Thursday, September 20, 2012

Learning to See in the Dark

O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! -- Psalm 34:8

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -- Psalm 34:18

For a long time, while traveling this bumpy, detour-driven road of recovery and restoration, a small part of me yearned to hang on to vengeance.  I too-frequently found myself looking back down the road badly-traveled and wishing I could repay some harms, teach a few lessons here and there, put one or two folks in their places (wherever that would be) and perhaps point a few fingers of righteousness at ones I declared wicked.  But, there is a larger part of me that is thankful that vengeance is the Lord's.  There's another part of me that also wishes everyone else knew and believed that  -- that vengeance is the Lord's -- and would quit trying to do what God has said He will take care of.  So, you see, I have many parts, being "wondrously made."  No wonder God's love has to be so deep and wide.  I so often veer one way or another, up or down, side-to-side.  Still, His mercy is just inescapable.  

In my life, mercy often appears like a clearing in the woods at just the point where it seems that one more thorny vine or scratching tangled brush, or one more exhaustive lost step of wandering would be too much, a clearing appears with a view from ground to sky and I am reminded that even when the path appears overgrown and treacherous, threatening to swallow me up in dangerous darkness, there is a clearing.  Room to breathe, to rest, to wait, to renew my strength, to ponder past missteps and consider a new course before pushing forward.  Mercy.

It may still be dark, but I am able to see.

 Even in my darkest moments of being abused, or my black times of determined depravity, or when frittering here and there in the shadows of sexual brokenness, or slinking along in the gray dealing of dishonesty, there were clearings, those points where I felt clearly the presence of God.  Sometimes I would behave like a possum caught in a sudden light and curl up in defense, playing dead and waiting for the moment to move beyond me.  Other times I would flee, fur-flying like a fox caught in the barn of iniquity by a bright and frightening light and run into the darkness to hide and plan another deceitful descent.  Other times I would throw my hands in the air in a "you caught me" moment of surrender.  Mostly I would sit still and silent to consider carefully the consequences of letting my tears flow and my heart open as opposed to the consequences of fighting back the tears, burying the heart deeper and moving forward on my own with steely determination.  Oh, the choices we make when the light shines in dark places.  

 It seems strange to me that so many of the worst things in life happen within the most beautiful circumstances.  My final abusive moment in the hands of a sexually-deviant Scout master came when I was around 8.  He knew a place a little outside of town that was like heaven for little boys.  A short distance from the railroad tracks, next to a flowing stream which fed a bright blue and clear pond surrounded by polished stones on which turtles sunned.  It was just a short hike, punctuated by stopping to collect a few loose railroad spikes, skip some rocks on the pond and then settle down in the sun.  I have never forgotten the beauty of the place and have often wanted to find it again, but I have a feeling now a housing addition sits there, homes built around the peaceful pond that was once my clearing.  I was not even a Christian at that age, yet I clearly remember standing on the banks and seeing my reflection there and believing I was not alone.  The water was bright and beautiful and I did not play possum, but instead took strength from that believing.

God has always provided these places of clarity at times when it seems that I would be driven deaf by the clanging callousness of life, or permanently disabled by my own clanging gongs and cymbals.  How many times I stood upon the edge of a cliff, lifted a foot and prepared to step into thin air, only to be distracted by immeasurable love.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. -- John 10:27
And I would turn.
If only I had been able to always distinguish His voice from among the cacophony crying out.  Why was I such a frequent visitor to the edge?  Was it to test His faithfulness?  Perhaps I wanted to know for sure that as unlovely as I am that God does indeed love me.  And how He has proved it over and over.

What about you?  I know.  One day not so long ago you were sure . . . and then a few forays into darkness later . . . the surety seems dimmed, clouded by layers of sinful residue.  

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. -- Acts 3:19

 I look for the approval of men when I sin . . . and I seek the approval of men when I stop.  Yet, only God really knows my heart and only God knows what it will take to refresh it.  So, it is when I set men aside in good times and bad and put God first that I gain from my time in the clearing and it becomes more than a passing place of pause and reflection.

I know some of the people reading this were moments ago  perhaps surfing the web for porn, or fighting off the urge to enter a cycle of sexual fantasy, or fighting the pull to step outside the bonds of a God-ordained marriage to find self-centered satisfaction.  And I know some feel entitled, longing for a way to bury deeper the scars of the distant past, or to escape the pain of a difficult present.  Some are in pain, some are in denial, some are in a desperate cycle fueled by a displaced sense of unworthiness.  This is not a happy path.  But . . . there is a clearing.  

 When we recognize we are sinful and tend to take the wrong path.
When we realize that our sinfulness is a rebellion against the very God that has cleared our path.

 When we admit we know all this and resign ourselves to helplessness, that we have been lost and stumbling, ignoring our guide.

 When we trust in God's willingness to forgive and again shine the light for our feet to follow.

 When we actually accept that forgiveness and take His hand to lead us out of the darkness.

 When we stand in the clearing, look around us at the underbrush and tangled clutter from which we have been rescued.

 When we stop and look up, surrounded by threatening but held-back darkness and observe the brightness of the night sky and the sweet comfort of the approaching dawn.

 When we know we are not alone.


We stumble along way too long.  

The unsettling thing about a clearing is that the clutter that surrounds often still remains.  In my case, the former friends and church-members who are overwhelmed by skepticism and shuttered.  Or my children who decided I delved in that darkness too long and am the mole in the hole instead of the bird in flight. Still, the sense of peace that clearly passes understanding is the prize we receive when we pause in the clearing and accept His loving kindness.  I'll take the peace; perhaps the understanding may one day follow.

 If God can restore me, once deemed unworthy among unworthies -- and He has -- I can certainly trust Him to restore all worthy things. 

And I can wait.  Here . . . in the clearing. It may still seem dark sometimes, but now I can see.

In Him,

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  1. Thank you Thom, so true. Romance and lust are relative diceptions which fail and hurt. Ive been there. Im 57. Male, Divorced 22 years.
    Father of 4. In my years of false conforming and then the irritation of disfuncitional family and church members, i am now wiser and cautious. Be as wise as a serpent.
    It was the last and final draw. I had no choice do to extreem behaviors. I believe carnal churchs spread contagious sickness are also  powerless to heal. Carnalality, selfism, self righteousness. Etc. They can not heal nor love nor grow others beyond....
    Forgiveness does not mean resubmitting to the abuse. Kind David fleed for his life.
    And often we can mindlessly conform and find toooo much comfort in gathering which keep us babies.
    But your blog here is so bold and honest that one must resolve to only repent.
    Romantic lust is evil deception. Western thinking is blinded and only God can heal.
    Thank you Rick .

  2. Also i had the pleasure of hearing speaker Wess Wheatly in Mn years ago. His testimoney of Gods huge love and healing and diliverance of lust.
    Dynamic powerfull words of life and prayer time we had.
    Wess had a tragity with his dad at an early age that set set world toward carnal lust distruction and Jesus set him free.
    If i recall wess was playing catch with his dad when Wess was hit hard with a baseball to his chest that knocked the wind out of him and he laid on the ground for a long time while his dad left him.
    This caused Wess to be mentality changed to the point that he could write ambidextrous and left and right opposites both at the same time.
    However with a poor dad relationship this led to seeking out lust for fulfillment.
    See Paraclete ( minetrys news letter)(and check my terrible spelling)
    Thanks and God bless with his limitless love. Rick mpls mn