Wounded

There are few people who do not enjoy the view of a mountain, or feel a sense of awe from an ancient tree. Yet, what is it we are seeing? Wounds. The wounds of the earth as it was formed, one tectonic plate crashing violently into another, rupturing the surface. The wounds of time on the tree, harsh winters, limbs broken then healed over. A scientist might have come up with something better. Nurturing the tree in a laboratory without hardship, without character. God has done a better job.

We struggle with the idea of wounds. When my son was an infant we got together with some friends, praying for his eczema to be healed. He was not healed. My fault, or so I found out later. I never got to find out why, because it was never said to my face, which is probably what hurt the most. On another occasion a visiting speaker prayed for a friend of mine for her diabetes. She was not healed either. It was due to her lack of faith. Apparently. Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that the Kingdom of God is all about wholeness, the blind seeing and the lame walking. If that isn’t happening, then we have misunderstood the Kingdom, yet things are not always that simple.

Brennan Manning was a priest and an alcoholic. He woke up one morning from a drunken stupor, in a ditch, covered in his own vomit. It was at this low point that he realised that God loved him as he was, not as he should be. This sense of God’s love overwhelmed him and became his life’s message. Yet, in his autobiography he admits to never having being healed of his alcoholism, which continued to cause hurt to those around him. It was not the ending I wanted to read. I think too of a friend of mine who, many years ago, also died of alcoholism. He too was not healed. He too left behind him others who had been hurt.

We think that Jesus healed everyone, but, actually, he didn’t. He left Lazarus to die. For sure, he was resurrected a few days later, but, then, isn’t that our hope too?

In the Orthodox Church, they view the story of Adam and Eve differently than we do in the West. Adam and Eve are more like children, young and naive. They make mistakes. This may be disappointing, but it does not take us by surprise. It is part of growing up. Our job as parents is to help our children in that process, and this is close to how the Orthodox Church read this story. For sure, God did not want them to make that mistake, but he was not horrified, or even surprised, when they did. It was all part of their growing up, painful as it would be for them. Painful as it would be for him.

We all carry our wounds. Sometimes of our making, sometimes not. Our society would prefer those wounds would go away, or be hidden. Even in the church we do this. Yet, much of who I am was formed when I was a child, by broken parents in a broken home that leaves its scars. When I became a Christian a lot of things changed, but a lot of things did not. Even today, many of those wounds show. I will probably never be the life of the party. But, what I am learning, is that that it is OK. Not every wound, not every sickness is healed. Sometimes God says, this is one for you to learn to overcome in other ways. Like Jacob, we sometimes need to walk with a limp. But, perhaps, like with the mountains and the trees, it is what gives beauty to our lives.

A Journey Continued

Coming towards me is the top of the hill. It has been a long climb, and I’m nearly there. Only I’m not. Approaching the brow I can see beyond to a further peak rising ominously ahead, even steeper than before. This was not the end I had supposed, merely the base camp before the real climb.

It was back in 1993 when I first heard God say ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ and I have been on that road ever since. As I’ve travelled I’ve watched the vista expand, seeing more of the surrounding dominion of this world, seeing too where the two domains touch. Points of friction rather than open war, with a gospel of the Kingdom penetrating the world’s defences, while the Kingdom itself is laid siege too by a wall of indifference. The world seemingly winning, but not able to win. The view has been good, but now I can see over the brow it is what lies further ahead that fills my vision. I am daunted by what I see, although I shouldn’t be. The signs have been clear enough, if only I had the eyes to see them.

I always knew that this was supposed to be more than a site seeing exercise. I suppose too I should have guessed that something was up as the end appeared in sight, yet I was still the same as when I had started. For sure, I knew the terrain better, but for what? To admire the view? But now I begin to understand. Perhaps, if I’d have known where this journey was leading I’d have lost heart and given up long ago, but I didn’t, so I kept going.

