. By, myself. For someone else.

I shall not want. And I have not found. And I will not see.

I am rock and hard place. I am left and right. I am lost and found.

I am the fork in the road. I don’t choose. I just sit. Both paths are circles

I am circular. I am obtuse and acute. I’m a square. I’m out of shape.

What the hell am I…

I am depression and sadness, weariness and longing, tired and confused

I am life and light, I am truth and reality, I am existence and actuality

I am long and stretched, tense rope pulled with thread shown, loose and brittle

Easily broken yet not allowed to break. Porcelain by choice, iron by command

Forged against my wishes, forged for my good, forged as a gift, ready for good works

I make no choices, I make no decisions, I make nothing.

I am nothing. I am not. I am without. I am lacking.

I am made, I am created, I am supposed to and expected to

I am allowed to look. I shouldn’t look. I am not supposed to.

I and anger and hatred. Frustration and vengeance. Shaken and closed fist

I am holding on. I have to let go. I’m not supposed to let go. Letting go is selfish

Holding on is wrong. Holding on is sinful. Dont hold on. Hold on.

I am night and day, sun and moon, stars and planets

I am rambling. I am screaming. I am asking. I am yelling. I am listening.

Are you…

Predominately White Churches Should Start Talking About Race Too Much

Any black person who has had at least more than one conversation on race in a predominately white church space has heard this phrase before or a variety of the sort:

“Why do you make everything about race?”

Hearing this phrase is triggering for a host of reasons. One main reason is because it is used often as a conversation stopper. It is lobbed carelessly into dialogue to show the speaker that they have crossed some imaginary line into a territory that makes the “listener” uncomfortable. Whenever I personally hear that phrase I know that I have just encountered someone who is not ready to truly dive into the realities of race and addressing the complexities that come with it.

Sadly this phrase is used far too often, especially in predominately white church spaces. As a member of a predominately white church who has had the blessing of having many white brothers and sisters in Christ, I still have heard this phrase either directed at me or at someone else. The heart of the phrase stems from a frustration of having to do the hard work of addressing this “race thing” again. Then, without fail, the conversation shifts to the go-to deflection of the uncomfortable:

“Why can’t we just talk about the gospel?”

And although I love my white brothers and sisters dearly, it is saddening seeing the lack of tolerance some of them have with regards to talking through racial issues.

My church is not any more or less broken than any other church. Most black congregants and staff members who faithfully attend and work in predominately white worship spaces encounter these issues frequently. The interesting thing about these spaces is that sometimes these same churches and its members confusingly seem to be able to boast in being proponents of racial reconciliation while still finding a way to avoid having to actually do the work required to be justified in their boasting. Some write seemingly self-righteous Facebook statuses and blogs to showcase how “woke” they are for finally admitting that we might just have a race problem (although this revelation generally is mainly aimed at America as a whole and not generally the church, specifically). Sometimes these same churches might even send pastors and ministers to conferences surrounding racial reconciliation to further propagate the idea that they are indeed going to be found on the right side of history when it comes to race. They preach sermons and even invite guest speakers to prove how truly concerned they are with getting this “race thing” right.

And yes, some churches and their members truly are burdened and willing to dig and stay in the trenches as long as it takes to see reconciliation manifest. There are predominately white churches with pastors, laymen and women who are committed to walking along side the oppressed in regards to race, hoping to see the kingdom come in a small way even now. And yet, for some – dare I wonder most? – white church spaces, despite the conferences, blogs, podcasts, sermons, guest speakers, etc., when race is brought up in conversation, it automatically comes with a unspoken but frequently met quota. The topic of race seems to come with an inherent ceiling that caps just how often it can be discussed, how deep it can be addressed, and how uncomfortable it’s allowed to make us feel. Despite all the talk that some predominately church spaces do when it comes to racial reconciliation, there seems to always be a limit to their love.

