Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Time to Cast Away Stones





A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away; -- Ecclesiastes 3:4-6

My first stepfather was a colorful character who could re-draw himself whenever necessary for the purpose of survival. He possessed a catalog of addictive behaviors and could shift from one to the other so easily it made it hard for anyone to put a finger on his issues. His destructive behaviors spilled over into the lives of everyone who knew him, yet somehow he could be charming and likable and always seemed worthy of one more chance. All of this, of course, led to eventual intense hatred towards him from all angles and I believe he died a very lonely and confused man who at some point could no longer shift his chameleon skin and became just a common lizard in the dust, overlooked.

His greatest affliction was narcissism. He could never be wrong. He could be drunk and broke and abusive and cruelly sarcastic and judgmental, but it was all because the world was out to get him.

I remember a day when I came walking home from school with a group of friends and my sisters and found him spreadeagled on an old mattress on the patch of lawn in front of our apartment building wearing only a tight t-shirt stretched across his swollen belly and gaping boxer shorts and black dress socks. He was protesting our broken air-conditioner, arguing in a loud voice with the elderly woman in a beehive hairdo who owned the building. We probably hadn't paid the rent . . . but his rights were being violated. I wish I could say that moment stands as the most embarrassing moment of my life, but I have since superseded it with my own actions.

I think, looking back, that it was not the world that was out to get my stepfather. Maybe it was God. I don't really know for sure, but Michael made it very clear that he had no need of God. He had his Black Crow whiskey, his poker friends, chocolate-covered cherries, cigarettes, TV dinners, Jackie Gleason and his typewriter repairman tools. He also had the ability to cry crocodile tears and fake fainting spells and gain the sympathy of others when his behavior reached the reeking point. He was too busy with himself to ever sense the presence of a God who could have forgiven all and given Michael a life of meaning.

Michael is on my list of forgiven. Of course he had an impact on my life. He entered it when I was only a little boy. However, beyond standing as a lesson of where life leads when we reject God's attempts to get our attention, his influence on me now is about as useful as his old typewriter tools.

I believe there are times when God does work in extreme ways to get our attention. He removes us from the routine of life; reminds us that everything we live for can fall away in an instant; that even the things we most love, in which we most invest, that we slowly built and admired, can fade and crumble into dust where lizards run.

For some of us, God has to go to great extremes. Shortly after my secret struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction went from shadow to spotlight, I would look in the mirror in the morning and into my own eyes and remind myself that I was indeed still me. In a relatively short time I had gone from a father surrounded by his five grown children and spouses and growing number of grandchildren, a very-involved church member, a well-established manager in a large company with significant responsibility, a man with plenty of friends and acquaintances and business associates . . . and a secret that was bouncing around all those areas like a spike-covered ball, slowly poking holes in my comfortable existence. The secret then exploded like a landmine and took everything away with it.

A relatively short time later: no relationship with my kids, no contact with the grandkids, no comfortable mid-management job, no respected business associates, no church even. But . . . no secret either. No spike-covered ball, no land-mine.

If you struggle with some secret addiction of your own, I hope you will hear the still-small-voice of God long before He finds He has to roar through your life like thunder to gain your attention and reclaim your soul.

While it is scary and lonely when life enters a period of isolation from the things we have built into it . . . it is in these dry places where no one can or maybe wants to help us that we find out God is truly our only source. Our families, our jobs, our possessions, even our church friends can not heal us or protect us from ourselves. Only God can do that. And when we shift our attention away from our gains . . . and our secrets . . . He will.

Pretty much everything I had and everything I thought I ever wanted was gone. For what remained, including an incredible wife and a beautiful home, I was thankful, even in sorrow. I can look back now and realize God was, through removal, preparing me for a transition. And for restoration. If you're scratching your head at the losses in your life -- even if those losses are the consequences of your own actions -- you may be on the brink of restoration. Unless, of course, you reject it, as did Michael, and choose the dust.

