Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World

Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World
"You had better be a round peg in a square hole than a round peg in a round hole. The latter is in for life, while the first is only an indeterminate sentence." – Elbert Hubbard

Crosses Hurt! Ask Me How I know...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Okay, a good Facebook friend of mine recently wrote a very difficult post and in it, he included the following quote by Fulton Ousler

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.

I have to admit that I know absolutely nothing about Fulton Ousler. After googling the guy, I am rather ashamed that I don't. The link above will take you to the unadulterated infallible cloud inspired almighty Wikipedia, and it will give a glimpse into this man's life and the huge corpus of material he left behind. Since I've never read any of it, the only thing I can comment on is the quote above, left so graciously by my good friend, Chad Holtz. The statement really got into my soul! I mean, I read it weeks ago in the middle of a post where my friend was sharing his heart over something that was intensely personal, and I am sure, somewhat embarrassing for him as well. My heart was moved by his situation and I cried and prayed for him. And, I continue to do so today. But in the background, that quote kept ringing in my ears like church bells reverberating in a bell tower. And while I heard Oursler's words, I also heard my own voice screaming back at me in response, "that is you!!!" 

For 15+ years, I have suffered the regret of past failures. I was a young preacher who was in the right place but at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons. I've lived with a sense of call from the age of 11. It was real, still is. But, it got messed up because of allot of family and self esteem issues. So, when I finally got to where I thought I was supposed to be, I screwed it all up. I was in a bad marriage with three children, I was barely 21 years of age with no real education or training behind me, and it was a recipe for disaster. It took over six years, but my utter defeat happened, and I have held my head in shame ever since. 

I have facebook friends who were colleagues of mine back in those days. Most of them avoid me like the plague. I think they befriended me out of some morbid curiosity. In all honestly, I despise them. They sat back and watched me burn. When it was all said and done, they no longer knew who I was; they had suddenly forgotten my phone number. Not a single one of them, from my best friend to my worst enemy, ever tried to help me. I was left out in the cold, alone, and hurting. So, yeah, I know a little bit about being crucified on the cross of regret. 

Fear of the future is another cross I am very familiar with. The only two things I've ever known how to do, is be a plumber and a preacher. When I got divorced and lost my church (not in that order), I just naturally went back to what I knew to do. I guess it was a bit like Peter going back to fishing after Jesus was buried. The best thing in town was gone and all he knew how to do was fish. I lost my access to do what I was called to do (mainly because I was in a very strict Pentecostal/Fundamentalist denomination where the stain of divorce ran red as crimson), so I grabbed my wrenches and I went back to working with pipe. 

But, I got hurt; fell down a flight of stairs, and to make a long story short, I still suffer extreme pain, have rod and screws in my spine, and I've lost the only other thing I ever knew to do, besides preach. That was 12 years ago; 12 LONG years! Since, I've dabbled with education, taken 75-80 credits of liberal arts classes, sort of aimlessly, and I've pondered the prospect of returning to the ministry in a mainline church where the idea of being divorced doesn't make me a huge liability. But, in the end, I've never really recovered. I have just hung on those two crosses and I know what it feels like when Psalmist cries:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. [Psalms 22:14-15, ESV]

It is a horrible place to be! But, through all of this, I keep coming back to Jacob (I know, I'm all over the place with this. It gets worse!), that Old Testament patriarch. He always gets a bad rap because of his name and some bad choices, but he was a honorable man who worked hard for his family and his possessions. He's fleeing again, this time not really due to anything that he's done wrong per se. It is the Eve before he will lay eyes upon a brother that he screwed decades earlier. The failures of yesterday, and the fear of tomorrow is starring him directly in the face! You can read all about it in Genesis 31-33. It's an epic story, indeed. 

Jacob crosses the river for solitude and to no doubt, ponder the past as well as the future as it is set before him. This may well be his last night on earth. Esau could kill tomorrow. He probably should have. After all, Jacob had stolen from Esau his very birthright and taken from him the blessing of his beloved father. But in the midst of all this mental anguish, an Angel appears and they wrestle all night. I don't know, maybe the point of the whole thing was to simply get Jacob's mind off of all the "what if's" that were swirling around in his head. Regardless, in the end, Jacob prevails (which is quite impressive if you really think of it!), his name is changed from that of "heel grabber" to that of a victor. He's no longer a victim! He has striven with both God and man and prevailed! It cost him though. He was crippled from that day on, for the rest of his life. But, something tells me that Jacob hardly ever noticed. 

Those two crosses cast huge shadows in my life; I will not deny that. But, like Jacob, I am eying that stream. I am headed to the other side and if I have to wrestle God, then I will damn well fight, because I am so tired of the nails, the sweat and agony of defeat, my tongue stuck to the very roof of my mouth, taking away my voice. Jesus only had to hang there for six hours, give or take. I feel like I've been here my entire life. But, enough is enough, and the first step to recovery is to simply admit that you need help. And, Ousler has given voice to what I need to cry out like the blind beggar, sitting by the road to Jericho, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Luke 18:38) Get me off this cross!


Lisa said...

Chris, When Jesus died on that cross, He died for ALL our sin...past, present and future. You have ALWAYS been forgiven. Now it's time (past time)to forgive yourself.
Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.
The only one who can take you off that cross is.... you. :)

colindarling said...

I've screwed up often and big time. One of the most painful parts of being in a church is coping with fundamentalists and biblical literalists. Surely we have to take Scripture seriously but some people are just painfully difficult. HOWEVER, there is so much we can agree on and Romans 8:1 - "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." has go tto be one of them. Maybe it is time to forgive yourself and move onward and upwards . . .

C. M. Keel, Sr said...

Thank for the response, Lisa. I suppose you were there with me, eh?

Colindarling, I am sorry I missed this earlier. Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate that!

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