Monday, January 31, 2011

Trail Running - THE TUNDRA

What can happen to me and you when a shortage of life sustaining oxygen begins to choke us and lightning threatens to strike?

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19

The tundra is serene with its tiny alpine flowers, trickling brooks and azure blue lakes with herds of elk grazing on tiny sweet grass. Rising out of the smooth landscape, rugged mountains display the power of a mighty creator. An afternoon thunderstorm looms on the horizon, the result of lower valley warm air rising to meet the cool dry air. The threat of lightning is eminent. At an elevation starting at 10,000 feet, the lower atmospheric pressure permits oxygen to dissipate to a lower concentration leaving you and me with nearly 20% less oxygen to consume every breath.

For this reason, trail running in the tundra is not usually something I set out to do. Rather, it is out of the necessity to escape an impeding afternoon thunderstorm that running ensues. My survival becomes dependent on the amount of oxygen I can transport to the muscles. A lack of oxygen can choke the life out of me.

I do not set out to “trail run the tundra” in my spiritual life – a climate and geography which should be serene and peaceful but has danger looming on the horizon illustrated by hypocrisy and judgment. I often find myself hustling in order to escape “lightning” looming all around me. Whenever I fall short in my attainments to measure up to the expectations of a Christian social and performance standard, I expect to be met with forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration – that is what Jesus would do. But, “lighting” looks like all things contrary to the grace given us by Christ’s death on the cross: failure to patch things up, judgment, legalism, harboring bitterness, gossip and committing slander. You could probably add to this list.  

When a believer is condemned by men over and over for their failure to measure up to a set of standards unattainable to the measure of faith given to them at the time (Romans 12:3) then, the condemnation will choke the life out of them. This often results in wanting to give up or run away or in my case suffocating and “grasping for breath.” Many followers of Jesus will not even allow themselves to enter the “tundra” per se. That is to mean, they will not attend a church for fear of the looming “lightning” or many leave a church for the same reason. A lightning strike is extremely painful searing the flesh and roasting the internal organs of a Christ follower.

My first encounter with a direct lightning strike came from a pastor. He said, “I won’t marry anyone that has been married before.” This was a direct hit to my redemption story. Because of the credibility I gave a person over the Word of God, I labored for almost a week as to whether the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection was real. In a small community of women and a compassionate counselor that loved the Lord and pursued Him with an all-consuming passion, they reminded me of the sureness of my salvation by drenching me with passages of hope from the Bible. God went on to demonstrate His goodness and the truth of my redemption powerfully by providing not just a Christian husband but one who embodied the essence of a man after God’s own heart.  
 A more recent strike comes as the result of my three failed attempts to reconcile and bring restoration in to a complicated relationship scenario. The continual rejection of peace and unity opened the dried scabs and allowed tiny microbes to slowly feast on the wound until I cried out in reactionary pain. With puss oozing out my soul, I fasted and sought God for answers to why my prayers for peace went without notice. He was faithful to respond by reminding me about Abigail (see study of Abigail below).

Spiritual transformation and growing in grace only occurs in the life of a believer after a person is met with a posture of compassion, mercy and forgiveness – Jesus models this for us with the woman about to be stoned for adultery. It is after we kneel down in a posture of peace we can speak in to their lives and encourage them to grow in grace. This occurs in relationship. But, avoidance tactics are demoralizing and do not permit healing and restoration to transpire. It feels like sitting waiting to be stoned to death (John 8) - thank you Jesus that you kneel down and meet us in our frailties.

But, there is hope. I have to remind myself and tell my brothers and sisters, our life is not measured by what we do but whose we are. If we remember this, we will stop allowing those distant and apart from Christ to suck the life out of us. God will meet us in our “trail run across the tundra” and remove condemnation and judgment and fill us with His peace. Ask the Holy Spirit to wash you with the truth of whose you are. Let me help you:

The events of the Old Testament speak of what is to come in the New Testament (Luke 24:27 – The Principal of Progressive Revelation). God once called for the blood of an animal to make atonement for sins – a life depended on this action. Today, Jesus’ blood is the final blood sacrifice giving us life (Ephesians 1:7). By an act of faith in Jesus to be such a sacrifice, we are declared righteous in God’s sight (Romans 4) and not by anything we do or any measure of righteousness we attain by our good efforts. We should be quick to remember:

Murder = unforgiveness, gossip, slander (both are equally grotesque in God’s holiness and judgment)

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Leviticus 17:11

I used to live and sleep at elevations over 9000 feet. My blood adapted to this existence of living. If I continue to believe whose I am and not what I do to be the measure of my performance then, less oxygen does not choke me. In this new “biome” I now live in, I can adapt to maintain an existence of peace and joy. I have to remind myself Jesus’ blood is the source of my eternal life. It is adequate to sustain me with everything I need for life, liberty and joy (2 Peter 1:3). It is only my perception that I am short of oxygen.

Reflection and Study:
Hero of the Bible – Abigail, 1 Samuel 25:1-44

The character of Abigail in the Bible is an example of just such a hero. Although she is from the Old Testament before the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, she represents the fortitude to endure painful oxygen depleting environments. Her husband Nabal was surly and mean in his dealings (vs. 3) and a drunkard (vs. 36). She likely put up with many years of harsh treatment and condemnation from her husband. And yet, as her demeanor of intelligence and beauty (vs. 3) play itself out she acts swiftly to cause this oppressor (her husband) to receive mercy from David’s ensuing attack. Abigail had no love for Nabal (vs. 25) but did have God’s heart for peace and reconciliation. She did not allow the meanness she had experienced from her husband to infiltrate her heart even though she had no doubt been struck by his “lightning” many times. She knew how to keep evil from conquering her and how to overcome evil by doing good (Romans ).

If we are to live like Jesus and Abigail what might we do? Here is what I am working on: 

·        Stay true to whose I am in Christ (Ephesians 1:7).
·        Continually offer compassion, mercy, and grace to an aggressor by posturing myself in love and forgiveness prior to asking them to grow spiritually in grace – just like Jesus does (John 8:1-11).
·        Pray for my own heart (Psalm 51).
·        Pray for my aggressor. Pray for Godly sorrow through the working of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians ).
·        Share with others what I am learning so that they too can learn (Matthew 28:19).
·        Forgive my aggressors as Jesus did even as they mock us, spit on us and stab us in the side with a spear (Matthew 27:27-31 and Luke 23:34).


Do you have memories of experiencing God in different "climates and geography"? Trail Running is a six week blog series looking at different environments we see Jesus face-to-face.

THE RAINFOREST (coming next week)


Living in Extreme Ways said...

Sorry this blog is a little long but it has some really good meat in it :)


organize said...

Meat and Potatoes ! Love it.