Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Hardest Thing to Learn About Brokenness

“There was a time in my life when I would fight and work hard at vindicating myself, [but] through a process of years and the dregs of painful experiences, I have learned that I’m unqualified to do that, furthermore I do not learn when I’m busy about defending myself.  It also distracts me from my calling, which is all part of the enemy’s plan.  It’s easy to forget all that when there are spears coming your way.”
— Charles R. Swindoll, The School of Brokenness
The purpose of life is not learned at the pinnacle, more so at the precipice.  The purpose of life is learned in the abyss; in clawing our way out through a hope that vanished long ago, that is clung to anyway.  The purpose of life becomes apparent when an old life is discontinued for a new one that hasn’t arrived yet.  Yes, in the now-but-not-yet reality, in the land-between-land.
The purpose of life can actually become apparent in crucible of criticism.  If we stay the moment in faith.
When we face the crucible of criticism, and for a time spiral into the abyss, what have we with which to respond?
Nothing.  It’s not our turn to react to the spears that whistle into our orbit in alignment with the Doppler effect.  We let them whistle past us; through us if necessary.  We have no purpose fighting.  The purpose of life is not learned through fighting back; it’s hidden through taking vengeance.  The purpose of life is learned through a humble reliance on God to vindicate our cause (Psalm 37:5-6) in His time and in His way.  Even if that means death in the meantime.  And rarely does it ever mean death, but it frequently means death to the self.
To react out of the indignation of pride, we should soon learn, is to wreak a disaster of repute we can all do without.  All of us do things wrong.  We will get it wrong from time to time.  There will be regrettable embarrassments.  But we’re right when we don’t fight back, and only wrong when we do.  We best respond as if it didn’t happen, but without missing the lesson.  Rather that than offer up a list of excuses.
One of the hardest examples of brokenness is criticism.  Yet the best of brokenness is being broken to the point of learning acceptance.
Welcome the state of brokenness, for it holds open the purpose of life.  Brokenness is the calling of the truly spiritual person.  It makes us pliable to learn, to grow, to develop, to mature.
Only out of adversity, in due humility, do we turn inward the pain of reprisal, and cause that pain to be useful for a worthy response.
Stride into your calling.  Stride in with your eyes wide open.  Make testing an expectation of your daily reality.  Everything is a test.  Stop fighting.  Accept brokenness.
Being acceptably broken is about accepting we cannot fix broken situations.  We can only accept what we shouldn’t attempt to change.
The hardest thing to learn about brokenness is acceptance — to accept being broken.  Take heart, however, for the rest of life is easy.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, June 27, 2016

When You’ve No Idea What’s About to Hit You

10PM in the evening, and I sidle up to my pretty wife and say, “Guess what anniversary we’ve got coming up…?” [blank look from her] “July 1st?”  “Oh yeah,” she said.  That day will ever be etched in our hearts; those minutes of late morning, and the seconds that ticked with temerity onward.
Days before that now surreal day in 2014 we had no idea what forecast was coming.  On that July 1st we received our forecast — a storm coming with 100 percent likelihood for devastation to our regions.  We had no idea when it would hit, and that storm brewed for four full months of days — 122 of them.
Days before we received news that our foetus was on a collision course with death we had no idea how life for us would change.  And life did not revert back to what it was.  It changed and it remained changed.  It still is changed.
That’s our truth.  It’s all our truth.  None of us can readily prepare for news like we received that July 1st.  We never know how inextricably vulnerable we are in life until life gives us a situation that turns our lives upside down.
Should we live in constant fear of that shocking moment when a new normal is foisted upon us?  No, never.  But neither should we enjoy a listless life thinking all things will remain the same.  Change is coming.  And it breaks sometimes in a drizzle after a long period of sunshine, or as a confusing fog, or as a ferocious storm.  Equally, a storm may clear and the best of change makes its way into our lives; as quickly as that storm came, may come hope.
When we’ve no idea what’s about to hit us we’re forgiven for being naïve.  It’s okay.  We couldn’t have been expected to know beforehand.  And we can only wrestle with a new reality as it in fact comes.
Facts are realities ever real, sometimes too real, and yet God is good, in trusting us to learn of our capacity to bear what inevitably breaks us time and again.  Somehow it’s in being broken time and again that God wrings growth and change, as miracles, through us.  And, as such, faith is reckoned and made real.
We learn so much about the fateful reality of life when we’re blindsided, and though it’s cruel, it still has God’s purpose; an incredibly meaningful purpose if we’ll only endure.
None of us know when or if our lives will change, but we can know for certain that there will be change.  Be ready, not taking the present for granted.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

