Christians do not move out. They move in.
No Way Out
Today a friend told me about a deep sorrow in his life. He is a Christian. But he has problems that he has been talking to God about and no solutions have appeared. “No one else has these problems,” he says, “or at least no one as as many as me.” What the problems actually are, he is not ready to say. The more important thing to him is that he feels trapped. He advances on the world with a sword, attacking it and desperately trying to win himself any solution. But the more he fights, the more he grows weary and the more the problems seem to get bigger and stronger. He cannot see a way forward. He cannot see a strategy and all his stabs at the dark find only emptiness. Walls grow up around him and now are closing in.
Now I tried and I tried to offer him a solution. I tried to give him the patterns that always produce solutions. Pray I say and God will answer. Read the Bible: there is always a way in the Word. Seek and follow the wisdom of those farther along in the Way. But he is too smart for me. “If these were matters of faith,” he says, “then I could wait. But time is short and lives are wasting away. I need a solution now!” He has already looked towards the Father and talked to the Father but can hear no answer. All the other Christians around him seem to hear readily from God. But for him, at least on these things that are pressing in like daggers, not even an echo accompanies the lonely silence.
And so my friend now finds himself at a fork in the road. He stands at the door: inside but he is facing out. He loves the Lord but he is hungry. He wants bread to feed his hunger but all he has is the Bread of Life and Jesus seems ephemeral. He needs a “real” way out but all he knows is the Way. He needs a strategy, a means of untangling the world and forcing it to make sense. But all he has is the Truth. “God has seduced me,” he says. “He has seduced me into following Christ and now I am the desert.
Can a man quench his very physical thirst by drinking the Water of Life? Can a man fill his stomach by eating the Word alone? Has He not said, “Man shall not live by bread ... alone”?
Many Ways Out
It’s funny that you should mention the prodigal son. I’ve read this parable many times and only just realized that this is not the story of a specific son in a specific time and place. His story is our story. His story is the human story. The first prodigal sons were Adam and Eve. They walked away from their Father. Their reason for leaving: “God was holding them back from becoming like Him.” Then the next prodigal son was Adam’s first born and he walked away by killing his brother. Why? Well, he felt that God didn’t love him enough. And on and on it goes.
The Bible is God’s litany, God’s song of lament over His many prodigal sons and daughters. Can you now hear the Voice of the Shepherd mourning over His lost sheep? Oh there are a few stand outs here and there like Enoch, Elijah, Deborah and Esther but the gist is the same. Everyone walks away and even runs away from God because it appeared at the time that the answer to their needs and desires could be found away from the Father.
My friend, the Word is a double edged sword and you have only just felt the first bite. Yet, I must wound you more and even deeper
A reason that looms like a towering mountain almost high enough to block our Father’s Face. My brother, many and broad are the ways the flee away from our Father. Oddly enough, if you flee along one of them, you will find yourself taking them all. You will become a murderer like Cain, a thief like Jacob, an adulterer like David, a traitor like Balaam and so on and so on. God forbid that your madness is only eventually restrained by time, that faithful plodding ass
One Way In
And yet no matter how many ways he took, the prodigal son was only able to walk in two directions: out or in. Whether in bold flight or humble repentance, his path was always oriented by God’s position. In fact, there are only two directions in all of creation: you can either be moving away God or you can be moving towards God. The sinner moves out and is confounded. Her identity is shredded and unraveled. The Christian repents by moving back in and finds that her Father has never forgotten her name. She moves in and finds that she had always possessed what she was looking for.
When problems arise and the Face of the Lord seems dark and only thunder surrounds, the Christian moves in
And when we say, “moves in”, we do not mean that she buries herself in herself or that he buries his head in the sand. We mean the same thing thing we talked about in the first post about the Prodigal Son. The worst part of what you are going through, brother, is loneliness. You do not desire to abandon God but you feel that God has already abandoned you. You cannot see Him in any of this. You cannot hear Him for all the noise. The worst part then is this distance, this separation you now feel between you and Him. It is the shadow of what Jesus felt on the cross when He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”
Not so brother. Not so sister. This is nothing but the trick of the devil. To Adam and Eve, the devil said, “Leave God because God is holding you back.” To you he is says, “Leave God because God has left you.” But Jesus on the cross, even after questioning His Father, answers the question by saying to His Father, “Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.”
Yet for all this, you have a choice. You can choose, like Jesus, to use this distance from God as a means to pursue God. He has not fled. Yet even if you think He has, pursue Him. In time, you may die before you see Him. In space, you may never catch Him to bind Him. But do not forget that He has made you of both earth and spirit. Therefore, in addition to moving within time and space, you also move within the dimension of eternity. And in eternity, everyone who asks has already received Him
You may choose to pursue Him by seeking like a hunter or by waiting at His Door. But make sure that you choose to transform this painful distance between you and God into a means of pursuing God