Why does this limit exist? It is my belief that predominately white church spaces will do some work with regards to race while still avoiding the feeling of being as uncomfortable as they need to be when it comes to discussing all the complexities of race. Promoting reconciliation is an ok thing to do, as long is isn’t too promoted. Yes, we should fight to see racial oppression cease to exist, but it shouldn’t mean having to give up certain ways of life and the luxuries afforded, right? And of course, racism is a gospel issue, but because we are so afraid of accidentally making it more than the gospel (which is indeed an error to care about), let’s make sure we don’t talk about it so much that people think about it too much and possibly forget about Jesus. Predominately white spaces are sadly so blindly drenched in cultural privilege and comfort that they are unable to see that their capping of conversations on race is also their capping of the level of reconciliation possible. They are essentially, as they might be unconsciously used to, allowing their privilege and place of power to be used to only allow the level of reconciliation that they are personally comfortable with.

In her book “On Reading Well”, Karen Swallow Prior defines patience as the willingness to endure suffering. When this definition is applied to white church spaces and its dealings with race, it is evident that this church space often lacks patience when it comes to actualizing racial reconciliation. The reason we as an entire body of Christ might never fully reconcile between races is simply because there is a lack of desire to endure the suffering that comes with reconciliation. Although no Christian is a perfect sufferer, in my experience most of the black congregants that faithfully attend and labor in predominantly white church spaces seem to learn this specific lesson of patience daily. And it is high time that our white brothers and sisters join us.

The willingness to endure suffering is a foundational Christian trait. We as Christians are bought and purchased by our Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ, who endured our deserved punishment to bring forth our undeserved salvation. We are also called, by our Savior Jesus Christ, to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. I have never held a cross the size of one used in a crucifixion, but we know a little about them from history and reading the Bible. It’s safe to say that crosses are heavy. Being as they are made of wood, they probably have splinters. They probably stink from the sweat of those carrying them. And people seem to be not strong enough to carry them forever so instead they ask for help. But crosses are how we enter into the presence of the Father, for a cross is what was needed to save our lives. And a cross is what keeps our lives saved.

If predominately white churches and its members are not willing to endure the suffering that comes with pursuing true actualized racial reconciliation, to carry the cross of hard conversations, uncomfortable situations, and the relinquishing of privilege and power where applicable, we the global church as Jesus’ Bride will never see the joy that is set before us. If black members of predominantly white bodies and communities don’t feel the total freedom to be completely unburdened with their issues regarding race, the church will never see the dividing wall completely torn down. If we as the bride of Christ don’t see how capping this conversation brings division to a body that should be unified, we lack the ability to glorify Christ rightly.

Friends, there is no such thing as talking too much about race. As believers in the gospel and as fully formed human beings, we can both keep Christ at the center of everything while choosing to focus on how His centrality has, or hasn’t, affected cultural issues. We can both keep ourselves unstained from the world and care for widows and orphans. At least, God says we can.

I plead with my white brothers and sisters to make room for tough conversations on race. To not only make room, but to seek them out. To be uncomfortable, to be fragile, to misstep and misspeak. I beg predominately white church spaces to take an honest inventory on how they are pursuing racial reconciliation and how they can do better. As a church, the whole church, we are broken people. Churches will never be perfect, nor act perfectly, as long as they keep letting broken human beings – who the church was founded by and founded for – darken their doors. But I am not asking for perfection; I’m asking for actual concern. Racial issues will take slow, deliberate, intentional, persevering, and patient spirits to be addressed. But, we have to start talking about them. In fact, it is probably about time that we start talking about them too much.

Advent is for the Broken-hearted

lightstock_384461_medium_darryl

The season is here. Sleigh bells are ringing for those who are listening. Chestnuts are roasting on an open fire (which doesn’t sound dangerous at all). And the anticipation of walking in a possible winter wonderland is pounding. The holiday season is upon us once again, and once again it came without warning or alert.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into the holiday season. We prepare for family members and loved ones to stay at our place, or we prepare to travel to see them. We begin to prepare our budgets for buying Christmas presents and ingredients for our favorite holiday dishes to cook. We prepare our houses, inside and out, to reflect the jovial brightness of the season. We prepare ourselves for church services and plays that our children are performing in. There is a lot of anticipation and preparation that goes into making the Christmas and holiday season exactly what we believe should be.

