"Behold! I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you today to love Jehovah your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, so that you may live and multiply. And Jehovah your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it. But if you turn away your heart, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days on the land where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it." (Deuteronomy 30:15-18 MKJV)
One page….actually, one simple direction upon that one page, has brought me to a point of utter fear, utter silence and the robbing of my ability to describe, capture and articulate a vision, dream or event. One question that, given my temperament, abilities and passion, should bind me up no more than a piece of hair hold secure an unlocked door against an intruder seems impossible…..but it does…and has for more than a few weeks now.
The compass is swinging wildly, unfocused…..there are paths in every conceivable direction laid out before me in this spot…this point in the journey. All because of one question, all because one fear in answering its probing piercing demand…..even the wilderness I travel in seems to have frozen in anticipation for the next step, the next breath and the answer to the question that lies unwritten beneath the straight, even lines left blank for its cradling. As if the answer, whatever it may be, that is placed within the smooth lines beneath THE question is the impus for the motion of everything else that surrounds me….and in fact, it does. I stand at a compass point, and where I turn from here will define a lot more than just my direction.
Before I was nothing and nothing was expected to live up to its name….to do nothing…..
THE question didn't have to be answered by a nothing….for there was nothing such a being could offer that would affect or articulate an effective answer to it.
I was a ghost…..without weight, without substance….corrupted beyond the point of any possibility of cleaning. Damaged before I could remember my first thought, flawed before I could say my first words and always the black sheep of the flock, individually isolated to provide amusement for the releasing of cruelty by those better than me, more capable and worthy of the answering to the eternal question….. That I looked like the father who factored in my birth was the cruel joke of the Master Potter….the joke being that the copy of the man was corrupted beyond the capabilities of the man. Such jokes, ghost images of true masculinity, hardly are expected to be able to make an impact of value, hardly expected to make traces of good trails and even more unexpected to be able to articulate the cry of truly powerful masculinity in a world torn asunder by the evilness of sin. They move only as lightly as possible, ghostly hovering through the leaves and the vines of the jungle…their passage hardly more noticeable than the lightest of breezes.
Usually impacts made by the rejected, the ghostly afterimages of poorly conceived masculine beings like I was are nothing more than craters of destruction like bulls in a china shop….merely attempts to fade back into obscurity from traps laid by well meaning people who have no idea of the beast they have tried to domesticate…impacts that destroy the fine china and glassware of beautifully envisioned and crafted dreams. The traces left of such beings have more painful and darkly expressed angst to them that make even the heartiest of visionaries question the validity of their being…….and the voice, oh the voice of such beings are nothing more than the woeful, mournful sound of what normal people would chose to silence.
I was expected to have nothing of value to contribute, so my life was spent making sure that vision was the focus of everything…..no trace, no impact and silence. A rejected son of the shadows, a counter-image of the alternative; the beloved son, who lived in the abundance of the life he was born to impact, articulate and leave his mark upon…
Living in the sorrow of the darkness, breathing the thick air of despair and wincing at the slightest noise of my passage through the dim canopy of the forest floor…….wistfully watching the progression of the favored son and the broken son through the light of the day along the beaten path and hating them for being what I could never be…..that I learned in the fierceness of the light, as it burned its disfavor upon my white skin and made me limp painfully back into the coolness of the darkness….
Then I came across this place, dimly lit by transfused light…..painful, but not as painful as the full glare of the sun….and was captured in the patriotic moment of the recruiters tale….there is where I watched the epic commercial to pick up my cross and carry it as a soldier in the Army of the Lord. A rejected son could possibly hide beneath the crisp uniform and polished boots, hat pulled firmly to cover the identity….an impostor could live under the dressings of a true solider…..carefully hiding in the back of the group and therefore not impacting anything……..in a moment of patriotic fervor, in the suspension of reality, I raised my hand and joined the Army….jumping through the hoops and filing the paperwork filled with the quaint half-truths of my qualifications…..stamped and approved, placed on the bus to go to the training base for the basics of soldiering.
Even a trained dog can do tricks, and even the rejected can carry themselves with the dignity imparted from the crisp lines and coarse cloth of the uniform green of the uniform of the solider. So long as one is careful never to volunteer for special details or training, much of the life spent in the structure of the Army can be lived undiscovered, unchallenged and quietly surrendered in the silence of the darkness when it becomes too much. Hiding in the ranks, pretending to believe what you know cannot be true….for you are one of the rejected, the 'don't get it' crowd and therefore unworthy of the light.
We all meet the grizzled, hardened veterans of this Army in the course of our basic training……those who have fought the battles and won victories in the darkness of the world. We have been challenged by the Scott Engelmans, Wendell Brownings, Randy Arwines, Mark Friers and other leaders to be 'all that we can be' and have been given the skills to survive in the urban battlefields of the world as members of the unit. We have learned of the harrowing spots they have been in…..and how the Captain, our Captain, has gotten them through them.
Boot camp is over. The tearing down, uniform reshaping and remolding and the repetitiveness of the exercises have accomplished that which they have been intentionally thrust upon me for, and now only the answer to the question remains. No more specialized training groups or exercises to hone skills I didn't know I had or to bring about more confidence in the ability to use the equipment of the trade…….
Now, only THE question lies before me.
Arrayed before me is the army of the enemy and all of his weaponry; unfaithfulness, secular pleasures, financial worry and isolation. Like the biological agents of the olden days in the world wars, these weapons are custom-tailored for me….intimately aware of my make up so that they can render me ineffective in combat. He knows he cannot win the war, but the battles which take place daily are a tossup…..the give and take of both armies, fighting for this world. For some in the Army of the Lord will turn away, will drop their weapons and join the enemy's camp or lie like corpses on the ground in-between…wounded beyond their belief to recover, their question unanswered in the fear of the moment. They have bought into the hype that their beliefs are irrelevant in the workings of battle, that their hope lies within the hands which hold weapons of war, not in the war itself, and that they are indeed doomed to the manipulation of their world.
The answer, for me, doesn't lie in the snappiness of my uniform….which is more rags than anything else, held together by the barest of threads because of the brutal paths I have journeyed down in this life…..nor in the usefulness of the equipment that adorns my backpack or is held like an extension of my hands, for the equipment is battered and bent, chipped and worn because I have used it for more than it was purposed to be…intentionally at times and unintentionally most of the time…….the compass in my hand, the journal of the intrepid explorer than has gone before me into far less lit places and even darker nights, might as well be written in Greek for all the use it is………nothing I have, nothing I know and nothing I can see can answer THE question for me.
It is a gut check moment…….
I can join the battle, trusting in my Captain to lead me…to fight alongside me in the clamor of war or I can simply lie down.
It all lies in answering the question for me…….
"What would a life look like living the values that you admire in others?"
As I wonder and struggle with it…..as I fight to articulate what that life would be…..the Army rushes forward to join the darkness in a battle for souls…some with joyful confidence, some with fearful expectation and others like me….a thoughtful, pondering look on their faces as they check over their equipment again, heft their rifles a little higher and swallow their nervousness down like a lump that's gotten stuck in their throats.
Just because the question lies before me, unanswered and unarticulated, doesn't mean that I cannot contribute to the battle raging before me. It just means I have to seek the answer in the work that lays before me….
To fall in the service of the Captain or to lie in surrender to the Enemy……
There are those only two choices.