Monday, October 18, 2010

The Constant Battle

As I take my pen to write
of all the struggles
that go on inside.
I feel so distant from you Lord,
like I've gone astray.
So different when I used to walk
with you from day to day.
These eyes that were once opened
and a heart that was so warm,
have now hazed over and my
heart has turned and embraced
in the cold.
Where are you in this hour? Do you
still care?
Please hear me pray and let me know
your love that is so fair.
What is this familiar emptiness
that's making me so cold?
I miss the newness of life
from when you first touched my soul.
It's like I'm losing my grip,
please uphold me with your grace.
I beg you Lord, turn not
from me your Holy face.
I'm counting on the love you gave
back there on Calvary.
Bring back the joy of my salvation
that was so freely given to me.
Remove all distractions that
get in my way.
Let your only begotten Son
light my darkened days.
I can no longer hide
as the lines in my face deepen.
I invite you Lord to come.
This cry I can not keep in.
Fill me up with your gladness
and all that makes me sing.
Resurrect my salvation,
the one that gave death its sting.

This was written about 10 years ago and reflects my deepest thorn in my flesh. The fact that I have suffered with what people call "major depression" for over 25 years still feels the same today as it did when I first started experiencing it.
Living with this kind of depression can take its toll on not just myself, but those around me. Someone just asked me tonight, noticing a different disposition in my features;"Is it just like being sad?", he asked. The answer is,no not really. The best way I can describe it is that it is like being in a thick black tar, inside of a dark lonesome closet with no accessible light at all.
With that said and understood, I wonder why I have never been able to over come this darkness. I ask and I plead with my most merciful Savior to please take away this darkness. This depression has never helped me, or my wife, but only adds difficulty that we all could do without.
I wonder what good this is to have such a case of melancholy that sometimes has lasted not just for a day or two, but in some cases, years. It has almost destroyed me and has had awful effects upon my loved ones.
There is such a sense of hopelessness in that hole, that it feels that I will never be able to get out or escape from its depth.
Yes, it's true that Jesus said that he would always be with me, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Honestly though I would rather not go through this anymore seeing there is no benefit to any of this. It is downright debilitating and makes me absolutely lethargic.
I plead with G-d over and over to please take this far away form me and I still get no answers. I guess I know now how the apostle Paul felt when he wrote the words in 2 Cor. 12:7-9. Paul wrote of his trials and how so often he was persecuted by evil doers and even people of the church. He recognized that it was to keep him from being conceited and thus a thorn was given in his flesh.
Paul pleaded three times to have G-d remove it from him and the answer three times over was a resounding;"NO!". G-d said to Paul that His grace was sufficient for him and that His power would be made perfect in Paul's weakness.
I can say that externally I get it, but that was Paul and not me. How can G-d get any glory out of my weakness that has never had any good outcome of showing, giving or providing any comfort to anyone or praise to His holiness?
I guess at this point I am called to get out from within myself and boast in the power of G-d through Christ Jesus. Somehow G-d will give me the strength to be content in my weakness, and somehow be strong in His Power.
Maybe it is in the thorn of my affliction that causes me not to fall back on my lack of greatness, but into the perfect strength of Jesus.
Maybe I can play the optimist here for just a moment, and give G-d the benefit of the doubt. Maybe my weakness helps me to weep a few more tears for those who are weeping now. Maybe I wouldn't be so full of sympathy for others that are hurting or in despair if I hadn't been there so often myself. Maybe I wouldn't feel so much for the lonely if I didn't experience it so often myself.
It just might be that G-d is calling me right now to get some rest, to come back and fall into the arms that have so often carried me. It just may be that I will say with the Psalmist in Ps.43:5" Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in G-d; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my G-d."
Oh My G-d and Salvation, help me where I have no strength within myself and come to you knowing that you are the stronghold for the oppressed in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O L-rd, have not forsaken those who seek you.(Ps.9:9-10).
May His name be blessed in the darkness and the light, form this time and forever. Amen.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A little Imagination in Interpretation