The Bible is full of people who lost everything only to have it restored. Abraham was separated from his family and ended up in the Promised Land with countless descendants. Joseph's brothers tossed him out of the family and he became the second most powerful man in the world. Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years before he delivered his people from slavery. And David hid in caves and wondered aloud why everyone wanted to kill him. He was aware of his sins . . . but he was also aware of the greatness of his God. And God chose David to be a King.

I found I suddenly had no one to impress. No business associates to try to outdo. No committees to run. I was clearly no longer held up as a role model; perhaps not even as a peer. Self-wreaked rejection has a way of unraveling any layers of self-confidence and self-assuredness . . .  self anything actually. But whatever I was at that moment, I was the beginning of what God was creating me to be now. Much like we scrape off the old flaking pain of a house and prepare it to be new again, I was enduring the scraping.  Believe me, He more than caught my attention. The past few years have been, without a doubt, the strangest time in my life. Hence the reason I would pause in the mirror to remind myself of who I was now and to see a reflection of who I might become.

Back about the time my stepfather was flopping belly up in his skivvies in the Houston suburbs for all the neighbors and drive-by gawkers, there was a popular song out by The Byrds.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven.

A time to be born, a time to die.
A time to plant, a time to reap.
A time to kill, a time to heal.
A time to laugh, a time to weep.

A time to build up, a time to break down.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.

A time of love, a time of hate.
A time of war, a time of peace.
A time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.

A time to gain, a time to lose.
A time to rend, a time to sew.
A time for love, a time for hate.
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.

Of course, we know those "lyrics," with some minor adjustments, particularly there at the end, came from the third chapter of of Ecclesiastes. They're timeless. Dolly Parton recorded them. Amy Grant used to sing them at the close of every concert.

In my restoration, I learned to trust God in a way that would have saved me from ever having to endure it I had only trusted Him sooner. Whatever it is that God has in mind for this time – this post-restoration period -- it's His. I'm giving it up to Him. That’s what we do when we trust.  

If something is blocking you from hearing Him and trusting Him, I pray you will let go of it -- cast away those stones and prepare a new foundation upon which He will build -- before He applies the heavenly sledgehammer. Out of His great love for us and because of our value to him, He has a way of separating us from our idols and our secrets to get our attention so that we can discover things about ourselves we were denying and replace them with things we might never have known.

That's revelation.

It may be time for some of you to look around at the walls you’ve built, either to protect yourself, hide yourself or separate yourself, and begin to dismantle them, a stone at a time, casting away division, deception and loneliness and despair.

And . . . if you’ve built a wall around someone because you just can’t bear the disappointment and impact of their self-destruction -- maybe a wall so think and tall you can no longer hear each other cry -- chisel it down, peer over, reach inside, step over the crumbles and extend a hand of forgiveness and encouragement and toss away the resentment and the hurt and try again. Time is short. Risk love.

That's grace.

In Him,

Thom

(Note: For a limited time, f you click this link -- BridgeBack Ministries -- you can purchase both of my books dealing with sexual brokenness and homosexuality for the price of one. Save 50% and receive Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do and "Who Told You You Were Naked?" The Counterfeit Compassion of Culture for only $14.)

2 comments:

  1. There IS a time to be alone and separate. It was forced on me by medical issues but during this time to REALLY decide if the congregation where I was being spiritually abused was worth it...it wasn't. I haven't been in a local body since December 2011 but the L_RD is restoring me and my love and walk with Him is closer and deeper.I am learning so much more than in the congregation where the deity of Yeshua was denied BY SOME LEADERSHIP, the authenticity of the ReNewed Covenant (NT) and politics and now a leader who is the local king of the gypsies who says that his divination is a gift from G_d that was passed on to him by his mother is in leadership.

    David hid in the cave of Adullam and Elijah just hid. I plan to return and be active again in a congregation as soon as my health permits.

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  2. On the front lawn laying on a matress in boxer shorts. Ha wow OMG ! What the H !
    Are you kiding !
    I think i know this guys family. Lol

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