But there’s another group of people out there every year who are also preparing. Their preparation looks and feels a lot different than the one described above, though. They aren’t preparing to receive loved ones in, but rather they are preparing to spend their 1st, or their 20th, Christmas without them. Instead of buying presents for their children or spouses, they buy other things, like alcohol or drugs, to help get them through the day. Instead of looking forward to walking in a winter wonderland, they only have IV’s and hospital walls as their backdrop for the holidays. Their houses are not decorated with lights and reindeer, but with reminders of what they lost or are about to lose. They won’t be darkening the doors of a church this Christmas. No, they will attempt to spend their entire day indoors, hoping somehow to go sleep on the 24th and wake up on the 26th. These people are the broken-hearted. They are the ones for whom the holiday season is not a festive reason to be merry and bright, but instead just a season to power through. A time period to push past and somehow make it over.

Last year was a weird holiday season for me. I’m generally the guy who blasts Christmas music from October all the way to New Year’s Day – and sometimes a few days after. But last year, I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit or mood. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was filled with sadness and darkness. I was depressed and down. I was heartbroken. Some of it was over the sin I had given over to; some of it was just dealing with the effects of a broken world. It all added up, though, to equal a holiday season that was anything but merry in the way that I was accustomed to.

But it was in this dark season where light seemed unable to penetrate that I found out that I was not alone. Slowly I became aware of the people around me who also had a rough time during the holidays. I was aware of friends who had no family to go home to. I knew of friends who mourned their losses. I became aware of friends who were going through a rough time in their marriages and families. The holiday season culturally promises us that everything should be filled with good feelings, good food and overall good goodness. But for most of friends, it just became a time where they were forced to reflect on all the things they had lost, were losing, or never had. Their hearts were not ornamented with pretty light bulbs or shiny decorations. No, instead their hearts with filled with heaviness, sadness, and darkness. Their hearts were broken; and so was mine. And it was in this state, not in the previous joyful ones, that I found out what Advent was really about.

Advent comes from a Latin word meaning “coming”. Celebrating Advent is celebrating the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But Jesus did not come into a world filled with hope and joy. He stepped down into a world filled with chaos and confusion, wrapped in darkness and oppression with no way of escape or rescue. He was born into a world where the Israelites had been waiting 400 plus years for their Messiah. They had not heard a Word from God in centuries, and I can imagine some of them had probably began to give up hope. And it is this season of history that the Father decided to send His Son. Jesus, the Light of the World, was born into darkness; our darkness. He was born in a manger, next to earthly filth. And walked among our brokenness, touching it, hugging it, loving us and healing us. Jesus hung with sinners, not the self-proclaimed righteous. He called broken people out of darkness and gave them living water and the bread of Life. And most of all, He lived a life that resulted in Him dying, on our behalf. Our biggest source of oppression was our sin that kept us from the Father. The rituals for ridding of sin weren’t enough anymore, and they never truly were to being with. But Jesus was enough. And is still is enough. And He always will be.

This is why Advent is for the broken-hearted. This is why Advent is for the hurt, the lost, the confused, the angry, the broken and weak. Because that is who Jesus is for. Jesus didn’t come for the healthy or righteous. No, he came for the weak and the sinful. He came for the prodigal son, for the infertile couple, for the bickering parents, for the divorcee, for the widow and widower, for the estranged family member, for the sick and dying, for the addict and the loser. His Word tells us He is near to the broken-hearted. And Advent was the physical manifestation of that declaration. God showed us that He is near by physically being near, through Jesus Christ. And even now, for the believer, He is near by way of the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. And when it is all said and done, He will be forever near to us in the New Heaven and New Earth. The Bible is the story of God pursuing His people and creation. It is a long story of God’s love for us and His desire to rid anything that stops us from knowing Him. The Advent of Jesus Christ will forever be his soldier’s welcome home event, where the one we thought was far away from us comes to where we are to take us home and be with us.

I don’t know where you are this season. Maybe things are as they should be. Maybe you have the family and you have the joy and peace that so many lack. Do not feel bad about that. Instead, look for ways to be light to someone without any. Or maybe you are in need of that light. Maybe this is as dark, or darker, than I described. Know this, please: God is near to you. He is so much nearer to you now than He might have ever been. Look for Him. Search for Him. He does not hide. He is there. Advent is for you, oh lowly and broken-hearted. Jesus came for you. And He will never stop.