I am once again going through the gospel of Matthew, and it is fascinating once more just as it was the last time. I have also been trying to add a little imagination along with trying to understand the bible in its most literal, historical and grammatical terms. I have always tried to go after the most precise hermeneutic as possible, and I don't think this negates this process, but rather enhances my understanding of passages.
One of the passages I was taken with is found in Matthew Chp. 9:1-8. It is another very familiar account to those who read the scriptures. It is the account of the paralytic who is brought to Jesus through the roof of a house.
Let me just type out the text and I will go on from there. "And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "take heart my son; your sins are forgiven". And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves,"this man is blaspheming." But Jesus, knowing their thoughts said,"why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier to say,'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say,'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins-"Rise, pick up your bed and go home." And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid and they glorigied G-d, who had given such authority to men.".
Alright, so there is a lot to cover here, but I just want to cover some areas of geography first and then begin with some questions. First off, Jesus is in Northern Israel, actually in his home town of Capernaum and his home town of Nazereth. This info is given in Marks gospel, Chp. 2:1-12.
Second in discovery of meaning is noticing where Jesus was ministering, and this is at a home(Mark 2:1). We don't know if this is Jesus' home or someone else s, but he is in a house and is preaching the word(Mark 2:2). Quick note here, even though Mark is the shortest and usually less detailed in info, this does not hold true for this passage, so we will end up getting a lot of info from Mark.
Third thing we notice in the scene is that this is a packed out session; standing room only. So much so that no else can get in.
Fourth is that Matthew records that some people brought to him a paralytic. Actually they tried the front door, but rather dismayed at the crowd, their urgency took them to new heights in strategics; they rip through someones roof(Mark 2:4). NICE!! They then lower the paralytic through the newly formed skylight in front of Jesus.
So in my observation here, I noticed that there was no healing service going on, and there was no apparent request to be healed from the man or his friends for anything at all. What I did pick up on was that these men, and the lame man, were serious, urgent and desperate. My question is, Why?
Remember, this is Jesus' home town, and these are most of the people he grew up with. They would have recognized him, and evidence from other portions of scripture that have him reading in the synagogues say that they were amazed at his reading skills and interpretation.
In other writings, such as the infancy gospels as they are known, have been found to be bogus and written to far after the events to be considered worth anything. But off of that premise of Jesus' early years which hardly anything is spoken of, I wonder if maybe this person suffering from a paralytic life knew Jesus. I wonder if maybe he, like children can be, was cruel to Jesus as a boy. Maybe he was a bully, spoke arrogantly and slung hurtful words at the young Jesus. This is where the imagination runs wild.
Again, the only reason I am allowed to think like this is because of the lack of details, so stay with me here.
Here is a man, for some reason we don't know is lame. We don't know if he was hurt in an accident, if it was due to a sickness or something else. What we do know is that he needed to see Jesus no matter what. He even got his friends to help him seek out the Master by way of vandalism...which Jesus called a faith that could be seen!
Jesus' response to seeing this man(childhood nemesis), was simply;"Take heart my son; your sins are forgiven.".
Jesus at this point does not ask what he wanted as he did with others, but he knew what this man needed. This man needed Jesus' forgiveness. On top of all this, because of some disgruntled folk in the audience who had serious issues with forgiveness(not a lot of room to get into the debate here), Jesus not only offers the one thing that can set this man free, but he also offers in a very tangible way, a token of his grace by giving him the power to again walk on his own two legs.
With the words from the Lord;"Rise, and go home...", there is much to learn from here for us who live 2000 years away from this scene. There are so many principles here and I just want to list a couple that tugged hard at my own heart. One of the principles I was able to glean was that I, like the paralytic, need with the same intensity to seek out forgiveness from G-d and also from others that I have hurt and even those that have hurt me to offer forgiveness unashamedly. This is something that is in our power to do through G-d who through Jesus gives us this power and humility. This forgiveness frees not only the person that has sinned, but also is freeing to the person who holds the key to this kind of release.
Forgiveness is what can heal this world; it started with Jesus, G-d wrapped in our own wounded flesh, forgiving a very tormented, cruel and unforgiving world. It then goes to us, the recipients of grace to offer the same pure act that can set someone else free from the paralyzing bondage of sin that has bound us for so long.
May we all seek out the G-d who forgives, and likewise give what we have been given, and that is grace without wanting anything in return.
B'ruch Hashem!