God of Hope, for Hope, Through Hope, Believing On Hope

God allows life’s disappointments so we learn His hope that transcends them all, to overcome despondency, to live solely at His direction.
God allows life’s disappointments… they’re a fundamental sign that God is sovereignly in control, yet, of a broken world, that He allowed everything, at our will, to come to be that way; but that He has the final teleological (purposeful) say.  That God allows us to do as we choose, and doesn’t intervene, is proof He’s sovereignly in control; He won’t be coerced by anyone or anything.  He cares how we feel, of course, and He has the fullest faith in each of us that we can respond in a godly way — to learn and grow in humility, onward toward maturity.
… so we can learn His hope.  This is the purpose of life’s disappointments.  When we accept we cannot beat our hardships away, we learn to tolerate the nature of reality: life is hard.  Most of us only finally grow when life makes us give up on ourselves to such an extent we reach out to God, finally, in all sincerity, broken, but about to be restored.
God’s hope transcends all of life’s disappointments, but not straight away.  We learn nothing if our struggles are whisked away as with a magic wand.  Learning is part of God’s telos.  His purpose is that we develop.  Not simply until we stop growing physically, but through the entire lifespan, our characters becoming as beacons for and of Jesus.
… to overcome despondency.  Despondency is something we all get to try on.  It’s a drape we put over ourselves, to wear when the devil’s convinced us that life isn’t worth it, when it’s too hard.  Only the true Spirit of God can help us overcome despondency even in the face of it.  It’s easy enough to deny how we feel, but that doesn’t help us, and getting angry doesn’t help either; it hinders, even destroys.  Relying on God is the only way to stare at the face of a horrid truth and overcome it through accepting it.
… to live solely at His direction.  This is the final telos.  God’s final purpose.  To get us onto His agenda to live accepting His agenda, to live for His agenda.  Think about it.  Life’s hard, right.  Yet life is often harder than it needs to be.  Living solely at His direction allows God to steer our ship, to give up our despair for His patient hope, to endure the screeching moment.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Paradox of Cruelty and Compassion

Mary Queen of Scots (1542 – 1587), having been born to the throne, was favoured through her childhood development, yet her contemporary, Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603), was horribly treated, due to religious and political adversities, through her formative years.  Mary made a terrible, entitled queen who was thrown off the throne by her own people.  Elizabeth was a special queen who loved her people so much, her faithfulness to them suggested they were an extension of her own family.
The narrative of these two monarch’s lives is a litany of paradox.  One had life easier and had the capacity to be cruel, whilst the other had an arduous early life and became better for it.  This phenomenon isn’t depicted in every life situation, for many people who’ve had charmed lives are charming people, and many people who’ve been kicked around by the school of hard knocks are cynical.
Here’s the typical thing.  We ignore the hurts of others, most especially so when our own needs are taken care of.  But when we’ve suffered some horrible injustices we can develop an enhanced empathic capacity; the blessing outbound of brokenness, if we can transcend the temptation to bitterness that leads to cynicism.  Especially if there is some source of love we can draw hope from.
Then there is a truth that floors us suddenly: when we have all of life together — or we think we do — we’re only a moment from setting ourselves above the next person.  The moment we do that in our minds, even before we speak, we begin to think of those people as ‘those people’:
“We are ‘those people.’ The truth is… we are the others.  Most of us are one paycheck, one divorce, one drug-addicted kid, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being “those people” — the ones we don’t trust, the ones we pity, the ones we don’t let our children play with, the ones bad things happen to, the ones we don’t want living next door.”
— Brené Brown
Sometimes when life is cruel God is amplifying our capacity for compassion.  We learn that we’re only one moment of life’s cruelness away from being humbled for God’s purposes.  Sometimes having life easy isn’t the best way to live.  We miss out on being exposed to the elements of reality.  We miss out on the fullness of life, which is sometimes indwelt with hardship and pain.
It’s an oft cruel life, but when life is cruel God helps by proving within us resilience.
Resilience and compassion.  Two budding hopes to push on through for when life is tough.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Time to Let Go

Time to let go of all worldly restraints,
Of wishes and dreams and all that taints,
Of fantasies and visions of what could be,
Time to let go of all I ‘must’ see.
Time to let go where bad intent blinds,
Where my sin and flesh weakness viscerally hides,
Where I look without when I ought more to look within,
Time to let go of this covetous sin.
Time to let go of all that this world holds,
Of ambition and status; to break those moulds,
Of hiding behind grandeur, the stuff of a dreamy con,
Time to let go of what I’d love to don.
Time to let go of things making no sense,
Of analysing thoughts of any pathetic defence,
Of making something ‘worthy’ of my cognitive function,
Time to let go of everything that looks like an injunction.
Time to let go where God’s not honoured,
Where fearful things are erroneously pondered,
Where there’s staring into space at the hopelessness of life,
Time to let go of all those situations of strife.
Time to let go, for once and for all,
Of circumstances that’ll make me most certainly fall,
Of situations where God won’t get to do as He wills,
Time to let go of everything that mortally chills.
Sometimes, many times in life, all the time, it’s time to let go.
Holding what we hold lightly; that’s the juice of life, for we hold on too tightly to the things we value, and we say, “I cannot live without you.”  But the truth is, we can.
When we hold all of what we’d call our own — ready to let go —
we’re ready to hold that which can never truly be ours.
Have the courage to let go,
In faith, one day at a time,
When each day is its own climb,
God’s peace you’ll know.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Overcoming the Moment Where Fear Overwhelms