Stuck Between Multiple Sorrows and the Valley of the Shadow of Death

The title says it all. It’s a longer way to allude to the phrase “between a rock and a hard place”. But those a very vague places. Rocks come in all sizes and a hard place could be anything. I needed something more specific — and biblical — to help me define where I feel I’ve been the past few months.

Let me explain.

The phrase “multiple sorrows” comes from Psalm 16:4a,

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; (ESV)

Running after other gods is exactly where I’ve been lately. I’m Jonah right after God told him to go to Nineveh. I’m the people Jeremiah is preaching too who have forsaken their God and drawn cisterns that cannot hold water. I’m the Israelites who, as Moses is up on the mountain receiving the commandments of God, decide to make a golden calf that is here and now, instead of then and coming. None of those stories ended well. Big fishes, national captivity, corporate death. Multiple sorrows.

And yet, on the other side of conundrum is the very real Valley of the Shadow of Death, from Psalm 23:4,

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. (ESV)

The rest of verse is beautiful. David, the psalmist, says that even though he is being led into this horrid and terrifying valley, that he doesn’t fear. Not because the Valley isn’t worthy of his or anyone’s fear, but because He knows His God is with Him. He is comforted by the very presence of His God with him.

So what’s my problem? Unlike David, I don’t look at how big my God is; instead I look at how scary this Valley is. I see its cobwebs, I see the scary eyes staring back at me, I see the creatures baring their razor-sharp teeth in my direction, waiting to chew me alive. I see these images, then I stare back up at God. Not to see His all-sufficiency, not to marvel at His ability to protect me regardless of the threat, not to lean heavily on all His numerous promises to never leave me nor forsake me. No, I look up at God to ask Him, “Why?” I look up at God to question Him, not trust Him; to argue with Him, not believe in Him and His Word. I know He told me His ways are not my ways, and that His thoughts aren’t my thoughts. I understand that His knowledge is not only higher but eternal. I (say I) believe that He truly loves me and only gives good gifts. And yet, here I stand at the entrance to this Valley, looking, searching, frantically trying to find how this could be a good gift.

But I don’t see it. And so, in my own knowledge, in my own way that seems right to me that ultimately leads to death, I run. I run hard. But where and what do I run to? Running towards multiple sorrows sounds really horrible. But running through a Valley known for being the shadow of Death doesn’t sound too appealing either. So here I am. Stuck.

Stuck between the promises of the Almighty and the promises of the world. Stuck between wondering which pain is really worth it. Stuck at wanting to not move at all, hoping I can stay this way till eternity. Stuck between crippling anxiety and oppressive depression. Stuck between grace and condemnation. Stuck between truth and lies.

Either way, I’m stuck. I would love to end this with some really good biblical truth. And I could do that. I could show you that Jesus promised we would have trouble in this world but that we should take heart because He overcame the world (John 16:33). I could show you that Paul told us that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). I could point out that God was with David even in the Valley, as He was with the Israelites in the wilderness, as He would also be with Jonah on his way to Nineveh. I could point out that all of God’s promises are yes though Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). All of these points are true. All these points are valid. All these points are biblical and scriptural. And yet, I’m still stuck.

Voluntarily stuck, I’m sure. I know God’s grace reaches this deep. If it didn’t, His grace wouldn’t be that impressive. And that’s my one and only hope right now. Not a hope like a big, blinding light that overpowers everything dark. No, this hope is more like a little night-light in a big room. But even a small light is seen in the darkness. And even mustard seed faith can move mountains. So, maybe even the smallest of grace can help me become unstuck. And He’s known for giving greater grace. I could use some greater grace right now.

I wrote this for the stuck. I wrote this for those who try to run to the world and to God, sometimes in the same day. I wrote this for those who feel internally stretched beyond their max point. I wrote this for you. Because if we are stuck, at least we aren’t alone.

 

 

1 Kings 22, Amen Corners and Lying Spirits

We love signs. We love looking for answers in places that we think will not only tell us what we want to know, but what we want to hear. In our search for answers, we inevitably take along with us our desires. We know what we want to hear and we hope we hear it. God knows that about us. But so does the enemy.

