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Friday, February 14, 2014

Living in the Cross-Hairs

There’s a saying that I’ve been told too many times to count. I clung to it once before, believing it too. It goes something like this: “God will never put on you more than you can bear.”

Those who say it claim it’s biblical. But I can’t find that promise in my Bible. In fact, absolutely everything about the story in that book and my own life experience says the contrary. It’s all more than we can bear.

From the Hebrew people living in slavery, crying out in agony to a God who saw their suffering, and knew, to the sheep without a shepherd, aimlessly lost, weighed down by the insufferable and never satisfied burdens of their “spiritual leaders,” the ones Jesus looked on with pity and compassion. I am here.

Then there is the demoniac in the mnaimion, breaking chains and cutting himself and bellowing in the midst of the dead, unforgotten. Pursued, individually.

Tell me they bore up under the lashings and tossings of this life. I will disagree. I will tell you instead that I believe they broke. I believe they caved. I believe they came to know their own frames, that they, too, were but dust.

I had that break too. I still wonder about it, but I suppose I had to come to know my frame. To think anything other than how very fragile I am is perhaps to make an idol of my so-called strength. Who am I fooling?

Will he let one of his beloved break? Oh, yes. Break, yes. Perish, no.

I once heard that the term “perish” has more than just the connotation of actual loss of life to it. It has more to do with loss of function. The example given was that of a coffee mug, shaped by a potter’s hand to hold liquid and to be held in the hand of a person. Designed for a purpose. But should the mug be tossed onto the tile floor, it will shatter. It is not annihilated. Its parts are still there. But it has perished—broken, it can no longer serve its function.

I’ve been that mug. Once full to capacity with optimism and joy and hope and purpose; then smashed against the cold, hard surface of this treacherous existence, shattered, fragmented, unable to function as I was designed. He let me break, completely.

But so did the Christ—break, completely. For me. For you. Yet he didn’t stay that way. There’s resurrection power in this story. For me. For you. Because of him.

I can glue a cup back together. It may possibly function again at that point, but maybe not. My power is so very limited. But resurrection power—that’s outside of all of this. And that power is his glory. He let me break. For the last year, he has been resurrecting me. I am finding my purpose again, and it’s greater too in the knowledge of my own limitations. Because of knowing that I can break, and be resurrected again—it’s even a requirement in order to receive the full spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

This life is too hard, and we are always living under its attacks. Life in the cross-hairs. Someone really is out to get us. And we often help. We wreck ourselves. We wreck others. Others wreck us. Sometimes circumstances of life cause the damage, even if no one in particular was directly responsible. It’s just a mess. Why would we ever think breakage isn’t likely?

“The bruised reed he will not crush,” we hear, and I do cling to that one. But the crushing, I think, is more in the ultimate sense of perishing. Though I’ve lived it, it’s still a mystery—how this breaking but not crushing works. Perhaps that’s like the burning bush—clearly consumed but not consumed.

Is there encouragement here? I hope so. Because here I am, and not of my own doing. He let me break. He freed me of idols in so doing—good things, things he designed, but things I put too much of my hope in instead of him directly. And now he is mine, even if they never will be again.

I did not perish. But I did break. You may too. I hope I can just tell you though, that it isn’t the end. The one who knows you is also the one who grapples for you, and who will again lift you up and set you on your high place. Fear not.

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