This is where the “deep and wide” comes in

Words are sWords that cut both ways

Words: rubber maid containers that corral and contain the chaos and clutter of life.  Words have grown tricky and sticky in today’s relative world, and stripped of all nuance and cues, by layers of electronic barriers such as e-mail and text messaging.  Now even the most carefully selected and censored words can somehow mysteriously mutate between your lips and someone else’s ear, into something wholly other than what you intended, never mind the careless ones.

Words are my oar in the rapids, my life-jacket in the overwhelming flood.

So what was I to do when words failed me?

I grew silent.  Even inside my own head, I lost the will, the nerve, the ability to bring order to the churning and tumbling and shaking of my world.

I had no choice than to just let things just “be”.  No measuring, no sorting, no classifying, no reconciliation, no resolution.

Just sit in my dingy in a tumbling ocean of upheaval, hanging on for dear life, and perhaps occasionally vomiting over the side, as my one means of relief from the turbulence and inner discombobulation.  Funny thing though, about vomit.  Doesn’t inspire examination.  Just release the poison, and good riddance!

Artists express things wordlessly all the time.  Doesn’t matter the medium; music, dance, paint, pencil, wood, metal, garbage.

I used to paint.  My medium was acrylics, most often on stone. It was the one thing I ever did that transcended the drudgery of regimented thought, expressing things without all that processing, a state of abandon that rendered me unaware of even the passage of time.

In recent years, my eyesight has grown poor, my dexterity has been greatly hampered, my stamina has been poor and faltering, and as life is wont to do, my creativity has suffered significant dehydration.

But I still had the medium of words which I could count on.  It served me well in resolving conflict, ministering comfort, maintaining relationships, handling matters of business, as well as self-expression for the sake of itself.  It served me well, that is, until…

First a misunderstanding snowballed into a catastrophe, and a years-long friendship became a casualty.

Then a ministry went an unplanned, unanticipated way, and though God’s intent prevailed, the living of the experience was personally costly on a daily basis for 13 months with a fiery crash and burn at the end.

And then came our stroll along the edge of the “valley of the shadow of death”.

And for the first time in my life, words failed me.

Words are like the air my own personal spirit breathes.  So it was as if my spirit, that essence of me, had suffered a stroke or something.   Words were no longer at my beck and call.  They just wouldn’t fall in line.  It was possibly the most decimated I ever felt, and that is saying a lot, considering some of the things I’ve been through.

Words being no longer at my disposal, I went and dug out the words I’d saved on paper. My poems, my personal devotional notes, and what journal pages I’d held onto.  I took those words and like bread, cast them upon the water as an offering to God.  I didn’t have a design in mind for them, no plan or agenda.  But I know that only what is consecrated to God can have any real worth, I mean the eternal kind, not the passing-away kind.

You know, God sends the storms.  Not some storms.  All of them.  The storms and the waves do His bidding.  He doesn’t dispatch them from a distance.  He’s in them when the come.

Just because I can’t trace His hand, doesn’t mean I can’t trust His plan.

It all comes down to settling a single question.  Just one; Is God who He claims to be, or isn’t He?  You settle that in your mind, once and for all time, and buddy you will have simplified your life in one stroke.  Very simple, but far from easy.

If He is who He says He is, then let God be true and let every man, every circumstance, every thought, every pain, every wound bow down to Him and be revealed as the lie that they are.  For faithful are the wounds of a friend.

You say “Cruel is the God who would snatch the newborn child from it’s mother’s arms”

That is a LIE!

“I’m so depressed I just want to die!”

That is a LIE!

Your earthly father abandoned you, your marriage fell apart, there is no peace to be had.

That, also, is a lie.

When a child is young and tends to whine, we sometimes have to remind that child to “use your words, please, so Mommy or Daddy can know what you need and can help you get it so you will feel better”.

Putting things into words requires effort.  It’s not always easy.  For me, the nearer my heart the subject matter, the harder it is to articulate.  But otherwise, words have generally come pretty easily.

Words can be mundane, they can be tedious, they can be inspiring, beautiful, hurtful, and indeed quite harmful. In short, words are power.

Power entails responsibility.  To whom much is given, much is required.

I have been “on the bench” for a while.  Not only in terms of administering my words, but a time-out in general.  I’ve taken some blows, had some injuries that needed to be babied for a time.  It is not good for the long-haul, for us to stay in the game injured.  Though it is often necessary, (unlike soccer and baseball, the game of life isn’t condusive to prolonged side-lining), but eventually it will be to your own detriment to “suck it up and continue playing” on a bum knee, wounded shoulder, or broken heart.

As my dear friend Snerdley pointed out a couple of days ago, long-term pain and strain literally alters the structure of the brain.

I “played inured” for  lot of years.  And as a result, I’ve spent a lot of years rehabilitating.  Extensive recouperation often must happen piecemeal, you push a while, then you rest a while, push some more, rest some more.

Why bother?  Because life lived less than fully just isn’t worth as much.