In 1 Kings 22 we see the king of Israel, Ahab, and the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, discussing the reclamation of land Ahab believes to be Israel’s. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat if he will help Israel reclaim this land from Syria. Jehoshaphat is on board, but only after asking the Lord if this is what He wants first.

“And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:4-5‬ ESV

So Ahab goes and calls some of his prophet friends and asks them. And they all say “The Lord says it’s cool” (urban paraphrase). But Jehoshaphat isn’t satisfied. He asks Ahab “Are sure there’s no other prophet we can ask?” Then Ahab says “So there is this one guy but I don’t like him because he never prophesies anything good for me!”

“But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Obviously Jehoshaphat didnt trust Ahab’s prophet friends. And to make the trust issues worsen, when asked if there is another prophet to inquire from, Ahab replies that he knows one but would rather not use him because the guy never prophesies in his favor.

A lot of us are like Ahab. We love truth as long as the truth benefits us. We sometimes purposefully surround ourselves with people who will only tell us what we want to hear and allow us to do whatever we have already decided to do. We don’t wish for wise counsel, we wish for blind consent.

So Ahab sent a messenger to his prophet frenemy Micaiah while his fake prophet friends repeated the same lie to him. When Micaiah arrives before the two kings he is urged to prophesy in line with what the other “prophets” have already said. Instead, Micaiah says that he will only say what the Lord tells him to.

“And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Micaiah’s prophesy, summarized is that Israel should attack but the king will die. And that’s exactly what happened. But I jump to the end of the story to spend more time highlighting the middle. Because the ending, though important, is only half the lesson. The rest is in how Ahab receives, and doesn’t receive, and obvious word from the Lord.

Micaiah says that victory is given to the king. Ahab, though he got what he wanted, is still unsure since this prophet never tells him what he wants to hear. So he inquired further. Micaiah then prophesies that the battle will leave the people king-less. This ominous word sounds more like the prophet that Ahab knows and dislikes. But Micaiah isn’t done.

“And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:19-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Please don’t miss this what just happened here. There aren’t many times that we get glimpses into throne room activity and when we do, we should take great notice.

In this instance, God blatantly asks how can we get Ahab to die. Yes, that bluntly and that boldly. And though that sounds harsh, it really isn’t once we see the rest of the story. A spirit comes forward and says that it knows a way to make that happen. It says it will go and be a “lying spirit” in the mouth of Ahab’s fake prophet friends. The Lord then says not only is that a great plan, it’s a plan that will surely work. Micaiah, in plain language, tell Ahab that the Lord told your prophets to lie in order so that you would be killed in battle. And what does Ahab do with the information? Locks Micaiah up in prison. And we know the end of the story: Ahab dies. A random arrow, not even meant for him, pierces his body and kills him.

“But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot.”

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:34-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God used Ahab’s own disobedience to be the conduit for Ahab’s prophesied demise. The Lord did not have to tell Ahab his plans. And Ahab did not have to go into battle. The Lord never said don’t go; He just said Ahab would die. This was less a specific judgement over Israel and more of one over Ahab for all of his disobedience (See 1 Kings 18-22).

And here is where we should be vigilant to hear the word of the Lord. Our personal amen corners might just be being used as tools of Lord for our discipline or our judgement. The issue is that not Ahab had friends who didn’t speak truth; the issue that Ahab preferred lies over truth because lies taste better. Lies are easier to swallow and go down smoother. Artificial coloring and sugar always look pleasing and taste desirably. But, they are as beautiful to the eyes and ears as they are detrimental to the body and soul.

Truth comes from God. And us being made in His image means we want truth. We desire truth because we were made in truth, from Truth. But our sin has made us not want lies. Like Romans 1 says, we have traded the things of God for lies and false beliefs. We now no longer care what is truly true, as long as it fits what we already want. Ahab wanted the same thing, and we see where that got him.

