Long Read: Less of us, more of God
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” -Matt 5:4 The Message
My friend was devastated. You could see it on his face. The card board box that held some of his children’s clothes and toys had been deteriorating from water damage. It could no longer hold its contents and had split at the bottom. Small shoes, outdated video games and some stuffed animals spilled out on the floor. It had been two years since the kids had spent time at his place. My buddy didn’t say anything. He held on to his dignity. It was a box that he, on purpose, hadn’t looked into the last two years. It was just too painful.
We were helping my friend move into a double wide trailer home. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with a trailer home. In fact, this place is clean, well maintained and a mansion compared to what most people in the world call home. But my buddy has fallen hard.
His story is not uncommon although in isolation he is tempted feel like he is the only one. I know this because he has told me in not so many words. He was married to a beautiful and wealthy lady. They had two beautiful kids together. He had a nice corporate job. She was an heiress.
Shortly after they were married, he started noticing symptoms. Some tingles in his feet. Certain things, like walking, didn’t work as well. He started seeing doctors but nobody seemed to know what was going on. Whispers of debilitating diseases started floating around. MS, ALS, and others were discussed but it was a mystery. No one could figure it out. He was terrified.
His condition worsened as the years went by. My friend will tell you that he has not done everything right. Inside, he was angry. Things just were not the way God intended. And he lashed out in anger, often. Clinical depression set in. Confusion reigned. He had no idea what was happening to him. And the marriage. Well, it just could not handle the stress. Admittedly, he thought that his marraige would take care of itself. In fact, all of hell on earth reigns down on marriage. He just believed his marriage could handle it. It was a fatal miscalculation. It broke. And the anger ratcheted up. And he crawled into isolation and denial. And as he would admit, he medicated on things not so Biblical.
It took twelve years for the marriage to nose dive. In the mean time, his wife had been working on her law degree. After it ended, she went to work, successfully lobbying the courts to give her full custody of the children. His health continued to decline and the un-diagnosed neurological condition began to cause his voice to slur. And he found himself tumbling down into despair. Because of his voice, folks made assumptions. Employment became harder. He has an unusually high IQ but who would know? We make so many assumptions. And one of his legs made it more difficult to walk. He moves a little slower than the average guy.
And the anger from the betrayal in his marriage on top of the anger from the times he betrayed himself on top of the physical struggle has resulted in a slow and steady fall downward. And he really struggles with what we all struggle with. It is a sense of entitlement to the way things should be. I don’t blame him. I am no different.
We see interesting behavior in the way children act. When a little girl looses something that she feels entitled to, she gets sad. But when little boys loose their entitlement, well we get mad. And this anger thing is a huge issue, because inside anger is a well fleeced motivation. Most of us men are not aware of it. We are simply trying to control our surroundings. And in despair we lash out. Forcing, trying to subvert the will of those closest to us into some sort of different, better behavior. It never works for long.
James 1:19-20 tells us:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
James is simply stating that anger doesn’t work.
So there my buddy stood, looking over this box of clothes that his kids had out grown, and this flood of memories rushed at him like a Mack truck. It was a glaring reminder that his kids should be with him. We had a short conversation. He needed his space. So us friends helping him move into the double wide went to get other things out of the vehicle. In that moment he made a split second decision.
“Throw it out”
And for him, I have to say that it was one of his best decisions. He faced his reality. He was moving on. He could no longer hold these old entitlements hostage. In a small way, he rebooted his life.
He is in the process of being called up into something great.
Over the last twelve years our christian play book of judgement was powerless to transform my friend. Plenty of church folks in his life. They would standby on the outside and offer up zinger scriptures about how he needed to behave better. If you speak to him about those guys, he will simply turn red in the face. He can smell fake from a half mile. He knows when someone just wants to nose around a little, maybe throw him some christian cliche about “brother, you just got to know who you are in Christ”. He knows when we saints want to absolve ourselves from fighting in the trenches with him.
His situation does not fit our clean, little christian box. His body is not behaving and he has made bad choices. Divorce. He struggles with anger. And all of this slung him out of a comfortable life into a double wide. His kids got lost in the mix. His ex-wife is angry and hurt too.
And you know the cool part? He is thankful. He is still moving forward. He is scratching and clawing to stay in the presence of Jesus. And Jesus always regarded acts of desperation as faith.
His situation reminds me of a scripture:
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10
There is a day coming when God will redeem that which my friend has lost. I believe that. In fact is happening before my eyes. It is real and lasting change. He is becoming the person he was always meant to be.
Hope. It is this beautiful thing that God delivers us as He is delivering us.
And God has gathered around him capable deep friends. Guys who are offering him friendship without judgement. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing in the hearts of those around him. These men are walking out Romans 2:4. We are a motley crew of men. It seems that none of them “think lightly of the riches of His kindness”
My friend is learning it by example. He texted his ex-wife, asking for extra time with the kids. She hammered him with a curt “No”. He responded in kindness and moved on. Totally out of character for him. It is beautiful to see. It is the Holy Spirit transforming him, and transforming us.
And by the way, in the last month my friend finally got an accurate diagnosis and now the road to healing begins.