Theology, if it is to mean anything, must, at some point touch earth, as well as heaven. Otherwise, I am better off keeping it to myself. Filing it away ‘for interest’. It has been great seeing how all the pieces of my jigsaw have begun to come together, understanding the picture God had set before me: his kingdom. But until it means something it is worthless. Now I can see where it is heading, I find myself surprisingly scared.

There is something comforting in a theology that exists only in my mind. A grasping of a truth that can then be controlled, or, at least, that is what modernity teaches us. But theology is different. We don’t understand to control, but to be changed and, so far, I have to admit, there has been precious little of that. Which is perhaps one reason why I am so daunted, because it is no longer possible to climb much further without being changed. If my wife, family, friends and work colleagues don’t notice, then I won’t have been climbing at all. I am suddenly exposed, vulnerable. I think I was happier when it was just academic – although that was never the intention. It’s just that I am good at the academic, but now I have to change gear and I fear the consequences. Yet this is the step that God has placed before me, and I need to trust that he will see it through.

Ahead, lies the summit of God’s Kingdom, awaiting to be climbed. A climb that cannot but change me, for this summit is none other than the greatest command: to love the lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind – and to love my neighbour as myself.

Toronto Diary

My life changed in 1995. Some friends returned from Toronto, where God had turned up and people fell down. Bizarre. Then it happen for us – most, anyway. But not me. Yet, my hunger for God grew and I became desperate. Now, I know falling down was not the issue, but I also knew that it was not wrong for a child to ask for a hug, and that is how I saw it – God’s hug. I felt that, if I were serious, I needed to put myself in God’s way, which for me meant going to Toronto, so, by the end of June I was on a plane heading there.

At the end of the last meeting I was lying on the floor enjoying the presence of God. Over the previous few days I had begun to fall and once, to my surprise, even shaken violently. It had been an exciting week, but now it was time to go. No sooner had I got up than I fell. I tried slower this time, but I felt waves pushing me down again. This time I lay there for a while before I tried again. Bang! No sooner had I sat up than I was thrown down. I was amused. I did not know what was going on, but God had heard my heart. After a while I tried again and was able to stand – for a few seconds anyway, before finding myself back on the ground, face first. I then began to flap around like a fish out of water, which continued until I became exhausted, wondering if it would ever stop. I finally managed to stagger back to the hotel and into bed and as I lay there I began to laugh and thrash around with my hands and feet in the air. I realised it was exactly as I had done as a young child when my father tickled me. God was delighting in me, enjoying me like a father with his child. I don’t know how I managed to get to sleep, but eventually I did.

The morning after we got back I woke at 5am and got up to pray. I blamed jet lag, but as I was still getting up early seven years later there may have been other reasons! That season has since come to an end, but the physical manifestations have not. Sometimes I have not been able to work out how my body does some of the things it does. Often I sense a heaviness that leaves me barely able to stand. Once on the ground I shake. On one occasion I shook so violently that I worried I was going to break something. I realised I had a choice: either ask God to hold back or release him to do what he wanted. So, I gave God permission to break every bone in my body. Fortunately, the only thing that has ever been broken has been a chair I fell on!

It has been fun, but I don’t naturally like to draw attention to myself, and yet here I am, very publically, looking foolish. It has certainly been humbling, but would I have him stop? No. Only my pride would have him stop and God is slowly breaking through that pride as I learn to let go and trust him. Learning too about a God who does not always fit within my neat little boxes! I don’t know why God has dealt with me this way. I certainly needed that hug all those years ago. Perhaps I still do.

Finding Meaning

When I was a teenager, my life wasn’t great. I had been living with my Dad since my parents divorce and we were not getting on. My Dad was struggling with his own issues and had become abusive, but I did not understand that then. That was just how things were. I would bury myself in the things I was doing, but sooner or later I’d again be forced to face my reality. I needed something to give meaning to my pain, yet my life was empty, adrift in the infinite sea of the Universe. I needed something to justify what I was going through. But I had nothing.