Your amen corner might just be killing you. Listen to the word of the Lord before it is too late. God did not leave Ahab without a word from Him. And like Ahab, we also have the Word from God; this Word (the Bible) is finished as it contains all we need to know about God in order to find Him. But God also did not force Ahab to obey; and we won’t force us either. We must choose to trust the Word of God over our own word. Since we are finite, temporary, and created creatures, our word that comes from us can only be that. But God, our Creator, is never created and has always been, is eternal and is permanent. And so is His truth.

Your friends may be lying to you and you not even aware. Or they could mean well just be wrong. I’m not saying to start mistrusting our friends, our twitter followers or our little fanbase. I’m just reminding us all that truth doesn’t come from friendship; it comes from relationship with the God of truth.

Take that amen of your corner and give it to God. It might just save you life.

Image Source: Lightstock

In Medias Res: New Title, Same Focus

Have you ever had a friend jump right into the middle of a story and zoom into details and quotes without any back story or context? Or have you ever watched a movie and the beginning isn’t a narrative that tells the origin of the story but instead you are thrust right into a battle scene with no idea how this battle started? Then you, my friend, just experienced the storytelling device called in medias res. In medias res is when a story opens up in the middle of the storyline, not at the beginning. It is Latin for “into the middle of things”. Many stories employ this technique, including Homer’s “The Odyssey” and even the Bible in Genesis can be argued that it starts in the middle of things, while looking back briefly at the beginning of things.

Although it can be confusing at first, I like the use of in medias res because this technique best resembles our life; internally and externally. Whenever we meet someone new, we are meeting them in medias res. Even babies come into the world 9 months after conception. That is almost a year of an entire life being created without interruption, mostly. But when meeting friends, going on dates, greeting at church, introducing yourself to new coworkers, you are meeting all of these people, in media res.

The only person who does not meet us in media res is God, for He sees the beginning as it were the end and the middle as the present. But God almost always finds us, though, in medias res. When we come to God, whether it is at the age of 4 or 94, we are coming to him in the middle of things. And sometimes, we are in the middle of some very heavy and hurtful things.

That is one of the reasons I blog the way I do, and it’s why I changed the title of my blog. It is not only paying homage to the device, but it represents what I try to do here on this site. I’ll be honest, I don’t think my voice is very influential. I don’t think it’s very needed or wanted often times. But I know the Lord has given me something to say, and He chooses the ear (or ears) who hear it. But one of the things that consistently bugs me about church culture is that we never talk about our problems in medias res; we only talk about them at the ending credits. We talk about them after the dragon is killed, after the bomb is diffused and after we come home from the war. But never in the middle.

My life is not done. My flesh is not dead. My sin is not killed. My heart is not always fully set on Christ and won’t always be this side of Heaven. I have physical ailments. I have internal health issues. I have mental health issues. I have trauma, pain, and past hurts that still cling hard to my soul. I give in to lust. I give in to anger. I give in to laziness and procrastination. I constantly wonder if following God is worth the suffering that comes with it. I constantly wonder if the joy God offers is really better than the world’s. I don’t always believe in the promises of God. I don’t always have hope in the Lord. I don’t always want to be alive. And that is right now. Like, at the moment I am typing this, I struggle with all of those things. In medias res.

I wish we talked more like this. The people who have been most impacted by my writing are people who are honest enough to say that they are in the middle of things. That they are in the midst of the battle, not at the beginning or the end. And if we are honest, which sadly we aren’t always, we are all there. But yet, we shy away from showing our open wounds in the middle of the battle and instead rather show them once they are scarred over. We would rather talk to you once we have figured things out than talk to you in the middle of processing. We do not want to show the struggle; we want to show the victory.

But God isn’t impressed with our victory. Because He knows all victory is really His. But, instead, God ask us to show our struggle. He says His power is made perfect in our weakness, not in our strength. Your strength is only present because of the God who supplies it. Therefore, He is not impressed nor amused by you showing something He gave; and worst, flaunting it off as your own. But our weakness? He loves when we show that. Not in a self-pitying, reverse-prideful way. But in a dependent, humble, in recognition of our need for God’s grace kind of way. He already knows the end. And for those of us who are found in Christ, we do as well. But it’s the middle where we show it. It’s our willingness to struggle with Christ in the middle of things that shows that we also believe in how the story ends; and it shows that we also believe in how the story began.

