The Last Christian Couple

After a pure engagement of some length (which followed a growing friendship of several years), having already established sober and honest, hard-working yet service-based habits of living, they were wed. They had just arrived at the honeymoon suite – when Jesus returned.

There were absolutely no regrets.

2 Peter 3:3-4 ERV
It is important for you to understand what will happen in the last days. People will laugh at you. They will live following the evil they want to do. They will say, “Jesus promised to come again. Where is he? Our fathers have died, but the world continues the way it has been since it was made.

My niece got married yesterday. It was a very simple, practical yet beautiful Christian ceremony and reception (with an LotR theme), held at the same hall. All who attended had a great time, without any alcohol, celebrating the two becoming one. I suppose these days it would be considered an “old fashioned” courtship. Relationships like theirs just don’t happen that often anymore.

Both the bride and the groom are firm in their faith, and I say it was a “pure” engagement because their character convinces me so. I believe they “did it by The Book.” As a prodigal, eight years returned home, I can respect that. I’m even a little envious of the commitment they have already displayed by the years leading up to the wedding. I wish for such righteous stubbornness.

The Lord is not being slow in doing what He promised, the way some most people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change their ways and stop sinning.
2 Peter 3:9

Let me be clear in saying that I do not regret my path. I would not be happily writing this post if I had traveled by any other route. I like to think I’ve earned the joy and peace that I have in my current circumstances, but I know they are a gift from my loving Father, as are my beautiful wife and wonderful children (and grandchild). Despite all I have been through, I would not trade my journey to receiving any of them away. But neither would I wish my road on anyone – only now, finally, are there things I won’t do again.

Actually, I would warn the happy couple of quite the opposite of my experience. The greatest danger I perceive for them is the Elder Brother’s … the pride of having “stayed the course.” Remember, the strength that has kept you on “the straight and narrow” has its source in your trust in God. Humbly, “It was a gift. Keep it.” (I had to get a quote from the movie in.)

The verses I highlighted in your Bible are:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (memorized early in my healing)
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

You’ve already got this one down, whether you realize it or not. Simple being true to your values through your wedding date is proof of that. This world offers many shiny things to distract you from your beliefs.

Psalm 13:5-6
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
will (still) sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Know that you will fail sometimes. You will feel like God has abandoned you. I pray that these times will be few, but they are the way of this broken world. Hang on to this whole Psalm, which has taken me from anger and despair back to His loving, comforting embrace many, many times.

Being Christian is understanding that we will have absolutely nothing to regret on that day – even the ‘good’ things we might have missed. We are in this world only temporarily. Yes, there are things to consummate here, and we can enjoy our successes and learn from our trials, but, in the end, we are bound for something better. A renewed Eden, where only good is.

I Welcome His Welcome

Is it my choice or His? The American Dream of Self-Sufficiency prompts me to take credit, and that might be somewhat true of life after, of the way I have ‘been’ since salvation struck me. But, self-evaluation confirms Biblical Truth: He gave first. He loved first. He sacrificed first. I was simply incapable of making the first move. Maybe that’s what really changes in those Jesus saves: the ability to choose the completely unselfish action.

I would really have to sit down and think about whether, in my past, I ever did anything of no perceived benefit to myself. I know some say that is the only human motivation – we do a thing because we get at the least a good feeling from it. But I look at the cross hanging on my wall, and really doubt that. Nothing could have been pleasant about that; even a masochist like me would not want to feel that pain.

No, I did not ‘seek’ Him – I desperately sought something to save me from myself, but I knew not what. Nor, at that moment, did I care. I had descended to a place of paralyzing despair, all thought and action unfruitful, even quitting had been unproductive. I slumped, weighted and spiralling downward by crushing waves of … just absolute readiness to cease, but complete inability to do anything. I imagine I could have sat there until I perished, but, instead, Jesus leaned down from that cross, lifted me up, and touched my very heart, wiping it clean, and sparking new life – a new desire for life – in me. So, I know that I am not my own. And, no matter how strong the temptations or doubts, I am never free of that awareness.

