Archives For fear

This isn’t a story I want to tell; rather, it’s one I have to tell. It may seem to meander some as I set it stage, but every word represents the truth as I understand it. 

First, the distant past. It would seem that seventy some years ago, my paternal grandparents split up because my grandfather was abusive (they had two daughters at this point). Later on, they tried to reconcile, and my dad was the result. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last, and my dad was forbidden from knowing his dad (or his dad’s side of the family). I’m told he saw him for the last time at the age of twelve. Fast forward to the early fifties, and as they were playing my dad and his sisters found out their mother was remarrying that very morning. I’m given to understand that neither my aunts, nor my dad, had any idea about the nuptials.

Not too long thereafter, at the age of fifteen, my aunt came down with a case of the pregnants. My understanding is that, at some time after their wedding, my step grandfather began touching his step kids. For instance, kids being kids they would have the radio on at night; because it was ostensibly loud, dad would come into the room to turn it down. Apparently, the radio’s knob isn’t what he fiddled with. It was, again, at this time that my aunt got pregnant and moved out. 

As is so often the case, no one talked about it at the time; it was much, much later that folks began to compare stories. There were other things, too: this same man would stay up late watching “snow” on the television. He also apparently jabbed babies in the back of the hand with his fork should they dare reach across his plate at the dinner table… By the time I was born, he was older, nearing retirement age. Perhaps he had beaten whatever demons afflicted him? Who knows? What I heard is that despite what my parents knew about the man, I was left there as a toddler (my grandmother was home). When my mom picked me up, she smelled a funny smell. In fact, she called my cousin, stating that “his sweet baby face smells like semen.” Whether this is true, or not, I’ve no idea; it is however entirely consistent with the man’s character.
Blessedly, I have entirely no memories of this incident. What I can tell you is that, as I briefly sketched out above, it’s not the only such story to swirl around this man. In fact, upon her deathbed, my grandmother threw her hospital tray at him, inviting him to “Go to Hell!” Apparently, she could no longer ignore the the reports she heard, and wanted to clear her conscience in light of her impending demise.

Ladies and gentlemen, abuse is cyclical. Growing up, my dad was distant. Sarcastic and cutting when he was present, but all the awhile emotionally unavailable. He was long gone before he ever left our family. I can’t say with any certainty what he went through as a child; he’s never spoken to me of it. In fact, we don’t speak at all.

That is the legacy of abuse. It destroys families and shatters lives.

Like the popular Taylor Swift song, Blank Space, things have been quiet around here. Time was I enjoyed writing something everyday, but somewhere along the way lost the joy of it.

I forgot that the work was its own reward. It’s not about the comments, or the shares, the social media interactions, or the stats.

It’s about the work.

The sheer joy of creating something which yesterday did not exist. In Tolkien’s phrase, we are “sub-creators”–we create because we are made in the image of a creative God. He didn’t create for applause, but rather because it is his nature to do so. What do you think he meant in declaring creation “good?” Doing the work gave him, the most self-fulfilling being, immense pleasure.

That should be a clue to those of us who are compelled to create works of art (whatever form those works take). Don’t get get sidetracked by applause, acclaim, by being known–keep working, keep creating. It’s not about the glory, but about making the best art we can, and finding joy in the doing.

The work is its own reward. Let’s not forget this.

Author Frank Pretty was arguably the Left Behind of the 80s. His books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness got nearly everyone reading about spiritual warfare. It was into this climate of heightened sensitivity that the late Edgar Whisenant emerged. Whisenant said that Jesus was definitely, positively, absolutely coming back on Rosh Hashannah 1988.

It was also the year I came to faith.

I didn’t know the books of the Bible from a shopping list. Although I was baptised as an infant, my family was so Protestant we didn’t bother going to church. In fact, I was so sheltered as a toddler that my only exposure to African American people was via television; I thought they were all called Sanford. In any, God wasn’t a part of my life in any discernable to me. I was an atheist by default.

As I got older, I didn’t bother to investigate these things; I just accepted evolution as the process by which we all arrived here. There was no need for God. I was a ship in the night, adrift on the winds of time. My role models were: an emotionally distant absentee dad, a workaholic mom, and later a pot smoking psychologist. I share this as background to simply illustrate that my upbringing was entirely secular, and that when I came to faith I was for all intents and purposes a blank slate.

I believe things because I didn’t know better. Kenneth Copeland? Awesome! I can write a blank check with God! Kenneth Hagan? Same deal. Benny Hinn. Yep! TBN? Good stuff! In fact, at the church I went to one night I was surrounded by sweaty-faced elders, who prayed for me to receive the evidence of the initial indwelling (that’s tongues). I was all for it, because Hey! I wanted all of God I could have.

When it didn’t happen in the accepted time, one kindly gentlemen suggested that I “Start muttering. It’ll happen.” Sure, why not?

This is the ecclesiastical milieau into which I had come when Edgar Whisenant arrived on the scene with his assertions that Jesus was absolutely, positively, most assuredly coming back. What did I know? If somebody in the know said it why it must’ve been true. I didn’t yet know Jesus’s words that “No man knows the day or the hour.”

