Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"O Captain! My Captain!" When Our Heroes Are Fallen.

"I fluxuate in the course of a day from feeling like a strong crusader, to feeling like a black-cloaked betrayer, to simply feeling delusional, and then back to believing I underestimate God. At the end of the day… I am them all. 
There are times when running feels like an inviting option. But realistically I could never set my feet to go. It would make me an oath-breaker, an abandoner, a quitter, a doubter, and the ripples would be eternal.
I can't call us frauds, because I've never seen the genuine article. Everyone I know is deeply screwed up. Even my heroes fall… we are none of us saints. I have no doubt that the gates of Hell are against us because of the pivotal nature of this time."
-excepts of a note to my wife, a time not so long ago

Everyone… and I mean everyone I talk to always asks the same question like the cawing of a crow. It is simply the truth of our experience they really want to know. And yet I wonder, where the truth lies deep… should I give it breath, would they  only hear defeat?

All the cards are on the table right now. We are fully extended, and we are too far gone to come back now. This is what it means to be past the point of no return. We can no longer feel the heat of the ship that burned behind us. There are times when we miss the glow of that fire when the air carries a sharp silence along the darkness.

This is the unglamorous time of a missionary. The thrill of a beginning has gone evanescent and yet we have very little to tangibly show for our efforts. We have thrown our entire lot into this sacred calling: all our finances, all our relationships, the future of our marriage, and the well-being of our children. We have done this with prayer, preparation, and eyes wide open.

And we rely on those behind us who have pledged to hold us up… spiritually, financially, morally. But the reality is that it is not thrilling to pay for electricity, tanks of propane, gasoline & diesel for transportation, and even to put food on our table. And support money for our existence runs thinner every month. That knowledge becomes a presence that can sit over our heads like a black animate cloud with claws. 

We have secured the property for Casa de la Abuelita, Journey Church | Guatemala is growing and thriving, the kids are flourishing and growing, our work at the two schools seems to expand the Kingdom of God daily. God is blessing our endeavors at every turn. People's lives are being changed and God surprises us daily with his promises fulfilled. This mission is blessed!

And still… it is like the tolling of a bell when the tangible evidence of our support continues to dwindle. The bell grows softer and the darkness threatens to consume. Perhaps this is a necessary test of faith for me. There must be something I am meant to learn. Maybe I need to be less self-consumed, or live leaner, or maybe I just need to be further broken. Maybe I have too much pride… or not enough compassion. Maybe I just need to further abandon self. I think likely it is all that, and more.

I draw hope today in the life of Carman Licciardello. He is a christian who travelled the world while I was in high school, packing out coliseums and concert halls… never charging admission. His music and faith was powerful. Carman has been hit with cancer, and he has made his fight public. I have watched him as he faced death… I could feel him wanting to rage, but choosing to praise. 

So many of my heroes have fallen. Every time they do it is a piece of my heart that seems to die. I spoke with a man who runs an inner-city substance abuse recovery program in the city (Guatemala City) and he explained when the famous Televangelist fell in the 90's, how it cost his mission and missionaries all over the globe dearly… funding sources dried up as people lost their faith when this prominent man proved to be a charlatan. We are all such creatures of imperfection… and yet we all long to see something genuine.

May God give us strength as we reach for the only truth in the universe… Him. May we daily die to be more like… Him. Because our heroes will fall. There is no righteousness apart from God. We press on.

We are doing our best to make up the shortfall. This incredible opportunity at the school where I pour my life into the lives of 200 Guatemalan students… it covers the cost of our monthly rent. We have 5 key families and 5 key churches that blow us away with their passion and generosity. We have a great friend who will be running races, every footfall raising money for our family. We know God will provide…

…if we remain faithful. If we forsake all others in this calling. If we are willing to die daily to self and be made alive only through him.

I have no doubt that something great is just on the verge. I can feel electricity in the air. And yet… the cliff is a dangerous place to stand.

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

~Walt Whitman, 1819-1892

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