It’s this new sense of ‘never being free’ of Him that I write about. When it’s phrased like that, it sounds like a bad thing. A thing to dread. Sometimes, reminiscing about my past ‘fun-centered’ existing, I can tend towards resentment – until I remember where living that life left me: literally hanging. The desires I pursued then were unfulfillable. I know that now. But Christ overflows, full of blessing now and nothing but promise (of all good stuff) to come.

Is it just an appreciation for the sacrifice someone else has made for me? Certainly, becoming a parent gave me an understanding of my parents and their sacrifices for us kids. Or the 12 straight hours the heart surgeon gave. Or the full measure of some. But there’s something more about Jesus. To the death, yes. For all of us, incredibly. To accept the punishment for the entirety of evil, amazing!

Periodically, someone posts a “Would/could you do this for that” meme: stay in a derelict and remote cabin with all the necessities but no electricity or internet for a month for $100,000. A posh house but no blogging or football for a year for $1,000,000. These pale in comparison to what Jesus took on. Dying in agony, convicted and despised, suffering divine wrath, to save everyone else? Would I be willing to even try?

Today, I got up to try my little bit. I understand now how my Heavenly Father’s ever-open arms were always waiting for my return. They are a constant welcome relief. I welcome His welcome. And I am changed.

The Boundary Lines

Psalm 16:6
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Your boundary lines mark out pleasant places for me.
Indeed, my inheritance is something beautiful

No, this isn’t a post about immigrants overwhelming our borders. Instead, it’s a very personal revelation. I have learned much about real boundaries in my journey with Christ these past eight years. The verse above has a commonly accepted meaning – about all things being well (GW); but I’ve found – I’ve experienced – a reading more desperate, though none the less hopeful (NIV).

In Step One of the Twelve Steps of ____ Anonymous, I “admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors.” At each meeting, I beg God for the strength to change what I so obviously can not fix on my own. After so many failed attempts, I know I can not be saved (from myself) without divine help.

But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness.
They do not know what makes them stumble.
Proverbs 4:19

This is the heart of recovery. Basically, it is discovering what leads me to self-destructive acts. Two-day hangovers. Driving blind drunk – with the kids in the car. Eating the whole box. Surfing. Smoking. Nothing I am proud of. Everything I’m ashamed of.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
Shining ever brighter til the full light of day.

How I need healing and a reliable path to follow! This is what the Twelve Steps are. And one of the lessons taught early on is the setting of boundaries, like a series of electrified fences leading up to the cliff down which my siren song tempts me. My walls don’t keep me in, they keep me out – away from the things with which I harm myself.

Sometimes, it saddens me that these things are meant to be good.

Does it surprise you that all addictions start out as something God created to be pleasant? Being merry. A good meal. Delightful physical sensations. The thrill of a competition. And “isn’t fun the best thing to have?” All positive things, but all experiences the addict will seek to the exclusion of all else.

C.S. Lewis wrote a definition of addiction that has stuck with me. Paraphrased, it is, “taking the pleasures God has made to degrees, in ways, or at times which He never intended.” If you consider then, that the “pleasant places” in the NIV version of Psalm 16:6 are not destinations for me to look forward to, but forbidden zones I must avoid at all costs, you might be able to see how it can be depressing.

Take a look at the word “fallen”. Imagine that the fences which keep me from these things have collapsed to the ground. “The boundaries have fallen” and I have nothing between me and danger. A terrifying situation! I know what I’m capable of.

What is crazy is that I myself am the one constantly seeking to knock down or get around my fences. I rationalize that I’m different now. I debate whether I can safely walk into old areas. I convince myself that I know how to stop. No, not always.

But, “Surely I still have a delightful inheritance.” “Indeed,my inheritance is something beautiful.” To me, one of the most important tenets of Christian faith is God’s response to my constant failings. It’s no license for me to sin freely, no. But it is a promise to me that, despite the stumbles I will have, He continues to hold out that hope for me to hold on to. At meetings, we remind each other of this.