What do you do when you are a “skinless” person, a whole-heart kind of   person whose heart is battered?  Live life without heart?  Offer up what is left, at the risk of having it fully consumed?  I think living a heartless life is what most people choose.  I might have chosen it too if I had never experienced “whole-heart-living” by virtue of nothing other than the fact it is the way God originally designed me.  When my heart and soul and spirit took a pretty big hit in my 20’s, I tried living the safer way.  I tucked my heart way inside and constructed an external shield so foreign to me that family and friends were baffled by it.

But it was no use.  Once you have lived with your heart wide-open, though you know the inherent pain, you find that living any other way is not really an option, and there is no such thing as a middle ground of compromise.  Living any other way has never been an option, no matter how much I might have wished it could be.

I am not sure how that sounds to the reader.  Arrogant? Self-promoting and prideful in some back-handed way?  An attempt to seem more virtuous than I am?  Or just sincere.

The truth is, I wouldn’t mind having a tougher heart.  I would dearly love a skin.  A nice, thick one.

I once heard the story of a 4th grader in a Christian school, when defining “skin” on his science test, wrote “It’s that thing God gave you so people when they have to look at you, they won’t throw up”.  I guess he had seen the muscle diagrams, I don’t know, but kids have a way of shedding insight.

Skin is great as a cover-up for hiding the unpalatable “innards”, but it’s real purpose is for protecting the delicate and vulnerable things that lie underneath.  It is the first line of defense against germs and viruses and other invaders.  It is probably one of our must indispensable, under-appreciated organs.

My heart is not pure, but I do recognize that God has a standard of purity that surpasses our concept of pure and of good, by a dozen country miles, and I don’t want our version of clean and good.  I want His.

A lot of people, if they were to peer into my life, would likely say “that’s not what I call living”.  Living life to the fullest to most folks is “going full tilt” from sun-up to sun-down, taking risks, tasting the entire smorgasbord that life has to offer.  And sure, there is a lot to be said for living life fearlessly.  I joke about the unnecessary stress some people seem to go looking for, the stunt-riders and base-jumpers and those guys in squirrel suits who jump off of cliffs and ride the thermal currents like Eagles with nothing else between them and certain death, except a stiff breeze, their knowledge of aerodynamics, and an irrepressible passion for adventure.

When I was strong and healthy,, my bucket list included buying a motorcycle, parachuting, and traveling to see the world.

Da bucket got a hole in it!

What happens to dreams like that?  There are a whole lot of people who would have you believe that letting anything stand in the way of achieving your dreams is blasphemous.  That we owe it to ourselves, the world, the universe, and whatever God we believe in, to “discover and meet our full potential”.

Hogwash!

I don’t care what anybody says, if life doesn’t hurt, you ain’t doing it right.  If you haven’t failed you haven’t been trying, but if you haven’t realized there are walls and ceilings, and boundaries and limits, well, just keep on.  You’ll find out eventually and then where will that leave you?  Crushed? Broken? Disillusioned? Angry?

The world applauds those who are brave and daring with their body, their money their mind, and even their eternal soul, while simultaneously disdaining the offering up of one’s heart as a fools errand.

But I say, the bravest thing anyone can do is give of your heart.  In my book, real living means living real.  It means accepting the boundaries, acknowledging your insufficiency, admitting you need others, that you are not invincible, not infallible.  But you don’t quit.  You keep trying, aiming for that higher calling, even when you know it is not attainable in this life.  Even when you know you’ll be hurt again, will fall again.

Success in life doesn’t come in looking around, finding the tallest mountain, and conquering it.  It comes in making the best of what life hands you, learning to be content whether you abase or abound.  Learning how to find your way back to abiding peace even when some “earthquake” rattles your world and flings you far away from any semblance of peace.  Knowing where, or more accurately, in Whom, that peace remains, unshaken, always available.

I spoke of the friendship that became a casualty of misunderstanding.  The following poem was an attempt, even as words themselves seemed to have betrayed me, to still use them to express my bewilderment and grief, that words themselves can be so damaging, turning lethal even when the intent is anything but, because a “wounded” receiver receiving a message from a wounded “sender” leaves much room for misinterpretation, and particularly in a world where real communication grows increasingly rare.  It is an expression of broken-ness in a broken world from a broken heart, over a broken friendship.

On Grapes and Apples

The grape sits under the glare of the sun. Exposed. With prolonged heat it ripens to sweetness.  But the sweetness comes forth only in the crushing.  If the grape remains hard it will elude that reducing process and it’s juice remain bitter.  Redemption comes only in the yielding.

The Word is alive and sharper than a two-edged sword.  Created in His image, He gave us all the gift of the word, written and spoken.  Sharp.  Able to penetrate deep unto healing or destruction.  The more finely-honed that edge, the more intricate places it can reach.  Words can sever things delicate and tenuous.

Under the guardianship of human nature, the administration of bestowed gifts results in Adam, Eve, an apple and death.  Laid on the alter and death’s stinger removed, the gift can be anointed and used for its’ proper purpose.

Words are a precious gift.

From childhood we anticipate the long-awaited day we will make our own choices, only to one day discover that we have been making them all along.

© S.T.Lloyd 2010

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Matthew 7: 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down,and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Amos 9:13Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.

Proverbs 25:11A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Proverbs 7:2Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye