Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Letting Go

I once heard a story regarding a lone mountain hiker. The looming cliff edges dropped endlessly on either side, rough and rugged and sure to bring death. Lugging a pack heavier than himself, he hiked steadily on, ignoring the beauty around him simply to arrive at his destination. A worn boot slipped on the gravel, his whole body catapulting downward. Reflexes will toned, he desperately grasped the rushing rock wall before him and watched the heavy pack hit the valley below and shrew its contents like paper. His breath caused his chest to rise and fall, parching his mouth of saliva in his fear of witnessing what could become of him if he had not caught the rock, if he let go. Muscles burning, he instantly started shouting for help, praying his cries would echo enough to attract another's attention. Minutes passed before a strange whisper traveled down the rock walls, causing slight shudders to shake his body.

Do you trust Me? Relief poured through the crevices of his mind, simply glad to know Someone had heard him. Yes! Yes! I trust You. Silence answered his response, worry furrowing his brow. You knew Me once, My child. Do you remember? Thoughts raced through his head, the many verses ingrained repeatedly in his feeble mind since childhood. Yes! I remember. I have always known You. I just do not always need You. The same whisper answered his honesty. Do you need Me now? Do you really trust Me? Desperation trickled into his voice, muscles ready to give up to fatigue. Yes! Yes! I trust You. Help me! The next words barely reached the man's ears. Then, let go. The silence, from both man and Whisperer, washed over the entire valley. Suddenly, the man shifted his weight on his hold and shouted again to the emptiness. Is anyone else there?!

Granted, the story itself is not true, but the message it carries is timeless. The words continued to echo in my mind for the following hours, haughtily berating the man for ever denying God's help and complete control over his life. What kind of Christ-follower would do such a thing, would deny such a miracle, would deny the extended hand of the Lord? Then it hit me: I am the man in that story. You are the man in that story. We are the man in that story.

How many times have we allowed our trust in the Lord to be based on the security of what He requests of us? How many times have we allowed ourselves to miss out on amazing opportunities, miraculous discovers, and pure friendships simply because we let our minds talk us into being useless, inadequate, too exposed, or not ready? The Lord did not call qualified men to follow Him; He did not chose the men pouring with wisdom and knowledge in every aspect of His law. He chose a former slave to save Egypt, He chose a fearful Queen to save her people, He chose a prostitute to be included in Christ's linage, He chose a man on the run to save the people of a sinful town, He chose a invisible young woman to bear His Son, He chose fishermen and a tax collector to follow Him. The Bible is full of ordinary people, of people who did nothing more than live their everyday lives, talents, and passions out for the glory of their Lord, even though no one else saw.

God did not chose people who knew much; He chose people who could learn much. He did not chose people who had it all figured out; He chose people who relied completely on His all-knowing plans. You are a Peter, a Joseph, a Mary, a John, a Joshua, a Caleb, a Jonah, a Matthew, a Ruth. You are just like the people of the Bible. You were meant for so much more than this life, so much more than what you are now. He longs to grow you, build you, push you, stretch you, change you, fill you, hold you, strengthen you. And one thing stands in your way. . . do you trust Him?

I am not talking about the kind of trust that thrives when you are secure in your job, when your marriage is amazing, when your plans are working out, when your passions are getting fulfilled. I am talking about the kind of trust that stands when you are stripped of your possessions, when you are stripped of your job, your wife, your finances, your country, your dignity; when you are all but hanging from a cliff, muscles cramping, eying your scattered dreams on the valley below you. Will you trust Him then? Will you let go? Will you, in your feeble, human understanding, let your mind settle on the thought of falling thousands of feet and not knowing if you will come out of the other side alive? Will you face that situation with tears of joy at His whisper and listen with an undying faith and trust in His goodness or will you instead turn to another simply to salvage what little life you have left?

Folks, what captivity do we subject ourselves to? How can we scream our freedom with chains still around out neck because we dare not trust, dare not fall, dare not seek the impossible? In every event in life, there is one choice you have to make at every corner, one decision. Will you trust and follow Him or will you trust and follow yourself? Life is not a science. The Lord Himself has said that he who loses his life will find it. He is your refuge; He is your strength; He is your faithful; He is your all. I don't know about you, but when I am hanging from a cliff looking thousands of miles downward, I pray with every piece of my heart that my trust, my faith, my hope in Him is strong enough that I will let go, that I will fall. What about you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Complete Abandon at the Foot of the Cross