C.S. Lewis once said that he was astounded how close grief was to the feeling of fear.
There are many things that implicate us in fear.  Certainly the grief of uncertainty, where the floor has fallen out of the security we had in life.  When life is irreparably changed.  There are situations we find implicitly fearful, where vulnerability takes the place of safety.  And then there’s our own minds, which cause us to fear things known and unknown, real and unreal.
Recently I had a moment, like so many other moments.
One moment where doubt shredded the present, and suddenly I felt boundless in the worst of ways.  Mentally, I considered giving up, right there, right then.  I was saying in my mind, “What’s the use?”  It was one of those instants where I would rather have not been alive.  My mind was amess with negativity; just in that moment.  Up until that moment, I’d been positive regarding the predicament I found myself in.  Yet all it took was a few seconds of spiritual attack, and I was again at the mercy of Satan — a place where there is no mercy.
Fortunately, the next moment God’s Presence reminded me to just become mindful — to stop focusing on the negativity, and to just become present and mindful again.
I found that simply concentrating on the task at hand, being present in doing that well, made me able to overcome the moment where fear threatened to overwhelm me.  And ten minutes later I was ever thankful for God’s Presence in that moment.
Being mindful helps us nullify negative thoughts, which makes us feel better and less fearful.
Engaging in mindfulness as prayer aligns our minds to the truths in God’s Word, to repel spiritual attack.
Iterations of fear are not entirely removed from our lives so we might learn to come back, again and again, to God through mindfulness as prayer.  It’s how we develop resilience.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Our Brokenness and Trust, God’s Sovereignty and Compassion

We all presumably know that a disciple’s life is one of submission and obedience; a trust of God, no matter what.  That’s faith in a nutshell.  To have faith we must trust, yet trust makes no sense if we don’t believe in God’s Sovereignty.  Why would we trust God if we didn’t believe He had total control?
God’s sovereignty is a latent factor, and so ought to be our trust.  But we usually don’t learn to trust in God’s sovereignty until we find we have to.  When life blows our house of cards down, we quickly realise how vulnerable we really are.  We begin to realise trust in God, however nebulous it seems, is truly the only viable and worthy trust.
I thank God for the experience of brokenness, for without that perishing feeling I have no need of God, but when I’m needy in His Presence, then I no longer perish because of His compassion.  And even as I perish in this daily life, I perish with the comfort of His Presence, which is nothing I can attain otherwise.
Perishing therefore is a prerequisite to experiencing the compassion of His Presence.
Experiences of momentary brokenness, where we have nothing left to hold from God, where our lives are held open in perfect submission, draw the experience of compassion only possible in the heart of God’s Presence.
I’ve previously written that, as soon as we’re able to trust God’s sovereignty, we’re a testimony of restoration.  See how God’s sovereignty takes us from brokenness to restoration in a moment?
When we trust God, because we believe in His sovereignty, we trust our brokenness to Him, and we experience God’s compassion.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Embracing The End to Come to a New Beginning

The purpose of the prayer of petition is not that God would hear our cries and answer our prayers immediately in the affirmative.  Rather, our prayers of petition ought to be for a hope to meet the demands of, and maybe transcend, the current tumultuous hour.
When we realise that requiring our prayers answered is actually a bargaining of God, which doesn’t work, we refuse to do go there, and instead prefer to meekly come to the end of ourselves so we can enter a realer, truth-honouring beginning — a truer hope.
Our plights, whatever they are, are what they are.
God won’t manoeuvre our lives to accede to our wish to be more comfortable.  It’s just not how God works.  Anyone who has lived a life of faith for even a short time should know that.  This is not pessimistic, just realistic, putting a cap on optimism.
It doesn’t stop us from wishing our dreams would come true.  We cannot stop hoping our dreams would come true.  We ought to accept this.  God knows our heart’s desires.  And we can trust God to advance us toward realising our dreams.  But we cannot go ahead of God, not if we want to stay sane.
Yet we inevitably do still get frustrated and even exasperated.  And with frustration and exasperation there is a purpose — God’s purpose.  He graciously allows us to make the choice when we’ve had enough of frustration and exasperation, to submit to His will.
When we come to the end of ourselves, we’re ready to come back to the beginning of life — God.  Accept life as it is, happily, this moment, and we live a Kingdom reality.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.