"Don't you believe that I am one with the Father and that the Father is one with me? What I say isn't said on my own. The Father who lives in me does these things. Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father. Ask me, and I will do whatever you ask. This way the Son will bring honor to the Father. " (John 14:10-13 CEV)
What do you do when you reach that place; either for the first time or yet again, redeemed sinner or deluded fool, where life becomes anti-life? Where for the sake of peace, the sake of some small piece of goodness you seriously look away from living life and withdrawing into a self-protecting shell because the harshness of dealing with the situations life presents; financial, personal, professional or relational. You look around you at the people you know, both those who think the way you do and those who think completely opposite of you. You see progress, prosperity and the semblance of a happy life. Yet yours is more of a struggle than anyone, even your closest friends know, because you don't give voice to it….you just live it.
Your son struggles in school and life with a disability..an impairment that breaks your heart because people treat him as if he's stupid; your daughter deals with continous problems that lead directly back to her mother; your family struggles to live under the weight of your past mistakes and continued disconnection with the world around you; things never seem to get 'better' only continue to remain at a level where most people can't live; situations constantly come that try your faith, your love and your hope……you are continually broken, continuously heart-heavy, seemingly permanently scarred.
You cry out to God; why? Please, please, please…….NOT this again…please, not this PLACE again….
What do you do?
These are times that will try even the most assured of 'beloved sons and daughters.' We cry out to God, praying for deliverance from the host of problems that beset us; to be a light in the darkness of this place we find ourselves in, to be a testimony for His glory in this place….but we want to be delivered. We want to be in that place where the comfort of His grace and the assurance of His grace wraps around us like a shield, protecting us from the hurts, pains and complications of this darkness.
And God is silent.
We sit before the meager fire of our faith; ripping pages from our Bibles to keep it going, feeding the flames our memories of God's blessings and stripping our clothes from our bodies as additional fuel. We convince ourselves that we only have to wait a little while, for surely our God will hear us, surely He is already on His way to our side and will right the wrongs, deliver us into the prosperity of the saints and bring us to a place where the darkness isn't so dark and our sins are washed away like the dirt on the knees of an active child by their mother and the scraps & bruises that remain are praised as badges of honor by our fathers.
And we wait.
Our voices growing hoarse with the repetitive prayers that are wrenched with agony with each drawn breath from our throats…. The longer we wait in this darkness; fear growing as the fire grows smaller and smaller with our supply of fuel for its consumption nearly depleted or even gone already….the longer we wait, the more 'ghosts' come out of the surrounding inkiness of this place; you have unrepented sins, you don't believe enough, you are hear for a reason, you must renew your mind for it is surely set against God. And, as the fire grows dimmer and dimmer with the darkness creeping in closer and closer to our souls…bare before the gathering darkness because we have stripped everything away….we have given it to the light provided by the fire......
God doesn't come.
Some of those 'ghosts' that come out of the darkness bring sustenance; minor items of fire-eating fuel that bring us another moment, another hour or another day in the minimalist of the fire's light. We huddle against the coldness of this place, our very soul shivering in the cold of an absence of God….and we wonder if we will ever be able to come to the place where we can be removed from this isolation and reengaged with the love of the Father, the pride of the Son and the instruction of the Spirit.
All of our dreams; of evangelizing to our communities with the power of an Apostle of God, of witnessing the power of God healing the ill and terminally sick by the compassion of the Mighty Healer and of raising our friends and family into the undeniable realm of prosperity that can only come from the Provisioner lie indiscrimate from the rest of the ashes that lie beneath the waning flame of the fire……we wonder if it was simply a flight of emotional fancy, these visions of grander things than this….maybe we are the exception to the rule, rather than making a mistake about the rule.
We close our eyes briefly, trying to remember the shapes of flowers in bloom and sunlight coming into the growing day…chasing the darkness of night away or the moments of sunsets, red and hazy in the passage from day to night. It grows harder and harder the longer we sit here in this place…until such imagery that came vivid to our mind's eye are nothing more than shapeless shadows of indescribable things once real in our lives.
We cry out "It is finished!"
Our hope begins to war with our eyes, trying to convince us that the diminishing fire that we see before us is nothing more than God shaping us, molding us and strengthening us for those greater things that we are yet to do…..but it seems flimsy and hollow as the fire's light barely allows us to make out the shape of the logs in its depth. We despair because of what our eyes see and evict the hope from our hearts so that we, like the light, can fade….into whatever lies beyond the encroaching darkness. Surely, anything is better than this………and if God doesn't care, why should we? The fire goes out, and we know one thing……
"Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?"
We panic, the pressure of the darkness to surrender into its inky stain of defeat heavy upon every part of our body…..the whispers of the forsaken, abandoned and rejected demons of our lives assaulting our ears in rapid-fire succession…. voices dripping with the honey of self, the sweetness of Me and the assurance that we are nothing more than that rejected son and daughter, fooled into the thinking of belovedness oozing into the ears of our soul….and our despair is complete. We close our eyes and wait for the burning sensation of our consumption, falling to our knees in defeat.