We are all in medias res. And this site, my blog, is dedicated to showing my life in the middle of things. Those who stumble along this site are hopefully finding God on their way to finding God. Join the journey.

On Being At Peace with the War in Your Soul

lightstock_79737_small_darryl

This post is probably not one where I give some advice on how I have conquered the issue at hand. I know as the self-proclaimed protagonist in my own blog, I should be telling you about this topic, post-victory. But that is not where this is written. I’m not reporting live from the triumphant other side of the struggle, but actually while I’m still in the middle of it. Think of this as more of a captain’s log than a post-game interview.

They say true peace is not being at rest when circumstances are calm, but instead when they aren’t. They say courage is not the absence of fear, but the answering the call to do something brave in spite of fear. “They” say a lot. And they aren’t wrong; these platitudes and anecdotes just aren’t really helpful. So yes, true peace happens when things around you aren’t at peace. Cool. But how do I achieve that peace? While we can understand that courage isn’t the absent of fear, how do we deal with the present fear?

I’ve been reading St. Augustine’s, “Confessions” for a class I am taking. I can truly say I have probably never felt a more kindred spirit than I do with Augustine. “Confessions” is essentially an autobiography on his own personal conversion story and explains his very introspective journey to Christ. In Book 8 of “Confessions”, he begins to detail the fierce internal struggle that kept him from completely surrendering to Christ. He described himself as a “house divided against himself” as he navigated all the reasons he could not easily renounce the passions of the world around him. He had listened to other conversions stories and wondered what was he missing that they had found? How did they do the act that he so desperately wanted to be able to do, yet could not – or would not – find the strength to do? Why had grace fallen on them and missed him?

Paul talks about this at length in Romans 7, but 1 Peter 2:11 gets right to point of what Augustine and myself (and everyone else, for that matter) feel in regards to our hearts:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires,which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11

“Which wage war against your soul”. The New American Standard Bible calls these sinful desires, “fleshly lusts”. Augustine thought that becoming a Christian meant that all his old desires would leave him. But that isn’t true. Becoming a Christian is not about never sinning again, but instead about being reunited with the Father who sent His Son to die for us because of our sin, who then both sent the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to put sin to death. But if we are putting sin to death, that means it must still be alive somehow. And if Peter is urging us to abstain from fleshly lusts, from sinful desires, that must mean the opportunity to give in to these is still present. We are at war. And we must fight.

But, like Augustine, I get discouraged when I see these desires. Instead of looking at them as opportunities to see the work of the Spirit in me to kill these off, I am always so discouraged that there was something to have to kill in the first place. I thought being a Christian meant moving into a different house where things are better, new, and perfect. Instead, Im realizing that living in this life means God is actually preserving me and not the house. For the house is temporary (my flesh). It is wasting away everyday as the inner self is being renewed. And most days I feel that viscerally. I feel like a crumbling house with nothing to offer except “old” sins that are very present that just won’t seem to die.

What does it look like to be at peace with this war? To accept that in this life, we are called to fight, not to sit passively by sipping lemonade waiting to die and meet Jesus? I immediately thought of the storm Jesus calmed. He was asleep in the boat while his disciples were being pounded by a torrential downpour. They frantically wake Jesus up, accusing him of not even caring. Once he calms the storm, he looks at them and ask why their faith is so little.

Is that what is happening to me? Is my discouragement really just lack of faith? God doesn’t promise us that we won’t walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but He does promise that He will be with us in it. Is it ok to be both discouraged that I have to walk through a place that is characterized by both shadow and death and full of faith in the God who holds my hand? Could the disciples have been both frustrated and secure? Does being at peace with the war in our souls mean not being allowed to be frustrated that it is still a war?

I’m not sure. I can give you a whole host of bible verses and biblical platitudes on this topic, but this is actually one I want to see through firsthand. I want to get to the end of the journey (or this part of it, at least) and then report back what I’ve found. People more intelligent than I have written about this; maybe you should check them out. In the meantime, I’m reporting live from the war, in the middle of my sinful passions and my desire to live for Jesus. I’ll share updates as they come.

 

Image Source: Lightstock