Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Rope and the Well

Dark encompassed me
Still surrounded me
The smell of death
The feel of cold
No way out
No way up
The bottom of a well.

I cried out for help
And heard nothing
I felt the walls
For something, anything
But nothing.
I was lost
And alone

And then
I felt it
A woosh, a swish
Cut the air.
I felt around again
And it brushed my face
I reached out in fear
In the dark
Not knowing.
A rope.

I look up
From where?
From who?
I can see nothing.
This is the moment of Desperation.
There is no other way.
No other hope.
No other escape.
I take the rope.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Words without Hugs—1 Cor. 13:1-2

Many of us walk into church broken beyond words. Our hearts are tender, our spirits soft, our feet barely shuffling as we stumble in to hear words of encouragement and hope. Some are a few weeks, months, or perhaps years from an event that took their breath away. It was not 'merely a flesh wound'. We lean into God like never before, and then something happens. An event, another bit of bad news, something that wrenches our hearts again, that can't be and won't be overcome, and we're back into the pit of despair, crying out (mostly silently) for help, hoping that someone will notice, will care, will give us a hug. 

I've often wondered and been angry and convicted at Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2. The Love Chapter. The one spoken at every wedding in the 70's, until we were sick of it. And who is Paul to tell me that all my words and knowledge, all the gifts of God, all the work is worthless without love? I had a small group leader 'challenge' me on that once. We say 'challenge' in church when we mean confront/yell at/castigate/condemn. And I felt all those...because he was right. It didn't change me much, other than knowing that I wasn't terribly loving as I 'challenged' people.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." (ESV)

Look at these verses. If I speak literally the words of angels, which come directly from the lips of God Himself, but don't love, I'm a gong. If I can prophesy because God has enlightened me, if I know everything there is to know about God and can explain it, if I have that faith Jesus described and can actually move the mountains around, but I don't love, catch this: I am nothing. Not that I have nothing. But I am nothing. Sharp words of condemnation (oops, 'challenge') indeed.

When we come around others, we need to be desperately aware of their wounds and brokenness. If we have not experienced any of our own (yet), we need to be still around those who have and listen and learn from them, until our hearts are broken over their brokenness. And only then, do we have the right and privilege to speak. Think of Jesus. If you're God and you finally show up on this rock, wouldn't you have some rather harsh things to say to this rebellious people? Wouldn't you zap just a few? And yet He speaks gently, softly, with hugs, except to the teachers who should know better. He gathers the wounded up out of the dust of the street and embraces them, and then teaches them. This from the One who really does know everything and has an answer for everything. So He also knows:

Words don't matter much at times like these, but hugs do. Hug first, second, and third. Then, if you must, speak.