Wednesday, May 13

A house of horrors and seeking the beloved...

"No one will be able to oppose you successfully as long as you live. I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will never neglect you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, because you will help these people take possession of the land I swore to give their ancestors. "Only be strong and very courageous, faithfully doing everything in the teachings that my servant Moses commanded you. Don't turn away from them. Then you will succeed wherever you go. Never stop reciting these teachings. You must think about them night and day so that you will faithfully do everything written in them. Only then will you prosper and succeed. "I have commanded you, 'Be strong and courageous! Don't tremble or be terrified, because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.'"" (Joshua 1:5-9 GW)

"Spiritual strength and energy, the courage of faith," John Darby says, "are necessary, in order that the heart may be bold enough to obey, may be free from the influences, the fears, and the motives which act upon the natural man....."

When God introduced this verse to me yesterday, I felt it was a precusor to the battle that lies ahead in confronting the church in its duplicity within the worldly realm of humanism and the particularly bitter wounds that it has visited upon me in my pursuit of my ministry calling. That is what I was going to blog about, but I never felt the easiness of the words flowing nor was able to contribute the time to 'coax' them out. Usually, as if one would think I should automatically realize by now, that means that the intent I heard behind the word wasn't God's but my own.

Last night, I had the priviledge of sitting with some of my band of brothers under the tutelage of John Eldridge, author of Wild at Heart (and a wealth of other books) and the Ransomed Hearts Ministries. My brother in Christ, Kurt, had purchased tickets and a friend from the Awanas program was willing to watch my son while I attended this Monday meeting. Though I have read and felt there was some worth to Eldridge's books, I've felt that he never really was 'deep' enough for me. Didn't have the answers, the formulas, or the ideas I needed to grow. I truly only attended because I have learned that when God moves my brother to do something, usually there is a collision coming.....between me and a point God wants me to confront.

I humbly submit that I was wrong about John Eldridge and the wisdom that he writes within his books.....the effectiveness and passion of the man is not found experience the story behind the stories, you really have to see him in person. And listen to him tell a story; of boyhood, of the cowboy, of the warrior, the king and the sage.

He is but another teacher, abiet a more distant one than my current teacher, God is using to entice me and countless other men to allow God to bring true masculinity and spirituality into their lives. Like Lewis of Men's Fraternity, Dr. Crabb, Dallas Willard, Matt Lobel of Out of the Wild, and the group of Mighty Able Men; Kurt, Ken, Randy, and Scott. Some are willing to fight alongside me, to live life in its imperfectness with me. Others speak wisdom, enticing me to turn around and face that which has devastated and crushed that 'boy' of so long ago. Most are willing to stand and hold me up, edifying me when I question my own validity in this pursuit. All call every man to battle the fierce giants that stomp unchecked in their lives and prevent them from being fathered by the Father.

My brother in Christ and I had a long talk on the trip back to my car, and the tasks of single parenthood; picking up my son, going home, getting him to sleep, and working on getting myself to the same do another day, to step out into the world that is reality in a broken world. Swirling images, bitterness, and mourning complicated those tasks. They still do today and may for some time. The giant isn't the church in its humanity, but the wounded soul of a boy.

And he looks bigger and stronger than that puny giant that the church has become.

How prophetic it seems now, my son's desire out of the blue to 'know where his father came from', to visit the old see where his dad did the 'generalities' of life (school, home, friends, adventures). The house on Wormer still stands, I'm sure, though I have not travelled down that street in years although I have been in that neighborhood because my children's mother lived there with her boyfriend for a time. The images of what lies hidden within that house, in the past of its history, are more vivid today than they were growing up.........more powerful and more frightening than they ever had the weight of as a child. Unless the current or previous owners have gutted it completely, I can walk the layout; the front room, the short hallway that contained the two first floor bedrooms (my parent's and my younger sister's) and the bathroom (only one for a family of five). At the juncture of that hallway, a opening from the living room, the dark recess of the short hall, the opening for the kitchen and right behind you (facing that darkned hall) is the door to the upstairs. To the world I lived in and the one I still cling to today. Four walls containing the world I knew and haven't allowed change to come to....Johnny Horton's album playing over and over upon the LP player I somehow had, "North to Alaska....we're going north, the rush is on." Calling me to an adventure of risk and dangers untold....

I faced that house when I was invited to share with my (as of tomorrow) ex-wife during a marriage retreat; the parent-child dialogue that brought it into my view for the first time since the family no longer called it home. Like the Amityville Horror, its eyes gazed unwaveringly out at me as I stood on the sidewalk, as if to say....'Come, enter your house of horrors and be damned.' The totality of its reality brought full force into my mind, elicting a gasp from my mouth from it's impact.....that trip into that house of my broken childhood to face the specter of who claimed the name father was a bitter, heart-breaking, and sorrowful experience. In front of other couples, to boot. Shutting the door on that was a relief....a bone-felt, marrow deep relief.

