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our suffering servant

IMG_5855I’ve spent a considerable amount of time debriefing my recent stay in a Third World country. The jetlag has been the worst I’ve ever experienced. It probably has more to do with my age than the actual lag. Honestly, it has kicked my butt.

While I did see incredible beauty on my journey, some of what I heard and witnessed was disturbing. I think disturbed should be the appropriate response to anyone who is truly paying attention. Since returning home, I’ve sat some hours in my office staring at the Suffering Servant. I’ve wondered, “Do You see all of that? Do You truly feel and internalize the pain that is for real in this world?”

Oh yeah, I took it further. “How guilty are we Christians of our magical thinking? Aren’t You supposed to fix everything? The innocent, Lord. The innocent…”

Crickets

“WHAT ABOUT THE FRIKK’N INNOCENT?”

More Crickets

“Aren’t You in control, micro-managing all of our lives? If so, You’re doing a pathetic job. If you want to talk about it, I’d be glad to fill You in.”

God’s quiet can be deafening. His nearness so dense. It’s like trying to take a breath under water.

My 83 year old pastoral mentor recently said to me, “Michael, there are just some things we are not to know or understand this side of heaven.” That actually helps some. Maybe, “I don’t know” is a good answer after all for life’s hurtful complexities.

I’ve had a lot of paradigm shifts in my lifetime. Most of them comprised of simple spiritual formation. The first happened when I was 19 years old. I married Patti Cox. I knitted my soul to the woman I’ve always loved. That’s a game changer. I’m still convinced it was the most spiritual moment of my life, and I didn’t know it at the time. The poor girl has put up with a lot of bullshit. It’s quite possible she still does.

The second was when I met Jesus Christ the Nazarene. I belonged to Him before I really knew it, but coming into that knowledge invited a lifetime of metamorphic change. I’ve never really gotten over the relationship and it’s effects on me.

The third happened when my eyes opened to the person-hood of the Holy Spirit. Whoa! That was a wild ride. That one right there changed how I read and saw scripture. Ministry became more about right here and now. Another game changer for sure.

The next major shift happened quite unexpectedly. For years I have worked through a friend’s teachings on the New Covenant (Anth Chapman). That’s when it dawned on me that I had given quite a bit of my spiritual life to dualistic thinking. Everything had been reduced to right or wrong, good or evil, and black or white. Life is much more complex than that. Being good and being right doesn’t always equate to the end we have in mind or what we think we’ve been promised. It’s bad math for living real life. Regardless of what we perceive or feel, God loves us. That is when it dawned on me that the systems of man is where the pressure originates. We are not under pressure from God. We don’t have to perform for His love. You don’t have to (thank God) be perfect to be loved by God. God IS love. Big shift. BIG shift.

Lastly, in 2010 I was introduced to A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr and Paula D’Arcy, and it rocked me to the core. In discovering that material, there was an incredible vitality and invitation to transition to a new land spiritually. I didn’t want to be stuck in my old paradigms. I wanted deliverance from my container of certitudes. For as long as I have been discipled by Rohr, I have always known that he had an incredible influence of liberation. He was comfortable with mystery. I was terrified of mystery. Those teachings softened my hard edges towards pain, hurt, loss, death, sickness, injustice, trauma, and tears. I don’t necessarily like any of those things, but I think I move much quicker now to find God’s quiet when those things surface. In that quiet, our Suffering Servant whispers, “I know. I see. I grieve also.” But that is usually all that is said in the moment. Those words never seem to change the external reality, no matter how horrible it may be. That doesn’t seem to be a part of the deal.

No matter how much we continue to preach a winner’s script gospel, brokenness is everywhere. Even the most devout are afflicted in their humanness.  If we can’t see that, we probably need some sort of serious adjustment. He said, “You’ll always have the poor with you.” My goodness that is such a hard saying! Would it be good for us to get everything in our lifetime just the way we want it? Would it make us better servants of Jesus if we got everything nice and easy? I think deep down we know the answer to those questions. “My grace is sufficient” is the stony path that pierces unsolvable trials. He promises to go through with us. Escape isn’t often on the table. It surely wasn’t for Him, for Paul, or the first twelve.

There is a solid soberness inside of aged wisdom that recognizes everything belongs. Some days I think I’m there. Other days I wonder. Mostly I surmise that I’m a long way off. I realize it’s almost an unthinkable notion to religious folks, but I’m very close to people who live with searing pain, and at times the only comfort I can find are in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” That is our Jesus – our God – and that’s what we have. Like it, love it, or hate it; it must be enough. It has to be enough. I’m convinced it will always be enough.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Love you all,

Mike

xo

If you’ve at least reached your forties, you would probably benefit from Rohr’s CD series, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Click to be directed to his website. I double-dog dare ya!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Joseph Rodriguez
    June 7, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Mike
    Wisdom does not always provide clear answers.. His ways are beyond us, but we’re ever learning to trust Him… Great Blog!!! I enjoyed your thoughts greatly… you my bro…

  2. Rene
    June 7, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Thanks, God……..for having Mike write this. YOU already knew I needed it. All honor and glory be to you, Father, forever and ever.

  3. Nicole
    June 7, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    So, so good!

  4. June 8, 2016 at 12:25 am

    Mike,
    I don’t like it, but know it’s truth externally, just wish to be consoled internally so often. Thanks buddy!

    • June 8, 2016 at 7:28 am

      Mark… that IS the job of the Comforter! I have found that He does apply the balm to our hearts, but I must concede that its not all that easy for us to receive what we need internally while what is happening externally is so hard. We might be in the way of our consoling. Maybe?

      Thanks for reading bro.

  5. June 8, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Mike, after I read your blog I went straight to Ecclesiastes 7 (1-4 & 13). When I get in that foxhole of sadness I read this chapter 7 . Your writing is amazing. Love you and yours.

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