For a while I found meditation helpful. It did not provide an answer, but it muffled the question. It was a compromise, but it was all that was on offer. At times, ending it all seemed to be the best option as I could see no reason to carry on. Yet, while the sleep of death seemed appealing, the process of dying did not, and so I always backed off.

Things only changed when I came across a book in WH Smiths, entitled ‘Peace With God’. Peace was certainly what I was after. Within the first few pages, I felt myself being described when it talked of searching for a nameless thing, busying myself to drown its voice, but always for it to come back, looking at others and thinking we are alone in our struggle. I finally felt understood. Unfortunately, the author quickly lost my attention when he started talking about Adam and Eve. Before long I was half expected him to declare that the earth was flat. Yet, for some reason I read on.

Now, here is the weird thing, in spite of the author describing my problem in terms that made no sense, and in spite of the author appearing verging on the insane, when he spoke of Jesus dying for me I had no doubt that this was true.

Now, I didn’t believe I was worth dying for. Why would anyone want to die for me? Yet Jesus did. Of all people, why did it have to be him? He seemed so worthy of life and I so insignificant. The exchange seemed all wrong. I did not know why Jesus felt I was worth dying for, but I felt guilty that I had made it necessary. I was undone. Utterly crushed. His life seemed too precious to waste on me. And the only response that seemed available to me was to repent of all I had been.

I cannot recall all that followed, but I remember the immense sense of release. I felt free in a way I never had before. I was clean, forgiven for everything. Compared to what I was experiencing, my former life seemed so grubby and it was only then that I understood my former sinfulness. I had no theology to describe it, but I knew my old life was now behind me and a new life had begun. A new life in which Jesus was not a part, but everything.

I never did get to discover the meaning to my life, but after that day I no longer doubted that there was one. My life had been valued and found precious. I have a life that matters, not just to those close, but to the God of the Universe. I have a far from meaningless life. Beyond any doubt.

Homing In

Ken 25 Nov , 2016 0 comments Past Journey

Puzzles! There is something in me that has to solve problems. Sometimes it is a good thing and sometimes it is itself a problem. Yet, God seems to have used it, by posing me questions to which I did not have the answer, and do not have the answer still, but I am homing in.

At the start of the week I had planned to write a different piece, yet as I struggled with the issues involved, rather than what I wanted to say becoming clearer, it seemed to be going in the other direction. Yet, I also began to realise that I was again staring at a piece to a jigsaw.

Some time ago I was trying to make sense of what God was saying when I felt I had a number of jigsaw pieces. Pieces which were not making sense on their own, but which were beginning to form a picture and that I needed to start to lay them down so that I could see the picture they were forming. This became the Two Kingdoms blog, which started to show the picture of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. It was two pictures, but with a point of collision. A point that somehow seemed central, but somehow alluded me and remained a blank. In the end I felt myself redirected to a more imagination based approach, which was how the Kingdom Awakening blogs came about and the jigsaw got forgotten.

This year I have taken a step back and began again to make sense of what I had. To boil down my various notes, to remove the clutter that had gathered and make fresh sense of them. Although I might have been more cautious about making such a decision if I had realised that my notes amounted to more than five hundred and fifty pages!

To be honest, I’ve being pleasantly surprised by rediscovering things long forgotten, as well as new connections being forged as I reduce all of those pages into something manageable. I am discovering new things in the past. However, much is now tidied up, my waste baskets full and the story is again becoming visible. And I am again reminded of my jigsaw pieces. Not surprisingly, I have discovered that I am on the same journey, the one I have always been on, but I am now looking at the picture differently. What I thought was the main picture was only the background.

What I am finding encouraging is seeing how far back the connections go. Almost as though, well, almost as though God knew what he was doing from the start. Funny that. For sure, the picture is not yet clear, even after forty years, but if God has begun this work, then surely he will bring it to completion? And that gives me hope. I now think I know what the picture is, even if it is not quite fully in focus yet. Yet, even if it never gets into focus for me, but is just to sow the seed for others to pick up, I am encouraged that it is God who is in control of this and not me. Which, after all, is as it should be.