I wasn’t the only one left disillusioned when Christ didn’t come back. Scores of (naive) people:

Racked up credit card charges

Euthanized their pets

Gave in to gluttony

Because none it mattered anymore. Jesus was coming back, ans glory! We’re going to get new bodies, someone else will assume this debt, and we’ll see poor Fluffy again up yonder. A kind of quasi-Christian fatalism took hold. Nothing we do matters because Jesus.

A lot of people woke up disillusioned on Rosh Hashannah 1988. Up their eyeballs in debt, with dead pets…

One wouldn’t think that folks could be so naive, but the simple fact of the matter is that by and large there’s a great swath of Christians who didn’t then (and who don’t now) know their Bibles.

I was but one of them. And it has taken years upon years to eradicate the disillusionment and fatalism from my soul. God never has, nor will He ever, conform to our timetable.

Only He knows the day and the hour, and He’s not sharing. The question is: are we okay with that? Can we live with the tension of not knowing, or must we exert control? Because I think that’s what a lot of the “word faith” movement amounts to: trying to control very natural fears by manipulating God.

“All right, God, I said it. You better show up.” As if He cares about our reputations. It’s lunacy. He’ll destroy our puny reputations to create in us an ounce of humility. It’s not reputation He’s after, but rather character.

Holiness.

As Chesterton said, “Our Father is young. We have sinned and grown old.” He only seems capricious and distant because of the sheer amount of baggage and abject lack of perspective we bring to the relationship. He doesn’t owe us anything, and yet we demand–thinking somehow He owes answers, lives of ease and comfort. How quickly we forget this is the same God Who spared not His own Son.

There’s tension, and mystery, we must live in.

The question becomes:

Do we trust that Father knows best. Despite all the BS, trials, tribulations, stings, disappointments, betrayals, injustices…

When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?

Will He?

It’s up to us. God help us.

I suppose the word I’ve been dancing around is disappointment. We know that Jesus came not to make our lives better, but rather to give us better lives. Lives with purpose, meaning, depth, fulfillment. Yet we so often find ourselves frustrated, and dare I say disappointed. Because somewhere along the way we’ve heard that “God loves us, and has a wonderful plan for our lives.” While this is, in a certain sense, true, it also comes far short of the reality of walking with a God Who didn’t spare His own Son.

I mean we’re not stupid, right? We don’t like pain. And the message of the church, by and large, has been come to Christ, and He’ll solve all of your problems. As if. He came to solve the problem of sin, but this being a fallen world sin however is still very much with us.

Because we don’t embrace suffering as a path to enlightenment, because we buy into the lie that we can have it, we can have it now, there’s a great disconnect between our expectations and our experience. We should be farther along with the Lord, we shouldn’t still be struggling with _______.

Thus it is that we become discouraged, feeling like that Jesus hasn’t kept up His end. “I came that they might have life, and that more abundantly.” Where? Where is this abundant life He promised?

Could it be this is it? I sure hope the hell not. Where everyday is a struggle just to arise from bed, where there’s never enough rest, nor enough hours in the day to accomplish the things we want, and need, to do.

Why is everything a struggle?

Our best life now? Um, excuse me, but screw you Joel Osteen. Right in your lying mouth (metaphorically speaking). If your answer is that we don’t have faith, what of David, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus? Who were maltreated, abused, suffered, and died? And yet were most definitely approved of God.

What of the hall of faith in Hebrews 11? “Of whom the world was not worthy” is what is says there.

It seems to me that we’ve got it backwards. Jesus never lied, never pulled any punches, never truckled. If we’re disappointed in Him, we’re projecting, having believed lies.

We should be disappointed in ourselves for falling for it. Again.

For His is the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. We don’t like to hear that, but it’s indisputably, undeniably true.

What lies have you believed? What agreements–consciously, or otherwise–have you made with the other team?

What walls need to fall down in your life today?


Chad Jones
gandalf239@gmail.com
http://randomlychad.com
http://www.facebook.com/randomlychad
@randomlychad on Twitter

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you would have seen a recurring motif: that coming to Christ doesn’t necessarily make our lives better. Or that he even came to make this life better.

There is a prevailing wind of teaching–call it TBNinanity, BestLifeNowianity,  blab-it-grab-it-name-it-claim-it the 1st Church of the Bank of Heaven God’s blank checkianity–which has mass consumer appeal (especially) here in the United States. Point is, people like it when they’re told what they want to hear.

Or that they can tell God what they want, and He has to do it.

I don’t know about you, but my faith walk has never quite worked that way. I make my requests, but Father knows best. Plus a careful reading of scripture seems to bear out the notion that God’s favorites (if we may term them such) were the ones who suffered the most. Nobody likes pain, right? I don’t. Thus it is that a Christianity promising wealth and a life of health has great mass appeal.

The problem is that it’s just not true. I mean if God didn’t spare his own son, what should we reasonably expect? Look at Abraham: being called out, burying his father, burying Sarah, receiving a promise–but not its fulfillment. The Bible is replete with such stories. What I want is your story: how the world, the flesh, the devil, the prevailing wind of doctrine sold you a bill of goods–promised you a better life… When in reality God instead gave you a new life. How he didn’t in fact come make your life better, but rather to give you a better life. I want the honest account of how the rubber of your expecations met the road of life.

Please send your story to:

Chad Jones

My purpsoe here is to counteract the myth that coming to Christ makes everyhting better.