Archives For confession

The story of Ehud in Judges chapter three is a short, probably familiar, one. What follows is a poetic retelling of the events of that chapter.

After Othniel, all Israel sinned–
handed over into the hands of their enemies (again)
When 18 years had gone by,
with one voice they cried
(in wailings not to be denied):
Restore, renew, revive
Deliver us once more–
do not ignore our pleading
God had a plan:
Raising up Ehud, a left-handed man
Who by the word crafted a sword,
Strapping it to his right thigh
Eglon the king’s time was nigh
Bringing tribute to the king,
Ehud left, but returned again
With a word from the Lord
(sharper than the two-edged sword)
Locking the chamber, not knowing his danger,
Eglon arose with expectant ear
Not at all knowing his end drew near
Reaching over, with nary a swagger,
Ehud unleashed his mighty dagger
Plunging it into the belly of the king
In it went, past the hilt, sinking
Past layers of blubber
Eglon was done, his bell rung
And out of his belly came the dung
Falling upon the floor
Ehud escaped, the king’s servants
Waiting, anxious, outside the chamber door
After some time passed, and then some more
Unlocking the portal, upon entering
What did they see?
But the slumped Eglon, cooling upon the tile,
Blood and excrement mixt all the while
Whilst the Lord, through Ehud, gave the victory
10,000 Moabites slain, Israel now free

What I love about the Old Testament is that it is full of stories like this one. Stories of regular people used of God at just the right time. What I also love is that there are layers upon layers of meaning. For instance, the account here gives us enough to go on. Just as telling is what it doesn’t say. The events described have been going on for eighteen years. Likely, as Josephus says, this is not Ehud’s first rodeo; he has been there before. To be able to hide the sword as he does folks would have already had to know he was left handed (else his ruse wouldn’t have worked). Moreover, to get a private audience with the king he had to have been someone known, i.e. a trusted entity. Ehud was known to Eglon and his court.

Beyond the mere happenstance, the events themselves, scholars have used the phrase “types and shadows” to describe much of the Old Testament. Types of Christ, of sin, and shadows of things to come. For instance, in the story of Ehud, what is he called in verse five?

Deliverer.

Who else do we know by that name–deliverer? Jesus, of course.

In this passage, Ehud is a type of Christ. What does he do? In verse twenty-one, he puts to death Eglon–that is to say, sin. Eighteen years the Children of Israel lived under the oppressive yolk of Eglon, finally crying out to the Father. God raises up a deliverer to put an end to the oppression. Judgment came by way of an eighteen inch sword.

In Revelation 19:15, it is said of the Lord Jesus that “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (ESV)

The sword is also symbolic, for now in the church age God has put to death sin once and for all in the body of the Lord Jesus, e.g., He is our Ehud. Yet, we have to want to be free. Like the Children of Israel, we often turn away, cry out for deliverance.

God always answers. Now, however, instead of putting to death the enemy outside (for whom He call us to pray), He calls us to look inward–in a way handing us a blade called candor, asking us to plunge into our own bellies, our own hearts. To get to the freedom offered us in His grace we must take that painful look inside ourselves at the ugliness which often lay within, exposing it to the light. This is why Jesus counsels us to remove the log from our own eyes before we take our brothers and sisters to task for the specks in theirs.

What is God asking you to look at today? Are you avoiding it? Denying it? Do you want to be free? In light of verses 21-22 (“Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly. The handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out”), is there anywhere in your life where the sword called truth needs to penetrate that the filth may come out?

I have a confession to make: I’m a middle aged white guy. Appatently, this is supposed to somehow make my life easier, and/or it’s something I should feel guilty for.

Funny thing is, I born this way. I didn’t choose my parents, or my ancestry. In fact, if my mother is to believed (and why would you tell your adult child this?) my folks were actively using contraception when I was conceived. Lucky for me, this was before Roe v. Wade. But I digress.

Being white didn’t seem to automatically confer upon me some magical privileged status. I come from a home where my dad (again one those things I found out after the fact) cheated on my mom for fourteen out of their sixteen years of marriage. How’s that for a role model? Additionally, the older I got the more distant he became. He didn’t have the tools in his toolbox to see past his pain. When he finally left, I told my mom that didn’t feel like anyhting much had changed.

He was a ghost before he was gone.

Being white didn’t make growing up without a meaningful male authority figure any easier. In fact, if anything, it made it harder. I had to navigate puberty, teasing, bullying on my own. Sure, I grew up in the suburbs. My circumstances may have been more physically comfortable, but his leaving made my brother and I latchkey kids. Because my dad left, we effectively lost our mom, too. She had work two, and sometimes three, jobs just to keep us under the same roof.

But it may have been better if we had had more time together. If we had downsized, had moved to new place instead. Forged a new life together instead of trying to hold onto the old. Because it was already gone. My address may have been in the suburbs, but my upbringing was an emotional ghetto. To this day, I may well have attachment issues I’m completely unaware of. In fact, I do indeed have great difficulty making friendships, bonding, expressing my emotions.

To do this day, my relationship with my mom is strained, and with my dad nonexistent.

I don’t know the answer to all of this, but I do know growing up white didn’t give me any special privileges, open any doors, or make my life better in any way that mattered. In fact, I was forced to grow up faster, and I and my family have the price in recent years of a delayed adolescence.

I realize this may not be everyone’s experience, but it was mine–and it was altogether too real. So please don’t tell me that the mere fact of my skin color conferred upon me a better life. I might just laugh in your face if you do.

How about you? Has your skin color made you life any better, or worse? Sound off below.

Had A Hard Year?

randomlychad  —  November 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

Remember Friends, that much beloved ’90’s sitcom which ran for a decade? Remember the theme song?