Our world shakes and erupts in the depths of our despair.
Something compels us to open our eyes; some dimly remembered honor of facing our impending doom with back straight and eyes wide open….a defiance of the desperately hopeless against the 'approaching night' and we opened them wide, standing up from the fetal position of our desperation…. screaming with our last breath our sorrow, anger and despair projected in the guttural voice of our throats that pierces the air like a knife…………
And it dies as quickly as it came as we look around us………..
Like little stars, shafts of light permeate the darkness…….as if being filtered through a wall full of holes. A bright and hurtful light after the completeness of the darkness we have endured. We reach out our hands towards one 'star' and encounter resistance, as if there is something between our hand and the source of that 'starlight'. Hope, a mustard seed of its former self, flares up in our souls and we reach out with both hands again and push….hard.
The bushel basket tilts over on its side at the forcefulness of our shove and rocks back and forth, exposed for what it is……and before us stands the source of the 'starlight'; a perfect lamb, bathed in the purest, whitest of light…..and we fall to our knees again as we realize who stands before us; the transforming lamb becoming the human form of our Savior, our King and our Lord. We see as our head bows the pierced hands and feet. Our body is robbed of strength and we lie prostrate upon the ground as we recognize the spear wound of His side…..we cannot even bow in the presence of this perfect sacrifice, this Begotten Son and Savior of the world……for we are naked before Him; the worldliness of our sinful past, the feebleness of our faith exposed in the ashes that lie beneath our body and the disbelief of our belief dissipated in the burning heat of His light…..
Our desperate cries seem childish upon our ears now, the demands of deliverance hollow in the sternness of His gaze…..we are ashamed even as we feel the touch of His hand upon our head, under our arms as He pulls us back to our feet…..our eyes, once blinded by the darkness of our past, now blinded by the flowing of our tears; tears of sorrow, tears of shame and tears of joy for our God is real, our God is faithful and our God is true. He stands before us……
"Greater things than this have I empowered you to do," He says as we dare to look into His eyes, eyes that once gazed back at a world set against Him and mocking Him with their accusations as He hung upon a Cross……"I have left you with a Great Counselor, sent from My Father….why have you despaired? Why have you hidden the light of your inheritance underneath a bushel basket, covered against the sight of the world? Why have you uttered 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' Did you not hear me knocking, calling your name in a loud voice that echoes still in the halls of My Father's house?"
Standing naked before Him, our voice finds no substance or ability to speak….the cracking of the fire's consumption of all we had to give in the effort to keep it going or the hoarse groaning of our heart fearfully filled our ears so that we couldn't hear His voice…..we have no defense to give, no excuse to fit in the roominess of the question He has asked.
"Does the clay tell the potter when it is done? Does the light shine brighter under the bushel basket for the purpose it was intended or not? The things I have done, I have given to you greater things to do and the ability to do them….why then do you sit under a bushel basket and waster that which I have given you to do the work of My Father for the glory of the Son?"
We stand in the end of times. And many of us, like me in this dream that I had last night hide under a wicker basket, burning our faith and belief in the fires of this world seeking to keep what we think is God's light burning in the darkness…..and we come to our end, alone and afraid, that was not the intention or purpose of God. But He sits outside of our wicker basket and calls us out. So consumed with our giving of ourselves into this deceptive fire of the world, we cannot hear God and find ourselves despairing of His existence.
We sin and we tell ourselves we do not……..
But God is faithful and true and merely waits for us to turn the basket over on its end and rejoin Him in the work that lies beyond the bushel basket….
"By believing in Christ as the Mediator between God and man, we gain comfort. The happiness of heaven is spoken of as in a father's house. There are many mansions, for there are many sons to be brought to glory. Mansions are lasting dwellings. Christ will be the Finisher of that of which he is the Author or Beginner; if he have prepared the place for us, he will prepare us for it. Christ is the sinner's Way to the Father and to heaven, in his person as God manifest in the flesh, in his atoning sacrifice, and as our Advocate. He is the Truth, as fulfilling all the prophecies of a Saviour; believing which, sinners come by him the Way. He is the Life, by whose life-giving Spirit the dead in sin are quickened. Nor can any man draw nigh God as a Father, who is not quickened by Him as the Life, and taught by Him as the Truth, to come by Him as the Way. By Christ, as the Way, our prayers go to God, and his blessings come to us; this is the Way that leads to rest, the good old Way. He is the Resurrection and the Life. All that saw Christ by faith, saw the Father in Him. In the light of Christ's doctrine, they saw God as the Father of lights; and in Christ's miracles, they saw God as the God of power. The holiness of God shone in the spotless purity of Christ's life. We are to believe the revelation of God to man in Christ; for the works of the Redeemer show forth his own glory, and God in him." Matthew Henry