Calamity has knocked on the doors of humanity, and confusion has come with hors d’oeuvres. What you and I are witnessing is something Steven Spielberg would pen out of an apocalyptic film (with Brad Pitt starring in it, no doubt). I’m waiting for the locust to come next (oh wait, they’re here and called Murder Hornets).
Surveying the canvas that is this hour, I have tried, as many of you have, to see the purpose that can come from such devastation. While the Divine doesn’t orchestrate all music you hear, the conductor will take every tune and create a hymn.
Here’s the picture I want you to see: you have a child who “wets” their pants. But, they’re potty trained. The first time they wet themselves, it’s a mistake. You understand. Happens to the best of us (right…?). The second time? Justify it as a work in progress. The 30th time? Irritation and frustration. Change is afoot.
We’ve pissed our pants too many times, and God is making us wear diapers.
St. John of the Cross, in his a poem, La noche oscura del alma, coined a term called “Dark Night of Soul” — a moment in time in which you feel absence more than presence: a great pruning of the soul. In Richard Foster’s words, it’s a point along our pilgrimage we will enter that will “draw close to the divine Center… What does the dark night of the soul involve? We may have a sense of dryness, aloneness, even lostness. Any interdependence on the emotional. life is stripped away…. The dark night is one of the ways God brings us into a hush, a stillness so that he may work an inner transformation upon the soul.”
If a plant could talk (this won’t get weird, I promise), what would it say when the shears come out and branches wither to the ground? It looks like death, no? When you transport a plant to new soil, it goes through a process of biological shock in which you have to nurture it for such a transition. The plant thinks it’s dying. But quite the opposite — it’s actually new life that just requires a series of many small deaths. Well, the clippers are out, and some branches are coming off. For a revival of Spirit to fall, His people must be ready to host it, carry it, and steward it. The Church has been content in its normality and its comfortability. We’ve been complacent in our relationships, in how we father and mother each other, how we steward the grain that has been given us.
Comfortability always brews complacency.
This conceptual event of darkness — a period of isolation, a time of destitution, a stage of transition; has been drenched in the human condition. Could it be that for the first time, all of humanity has been placed in such a chapter?
Just like Christ walked the path of the Via-Dolorosa, we too have a path to trek, with our own splintered log to bear. The problem is we linger on the road far too long, avoiding the inevitable Golgotha that is our ultimate destination. We learn to adore the pavement that’s leading us to the promised land because it’s easier. I don’t think the hallmark phrase “it’s not about the destination but about the journey” applies here. There’s merit in the margins of our sanctification, but sometimes we just gotta take that leap of faith. The rest of it is all folly.
The golden brick road that is the path of sanctification is one we all must take. Joni Eareckson penned it beautifully:
“The cross is the center of our relationship with Jesus. The cross is where we die. We go there daily. It isn’t easy. Normally, we will follow Christ anywhere — to a party, as it were, where he changes water into wine, to a sunlit beach where he preaches from a boat. But to the cross? We dig in our heels. The invitation is so frighteningly individual. It’s an invitation to go alone. Suffering refuses us to nothing and as Soren Kierkegaard noted ‘God creates everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use, he first reduces to nothing.’ To be reduced to nothing is to be dragged to the foot of the cross. It’s a severe mercy. When suffering forces us to our knees at the foot of Calvary, we die to self. We cannot kneel there for long without releasing our pride and anger, unclasping our dreams and desires… In exchange, God imparts new and lasting hope.”*
What imagery. Can you see it? You and I are being dragged through the muck, the miry, the clay — to the ultimate destination. It’s fleeting. It’s terrifying. It’s uncomfortable. It’s beautiful. It’s wondrous. It’s the feet of calvary. You can see the blood-stained wood when you arrive. You can smell the sacrificial aroma. It’s lonely. It’s dark. It’s difficult. It’s tremulous.
Maybe you’re there now. I think for so many of us, the Lord is saying “The time has come, beloved. The time for games is over. The time for mediocrity has played it’s last tune. There is a new melody at play, and it’s transformational, it’s redemptive, and it can only be birthed through an inner death.”
Now mind you, I live for the theatrics of life. So, I am sure there are some souls out there reading this thinking I am either drunk, crazy, or both. Neither would be true. I think you and I have a window in our own history to grab that towel that has been drenched in this season and wring it out as much as possible. What is the phrase? Carpe that diem.
As you look onto the horizon of your own life, and discern what fruit is to be harvested — see what He sees in you. You are His beloved. You may be dragged through a darkened road — but realize it’s the same darkened road he himself treked. Whatever blight you may be facing, either internal or external, take the courageous step to walk up that hill. Pull yourself up on that log. And let His work be done. Because when it’s finished… it is finished.