“When it hasn’t been your day, your month, or even your year?”

Ever had a year like that? Ever had a couple of years like that? Where you go from victory to falling flat on your face? I have.

I went on a spiritual retreat a couple of years ago, and it was both literally, and figuratively, a mountaintop experience. I felt closer to God than I ever had. Apprehended Him as Father–as my Father–in ways I never had before.

That was in Summer.

And then came the Fall.

I thought I was hearing from God about the direction my family and I should go. It seemed that confirmation was around every corner. But my wife, bless her, didn’t see it that way. I wanted something for her she didn’t want for herself.

You all know how well that works out…

Then I found something out about myself which only deepened my confusion, furthered my disillusionment. While in that season of questioning whether I hearing from God, a family member let it slip that I might have been molested as a toddler. Whether it actually happened or not, it’s plausible because other family stories surrounded the purported molester.

If had been thinking clearly, I would have drawn a parallel (understanding that I’m no prophet) between myself myself and Elijah, who suffered through a season of blackest doubt after his greatest victory (over the prophets of Baal). But I wasn’t. Instead, I retreated into myself–feeling maligned, misunderstood, unappreciated.

Instead of investing energies in getting well, getting whole, I engaged in an online correspondence with a woman not my wife. Because it was safe, because there were no stakes. No one to hold me accountable. All the while telling myself that she (my wife) didn’t need to know because there was nothing going on. But the funny thing is that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” The looking forward to responses, the refreshing of my inbox, became an addiction to fill the needy beast of affirmation beating in my chest.

I was looking for validation and acceptance, and was willing to accept a substitute. Of course, as is often the case, I made more of this correspondence than did the other party. When it came to an end, it felt like I’d lost a friend.

But it was a friend I’d never really had in the first place.

The lessons here, I think, are these:

1) Setbacks will often follow victories. Be prepared for them. Decide in advance what you’re going to do.

2) There is an enemy of our souls who knows our proclivities, knows how to make the blacks look white, who knows our stories, and how to punch our buttons. It is when we are the weakest that he will pounce (like a roaring lion) the hardest.

3) Take personal responsibility. The enemy can only use what’s been undisclosed to shame and condemn us. Once it’s exposed to the light, once it’s confessed, it’s no longer a weapon in his hands. He has a vested interest in us keeping secrets, telling us that if we tell we’ll be shunned. It’s a risk, but confession is worth it.

How about you? Is there anything festering in your life that you need to confess? You don’t need to do it here, but find someone in your life–a safe person–and let them know. Confession is good for the soul.

I need to get something off of my chest. I need to confess:

I’m a Fundamentalist.

Now that might mean something different to you, but what I mean when I say I’m a Fundamentalist is this:

I wholeheartedly believe in the historical, orthodox tenets of Christianity; namely, that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived without sin, died as God’s perfect sacrifice for sin, and rose again.

That’s what I mean when I say I’m a Fundamentalist.

What I don’t mean are all the other things that have come to be associated with fundamentalism. All the rules, the cruft, the stuff that often comes between people and Jesus.

Because I want to be known more for Who I’m for, rather than what I’m against.

This doesn’t mean I’m soft on sin, but rather my response is that of Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.”

I want to be known for the quality of my love more than anything else. If that means being misunderstood–as Jesus was–so be it. He was called a “glutton, wine-bibber, friend of sinners.”

Horrible, right? To be known as a friend of sinners? When was the last time that accusation was hurled at you (or me)?

That said, I’m also a contradiction: I’m too conservative for the liberal, progressive set (I steadfastly refuse to stop believing in a historical Adam and Eve), and I’m too liberal for the conservative crowd (I tend towards the Gap Theory and/or Day-Age creationism).

The point being that I don’t fit the mold of the traditional Fundamentalist, but I believe in the fundamentals.

How about you?

Have you been there? You know–that place.

What place?

The one where you’re maligned and misunderstood by those closest to you.

There are ways, and there are ways, to deal with this.

One way is to shut down, hide within. Which means putting on a false face–a facade. But it hurts to hide who you are from those closest to you.

And the self will find a away out.

So what do you do when it doesn’t feel safe anymore to be you?

Like I said, you can hide. But this has a way of festering. Resentment is bound to grow whether you’re conscious of it, or not.

How do I know? I’ve been there. Dealt with that rejection.

I’ve been in a men’s group, and made the mistake of sharing my (personal) convictions about the age of the earth. The group imploded. Made me not want to have friends anymore. Made me want to skip the risk.

I’ve done it with family members, too. When my motives were called into question, when I’ve changed my mind about something… and was rejected. When something in social media spheres happened that was both unlocked, and unasked, for.

Somehow it was my fault.

When a friend of a friend questioned my salvation, and family members didn’t step in to defend me, but rather gave credence to it.

So I learned to hide.

And in hiding, I became vulnerable. When it was no longer safe to be me around those closest to me, I found an outlet via email. At first, it was just this fun thing where I could let my hair down, be me.

That was refreshing.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how much of myself I was investing–how much time, thought, life was going to this unreality.

Because it came to the place where I was constantly refreshing my email, looking for a message, a word, a something to…

Make me feel like me. Because I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I ask you: have you been in that place?

Take it from me: it’s far better to face your fears, risk rejection, and have the difficult conversations. (Consider this: Jesus himself spent his whole earthly life being rejected by his own. Yet in it all he did not sin).

If you’re hiding from those closest to you: take your mask off. Lay down your rapier wit.

It’s time to be vulnerable. For it’s in being thus open that, yes, we risk rejections, but at the same time paradoxically find grace.

Are you wearing any false faces today?