And God wants me to go back. There is, as my BIC said, unfinished business within its smoke-stained, plastic-covered furnitured, and darkened halls.

I'm not afraid to say I'm down right frightened beyond the point of reality, the image after haunting image bouncing like richocheting bullets (equally as damaging) inside the recess of my mind. In the kingdom of my father, even the court jester had it better than I.

The sins of my father, the cruelity of the verbal and emotional abuse that was visited upon the middle son, for no other reason than the luck of the draw in my birth. For I bore the face of the king of that painfully dark realm and earned the wrath of it because I wasn't what he thought I should be. Not the genius of my elder brother nor the mechanical inate abilities of the younger. Any desire to protect that was biologically supposed to be engrained, as evidenced in my sister, was bleached away in the inadequacey and diasppointment of a father towards the son who's image was his own. Who was weak, a daydreamer with no discernable talent, a weakling with a handicap, and yet, in the cruelest twist of fate, bore his own image. Unlike the other sons, here was the one most like him physically and so far from what he felt a son of his should be.

Now I can understand why my mother (not the one of birth, but the one who raised me) was so angry at my father for the picture he chose when I was at the Hall of the Divine Child military dress cap was down low enough to cause a shadow to cover my upper facial features. Everyone else''s was clear. As if to hide the fact that I was his son. And that is the only place I was worthy to live, to be allowed to live, was in the shadows where such horror couldn't be seen by the light of day.

It struck me as odd when I visited that house on that day along the shore of the western side of Michigan that the images of the others in that house were shrouded in mystery or blurry snapshot-like glances as I walked that short, dark hallway towards my father's clear images of my brothers, no memories of what we did---as all young children do---no adventures, no shared friends, no memories exists in the fabric of my mind of such things. A younger version of my birth mother, the memory of caring for me when I was stung by a bee doesn't float to the surface of the sister, in her younger years.....nothing. It struck me as Scott brought my ex and I closer to that dialogue experience how much of my memories of that house were like that of a ghost, a wraif, a creature who had no weight.

Eldridge said that God has a way of bringing us back to those stages of masculinity that have been skipped, tarnished, and unfinished because His whole desire is to finish the unfinished man. And each stage interlocks with the others for the necessary foundation of it all. If a boy isn't treasured and given the understanding that he is the Beloved son of the will remain unfinished; bitter and broken. Because God wants to father the fatherless; even those who's biological dad remains a part of their lives.

In that house of my childhood, sheathed in darkness and foreboding.....where the crimes and abusive parenting left bleeding and dying upon the floor of its altars the body of the beloved son......God, in all His immortal craziness, calls me to go. I stand upon the stop in the grass I can still find today where I fell asleep in the front of this house; failing to keep this man from leaving or even acknowledging my sobbing pleas as he got into that pea-green station wagon and left.....and where the burn from that event remains today an indentifying mark upon my arm----standing there frozen in fear and loathing. The house of my horror, the house of my unfinished masculinity.

This is where God calls me to go and where even angels fear to tread.

One might wonder what this has to do with the verse quoted above.... Imagine, Joshua lived under the guidance and 'protection' of the massive figure of Moses. He was free from the weight of responsibility and doubt, those were Moses' burdens to bear as he brought the Israelites through 40 years in the desert. Now, suddenly on the cusp of realization of the Promised Land, Moses is gone...and Joshua takes the mantle of leading a people. There is no indication that Joshua knew of Moses' ban nor that he would assume such heavy responsibility.

As this duty passes on to him, there isn't silence. God boldly steps into the face of his fears, worries, and doubts and tells him to do what he knows to do and that the promises and assurances He gave Moses will be Joshua's to have. God will walk with us into the face of our fears, whispering words of strength, encouragment and power into our frozen feet and our paralyzed minds.

D.L. Moody says that many of the promises God has given to His people, to us, "seem to be pretty pictures of an ideal peace and rest, but are not appropriated as practical helps in daily life. And not one of these promises is more neglected that the assurance of salvation. An open Bible places them within reach of all, and we may appropriate the blessing which such a knowledge brings."

John Darby said, "The most difficult path, that which leads to the sharpest conflict, is but the road to victory and repose, causing us to increase in the knowledge of God. It is the road in which we are in communion with God, with Him who is the source of all joy; it is the earnest and the foretaste of eternal and infinite happiness."

As my knowledge of God increases and the desire to be His grows, I will face such giants that have been familiar companions in my life, but stand in the way of realizing God's love for me.

What holds you back from the love of God? Are you aware that you are Beloved and Purposed? What demons must you conquer to be in the peace and contentment of the eternal promise?

I know one I must explore and lay to rest..........the Prodigal is going home...........

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