Regret. You all know the feeling from your very core, filling every vacant corner of your floundering mind as soon as you discover that something could have been done differently, done better. A task assigned to you days ago failed to be completed to perfection, and the lectures from others have only begun. Yet, the voice that does the most lecturing, far more than any single person, is the voice inside your mind, wrecking havoc and tossing guilt in your face. It causes a divide in your thoughts, pulling your focus away from the tasks at hand to mentally correct your mistakes permanently apart of a past. As natural as this reaction may seem, have you ever considered how unhealthy it is? Look at what you are filling your mind with: anger, frustration, regret, possibly denial. Yet, God calls us to fill our minds with the good, with the reality of hope, love, and forgiveness. Why do we succumb to a lesser version of who God is calling us to be when we do something wrong, when we fail Him?

Please, do not mistake me here. Pondering on our actions of the past, learning from their consequences, and implicating lessons learned in the future is an absolutely necessary process to recognizing God's hand in our lives and growing in Him. But prolonged time spent looking in the past, discovering every possible angle we could have gone, and deceiving our minds into thinking that dwelling on that is part of the learning process hurts us and hurts our relationship with the Lord. God has chosen to look through Jesus, to look through Jesus's death on calvary, instead of our sinfulness. For us to chose the path of regret and self-beating only draws our mind away from the reality of Christ, from the reality of what Christ did for us. It deadens our inner balance, threatens our peace, and gives a foothold to the devil.

I speak of this with such urgency and forthrightness because I have been there and still go there. The temptation to rely on my own good works over God's grace is so real in my life, so raw. It has nothing to do with how confident I am in my Lord, my Salvation, and who I am at heart. It has everything to do with my desire to follow and please God taking precedence over my need to seek continually forgiveness, address sins, and recognize that perfectionism will not be the result. A mixture of apathy and pride guard this all too familiar thought-process, holding captive the true potential God has for me. It spreads seeds of doubt on the soil of my life, and it takes such careful steps to not let a drop of water fall on those seeds. I want to be a good example, live as a good example. Yet, at the same time, I do not always want to address the dark places of my heart because I know that which is hidden there will threaten to shake my foundation. The question I ask myself nearly every single day is will I rely on myself, on my own wisdom, or the wisdom of God in any given situation.

See, the line between pursuing good works and pursuing God is such a fine one. It is a line draw in sand and winds will eventually blow enough grains of sand into the crevasse to make it all but disappear from our sight. And every day we will inch closer to that line, simply to make sure we know where it is at. How utterly foolish. We should be running from that line. If the tidal waves of life are all that meet you upon running, meet them with the confidence that you are in God's ways and in His power and in His grace. The surface of His grace and His love for you will never crack and will hold any and all weight over the surface of your good works absent of grace. For every moment we live in this life, it is vital, necessary, to constantly bring the reality of the cross, what Christ did for us, to the very forefronts of our minds. Because, trust me folks, our feeble minds forget that reality all too often and get far too comfortable in our current lives and our current ways. Each and every one of us is all to grow, to grown in the Lord every second of every day. You cannot do that when you focus on doing good over seeking Him.

Our growth in Him directly corresponds with our willingness to seek Him with utter and complete abandon, to hold His love and grace so close to our hearts that we see everything else through that bright light. My heart is weak, my mind easily swayed, my ways flawed, my dreams tinted with impossibility, my footsteps uncertain, my thoughts marked by sinfulness, but not so are His. His heart is strong, His mind firm, His ways perfect, His dreams awe-inspiring, His footsteps deep and set, His thoughts pure. I do not know about you, but I want His; I want Him. And the only possible way I can draw close to Him and tap into His ways is by letting His love and His grace be my guide and letting His love for me grow with so much vigor that I cannot help but follow the ways of the good.

I reach out to your hearts with a plea today, with a hope that all ears would listen. We are not called to dwell on the past, to dwell on the actions of who we were days ago. Each minute we live is put into the history book of all time. The great men and women of history were not marked because of their failures so much as they were their ability to overcome failure and live a life that spoke to so many people in so many different ways. We have that opportunity standing right before us, waiting for us to cross the threshold between simply good to being great. We cannot look back; we can only look forward. Your future is not in your past; it is not in the hour that just passed. Your future is completely and totally enveloped within His presence, His hands, and His suffering for us. That is what we are called to. That is what we should pursue. That is what we should fill our minds with. We are the Lord's children, and we are His alone. Remember that fact whenever you are tempted to get by on your own dealings; whenever tempted to practice self-lecture; whenever tempted to draw close to the line in the sand. Dare to be bold; dare to live in His confidence; dare to be His.