My wife and I were having one of those tough conversations Monday night where we really dig deep into the things about our lives that we hate. You know, the stuff we don’t ever won’t to talk about because even acknowledging it feels like too much to bear. No, it’d be better to just let sleeping dogs lie and act like they’ll never wake up.
Well, we woke them up.
I haven’t stopped thinking about that conversation since it happened. Which is probably no big surprise since I process everything internally and usually over long spans of time. And I’ve learned that I process things better in writing than in speech. Annoying sometimes, but true.
The crux of the conversation Monday was that we’re sinking and have been for a long time. Sinking in loneliness. Sinking in worldliness. Sinking in hopelessness. Sinking in selfishness. Sinking in debt. Sinking in To-Dos. Sinking in kids. Just sinking.
As we talked, I kept getting mental flashes or maybe glimpses of Jesus’ words to some of the churches in the revelation given to John. First: “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” The “coincidental” (ha!) background to that thought was earlier in the day when Courtney was recounting all of the amazing things God had done in our lives over the years. Miracles and divine encounters. God reaching into our history. Our oldest was blown away because he didn’t think those things happened anymore, only back in Bible times. And interestingly, since he’s been born they truly seem to have disappeared.
So there it is, laying there. God once did all these things for us. Then we got all analytical and cold, forsaking the love, the energy, the passion we once had. And it’s like he’s still working things together for us (in some clear ways over the years), but more in the background and less tangibly. In some ways it feels like when the Spirit of the LORD departed from King Saul. And that’s not really one of those guys whose path I’d like to follow.
The other passage that stood out: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth… You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
That’s probably the best way to describe my heart: lukewarm. And it’s been that way for so very long and I didn’t even realize it. Not cold and dead, but not hot and fiery and alive either.
Over the past several years, I’ve lived this seemingly obedient life. I’ve done the whole church thing. I married a woman after God’s own heart. I’ve had lots of kids and filled my quiver. I’ve pursued the orphans. I’ve moved my family into a place that most flee. I’ve pursued seminary. I’ve been a pastor. I’ve started a church. I’ve opened my home. I’ve worked hard at a job.
But it’s not been real. Not deep down. And it sounds so horribly cliché to even talk about it. “Going through the motions”. Yeah, that’s it, but so much more devastating than that. Because I’ve dragged a whole clan of people—nine others to be specific—into a blind alley at night, with no way to turn around and darkness on every side. And I’m ready to handle it because I’m armed with what—a smartphone and an empty wallet?
“I’m just not so sure how well this plan was thought through.” Exactly.
So, here I am, eleven years of marriage, six biological kids, two foster/adoptive kids, living out of place in the ‘hood, chasing a pipe dream of a home-based church, working in a cubicle, treading water, riding a stationary bike, chasing the carrot that’s always just out reach.
Does it sound like a mid-life crisis? Probably. I’d really rather put a more biblical name on it: sin. I’ve been chasing who-knows-what for so long that I left my first love behind. And I’ve dragged my family down into the depths with me, like the dad charging ahead dragging his toddler by the wrist.
My only hope here? That Jesus is knocking. Not same lame-o “Jesus just wants to come into your heart and save you” but like he actually said: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Really? He still loves me, even after everything? He really is still there, desiring to come in and feast with me, to share with me everything?
It floors me. And it’s the only hope I can cling to, because I feel like a total wretch. Shoot, I am a total wretch. But not forsaken, not too far gone, not lost. But definitely wandering afield, blind to the dangers around me.
And now? Now I’m praying. And trusting hard that what was true 2,000 years ago is still true now. That he really is there. That if I come near to God, he will come near to me. I’m praying for wisdom and for true repentance, not just words but deep conviction and genuine action from that. And I’m praying that I can actually lead my family toward the Promised Land instead of the barrenness of the wilderness.
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Is this earnestness? Is this repentance?
God, I hope so. May it be so.
More specific thoughts to come, if the Lord wills…