My journey the past two years has been complex. How does one reduce an epic into a short posting? Simple. You can’t. What I can do is share what is coming into view recently. It involves Hupotasso, the Oikos or New Testament Greek much of that portion of Holy Scripture was penned. It simply translates – literally – to “hear under”. Pause and consider that definition and the impact. This Greek was very specific in meaning. In Latin, the word is oboedire, to listen, hear, obey. Both convey not just a letter of the law obedience, discipline, compliance, which our understanding has morphed to mean, especially today when obedience is good for a dog, but calls forth a resistance emotive response when considering one’s self allowing another – charged word here – control over our greatest western cultural more: freedom. Yet these root words imply a posture, a receptivity to “hear” and take on board what the one with sovereign role over one’s life. This is vastly different.
Rather than a treatise on obedience, I’m writing to [attempt] to summarize a long, complex, and often very humble and painful season in my life. It’s not to glorify that journey at all, nor to elicit some special spiritual journey, but rather, my own learning, realization and what I am realizing – which is NOT informational, not realization, but rather, capacity, ability, transformational manifestation and reality in my life.
I thought I understood “surrender” to God… I had surrendered to the best of my capacity, ability and will as far as God has brought me during my life. I had done this several times, including during this two year experience where Lamentations 3 became my heart’s tears before the Lord.
Yet, just now is there an awakening, from Him – not due to any ability, effort, or work on my part. I’ve been listening, seeking, submitting, but just now “getting” – being given a new capacity to embrace, thank and appreciate, obedience in a completely new light. My hearing under actually is due to something that may appear tangential… ability and capacity for intimacy with the Father. Yes, there is lots tied to early origin issues, my own life, coping and protection from those unhealed areas – which by the way, I had invested in healing from, but have come to see this journey is far more than counseling, spiritual formation and that God does work over an entire life time and somethings are only revealed, transformed, digested over such decades and journey with Him. This intimacy, or capacity for intimacy with Him, trust to His lead, abandon of dreams, self need for worth, be it position, esteem, relations, circumstance, success, ability, competency, comes from a growth in the ability to embrace His love, delight, joy, and complete focus of His attention and love… Simply, but so complex – God loves me. Woe. The words don’t capture the enormity of that reality… no work, no worthiness, no success, no improvement, no sacrifice – He does. Over time comes the surrender to trust Him, then to trust Him when we don’t understand, then when it hurts, then when there is nothing, but Him.
Then the great transformation that whatever He allows or brings – all of it is brought as part of the journey with Him – that to live present TODAY – THIS HOUR – as well as calling, contribution, vocation (spiritual calling), job, location… that right now – no matter what He is calling us to emulate, cooperate, be with, imitate, BE Christ to every person, every circumstance, every moment, event if nothing and no one, but to be with Him, see it all from Him, see it all as us with the royal honor to embody Him to others and to see them as we are engaging Him. This type trust, this capacity, this abandonment for my success, future, ambition is transformed to my opportunity to serve – to be an ambassador – my honor to sacrifice, surrender, trust, love, experience with Christ right now…
Martyrs, the Saints, the oppressed and their courage, so sentimental, so seemingly trite, is a peak inside an intimacy that we don’t understand from the outside – No, only from experience personally does it make sense! Only then can one “get” this fraternity of those who have a deep intimacy and shared experience of being obedient. Only then can one surrender and allow whatever and have real joy.
As I write that, I re-read the words. It feels or could communicate an elitism. Far from it. The past two years have stripped me, shown me coping defensive mechanism, ugly sides of me I couldn’t see, didn’t realize, revealed my wounding of others, my forceful personality that could control, intimidate, draw in and then exact. I spent over a year “done” with even having close relationships, daring to ever trust anyone again, sealed inside a cocoon of shame, in reality rejecting grace, healing, risk for future. I felt ugly and dirty and horrible as I had not seen so much of it. I wasn’t horrible – but there was truth in the indictments. Yet, the end of the day, so much had been lost, some relationships lost; shame my due portion. To end up at my end and He still loves me, no matter what the future holds, that if there is no future serving the King in an outward tangible manner, that I am yet His, yet called to imitate Him engaging the postman, or barista, the silence of a day alone, or the demands of work or unfair anger released at me. All of it is from Him, a journey with Him, my calling to be trustingly surrendered and “hearing under” His hand, His words, His leading, the transformation of who I am to be like Him… and to be like Him in my heart, even is silent and not known by another. The capacity to be this person is a grace, a mystery yet to me.
Can I live out what I am realizing? I am making a humble sincere effort to be that person in every encounter. It’s easy with the pharmacist at the drug store, the person who made my coffee, even my kids. Can I do it when it’s not fair, mean, rejection. I want to! I can accept the intimacy of God more and more, and therefore, more capacity to follow Him each moment of each day.
Mount Flemish in NE part of the Isle of IRE where Patrick as a teenager herded sheep as a slave; thought to be lost, dead to family in Britain.
I think of my hero, St Patrick, the years lost in slavery, cold on a small mountain herding sheep, alone… no future told him. I think of Joseph’s 22 years journey from his cruel brothers’ selling him into slavery through to becoming Regent of the Egyptian empire; of Paul’s unfair treatments, the end of life for almost all the early Apostles, the life of most of the Saints, the martyrs in China, Russia, the Arab world as I type. This is not just gritting of the teeth, mind you, but a heart “hearing under” to obey, be formed in the seasons of every day, throughout the seasons of the decades of life…to trust and walk with Him, trusting – burning, murdering (to mortify) my will, my ambition, my understanding, my preferences to His will for me…and to do so not gritting my teeth, but with the joy and honor to be given the life He decrees. Brother Lawrence makes more sense now. Joan d’Arc makes more sense, the stories of Chinese Christians make more sense.
My concern, this is less and less known in our consumer, materialistic, self absorbed western world where indulgence, entertainment, self realization and happiness are the priority; where freedom to pursue “my” desires is paramount, my rights, my avoidance of even delayed gratification, much less anything I do not “get” is less and less appreciated. I spent decades myself wrestling to where I am now, and only after being dashed against the rocks, does it begin to make sense.
The result – peace; even joy; rest and end of striving for tomorrow; not an emptiness as in nothing there, but a contentment and openness that if He leads me to pursue something more, dare I say, “ambitious” then I can do so without question and not worrying about the results for me… but the results of being able to have intimate relationship together as I live to be Christ in the small moment by moment day as I engage people.
I am nearing being able to say – “thank you” to God for the deep crevice of the past two years. I am human; I do want to hear Him dispatch me with Holy orders to make a contribution that fully envelops my experience, talents, gifts, desires, passions, and potential. I do want to intentionally and overtly be used in the Kingdom – BUT – I can wait and if He says, no; if He says I am to spend these last decades hidden, silent, quiet, prayer and not actor, then I have the capacity to surrender, hear under, embrace and celebrate that He is forging me in and through this, that I CAN trust Him, CAN be intimate and that it is NOT punishment, but His and my journey together, my formation and transformation and it is specially designed for me.