stripped of everything

A Great Find…

with 3 comments

There is a blog that I read daily just to see how I relate to the “average” christian. Today while surfing through Stuff Christians Like I found this entry. Number one hundred and ninety-five; Believing bad times equas bad us (the cocaine testimony).

A lot of you know that right now in my life I’m faced with some of the most trying times that you could possibly face. I’ve been confused on how to handle things, on how I got to this point, and how and where in the world this is going to take me.

When I read this, my chest caved in, and I now sit in silence.

Don’t be scared by the length, read this, please…

“My life fell apart during the summer of 2005. It was mostly my doing, but there were factors outside of my control that contributed to the internal combustion I felt going on. My marriage was broken. My job was hanging on by a thread. My friendships were surface at best. Wounds I had failed to deal with in the past suddenly loomed neon in my “now.” It was like a perfect storm came together and threatened to drown me. It would be sensational to say I was suicidal, but I will say that I started to sympathize with the idea. I began to understand for some people that were so far gone, ending a life might be the only escape route.

To oversimplify the last three years, God stepped into the pit and pulled me out. He revived my heart and started walking me through some of the best times of my entire life. Blessing upon blessing has followed that summer and though I often fail to show it, I am incredibly grateful. But, there’s a really dangerous idea hidden in those two paragraphs. It’s one I constantly wrestle with and I don’t think I’m alone. The idea is this:

“When I am bad, God does not love me and gives me bad times. When I am good, God loves me and gives me good times.”

I haven’t done a post on prosperity ministry and even though I think there are some similarities between this post and that movement, this ultimately isn’t about that. This is older and bigger than prosperity ministry. This is a belief I think God has fought since the dawn of time and I think it’s one that still punches the Christian community in it’s collective face fairly regularly.

This happens in subtle ways. No one sets out to design a works-based God, it just sort of happens. When you do well on a test, your teacher is happy with you. When you try hard in a game, your coach is happy with you. When you do all your chores around the house, your parents are happy with you. When you finish the project early, your boss is happy with you. It’s very easy to find examples in our lives of cause and effect relationships. Areas where if we do something deemed as “good,” we are rewarded with something good. That makes sense. That is a logical way to look at life. And so we start to naturally and quietly apply that same filter to God. I do it before I speak to large groups. In the week before I think, “I better be really good this week because I want God to bless what I say.”

But here’s the thing, God is weird. I know that does not sound theological, but He is. He does not operate like us. His ways are different. Sometimes He gives us seemingly horrible things because He loves us. That is a weird sentence that begs further explanation.

I’m writing a book right now called “The Prodigal Son’s Field Guide: 101 Things to Do the Day After the Welcome Home Party.” I have this idea that most of us live our lives between arrival and exit. That is, we’ve come home and we’re going to leave again unless we do something differently this time. In researching the book, I came across something interesting about the unpleasant gifts God tends to give us.

(If you’ve never read the story of the prodigal son, here’s a one sentence recap: Young son runs away from home to spend his inheritance on hookers and comes back broke but is thrown a party by a father that is overwhelmed he is still alive.)

I missed a word the first 100 times I read this story. The word I am talking about is “famine.” Here is what Luke 15:14 says:

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

Did you ever wonder why he needed a severe famine before he began to be in need? I mean he had nothing. His money was gone. His friends were presumably gone. He had nothing and was nothing, but that was not enough for him. He needed the famine to hit rock bottom. He needed the famine as the final straw that broke his stubborn back. And I did too.

The summer of 2005 was my severe famine. It was the moment when I came to the end of me. When I realized that I did not possess the things inside of me that I needed to fix me. I began to be in need. And I now see that summer as a gift from God.

I think God is in the famine giving business. I think in the prodigal son story He gave the son that famine. He funded the downfall by not refusing to give the son his money. Certainly he knew the son’s intentions and yet he gave him the money anyway. He even helped create a famine moment for the older brother. Did you ever notice that? He didn’t invite the older brother to the party initially. He says get a robe, slaughter a calf but never “and go tell his older brother to come.” He broke the older brother by throwing that party for the son and he knew it. When the older brother comes home and realizes his messup brother is back, he angrily says:

‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.’

That’s not just an angry relative yelling at a father. That is a man standing in the middle of a famine, a moment during which everything he knows about life has been proven incorrect. Good deeds don’t equal good rewards. His world is upside down.

Why does God give us famine moments? Because there is nothing He won’t do to draw us close to Him. Would the God that killed His son to get closer to us find it too cruel to throw you into a famine? Would the God that watched His only son hang on a cross find it too harsh to bring you to the bottom of a dark pit if that’s where you would call out for light? I don’t think so.

My wife has a friend with a weird testimony. In it, she says that she is thankful for cocaine. If I had a dollar for every testimony that said that, I would have a dollar. You see she is an alcoholic. She was facing a slow, 30-year death by bottle until she met cocaine. Cocaine fast forwarded her to the bottom. Cocaine put her crash on warp speed. And there in her lowest moment, is where she found God waiting. So she is thankful for cocaine.

Chances are, you know someone in your life that is in the middle of a famine. If you do, please don’t try to rescue them. Don’t try to pull them out of it or Bible verse them out of it. Go stand in it with them. If they are hungry, go be hungry beside them. If they are drowning, let the ocean sweep you up too. They might be right where God wants them. They might be standing in His embrace without even knowing it. Tell them about the gift of famines. They might not understand but tell them that God loves them. And He will do anything to show them that.

Maybe you’re in a famine right now. Maybe right now in Houston or California or Singapore or London or New Zealand you’re the reason I was supposed to write this. I can’t stand in your famine because I’m a thousand miles away but there’s something God wants you to know – He loves this. This doesn’t have to be about failure. His love is not only expressed through goodness. Sometimes deep love is expressed through deep storms. But He loves you. And if that is the only thing you take from this, then it’s been worth the writing.”

Tony…Thank-you!

Honestly.

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Written by vagabondrunn

May 2, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Posted in About Me, Blog, Life

3 Responses

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  1. I read it this morning too, quite powerful. I didn’t read the whole thing though until I saw you re-post it here. It is truly amazing to me how God brings us back to him, scary. Be well, Brother.

    Scott Fillmer

    May 2, 2008 at 8:54 pm

  2. […] Run’n Like a Vagabond – A Great Find… […]

  3. […] Run’n Like a Vagabond – A Great Find […]


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