Saturday, June 16, 2012

Evict The Old Man

There are no excuses. If there were any, I would have the least amount.

I have been told clearly by the LORD, in the deepest parts of my despair upon learning of my son's condition, "If you would see change in his life, give Me yours." It was clear, concise, and unmistakable.

I had by that point devoted years to gleefully wasting time. I cherished every moment I stole in front of my computer, playing games created of pixels, in the hope of obtaining shinier pixels.

Utter foolishness. But it was *my* foolishness, you see.

It was my life, I reasoned. I would do with it what I wished. If I wanted to stay up until the sun rose playing World of Warcraft, who would tell me to stop that had authority over me? So what if that rendered me effectively useless to anyone who needed me the following day. I was "Night Guy", that was "Morning Guy's" problem. It was my money with which I subscribed to the game
, my money that purchased the computer and the Internet service. I wasn't running the streets or unable to be found. I was hurting no one. Sound, fleshly reasoning. That where said reasoning was not made of outright lies it was rather comprised of complete and utter selfishness was immaterial. That my children, who look to me to see their first indelible image of what it means to be a man, did not see a man being conformed in obedience into the image of Jesus, as a disciple of His must be, but that of a creature so absorbed with his own pursuits that he only gave the side of his head to his wife in those hours, and poorly squelched annoyance at their requests and attempts at conversations (see: interruptions) was just as irrelevant to my flesh.

My wife, the gift God gave to me, the treatment of whom I will be judged before the throne of God with the greatest scrutiny and severity above all my life's relationships, I absently hoped would bear with me--endure the pestilence I had become, even as she prayed I would become the man she had fallen in love with again before her patience gave out.

I recount this and fight tears. May it please the LORD that I never grow calloused or accepting of my sin, its effects, and especially its consequences, but ever grieve over all which I have done, and which required the Master, the Father's Son, to suffer and be rejected of men and die in agony to pay for. May I never forget that, as was the case of David and Bathsheba, even forgiven sin has lasting consequences which can cost lives long after my own has expired.

So, despite this warning from a loving God... despite the admonishment given in love, the mercy and grace bestowed upon me, I did not obey the Master's command to deny myself. I did not obey the command to suffer and give glory to God in it. I did not obey the command to reject what I am and put it to death. Not in full.

I did not hate my sin enough to stop playing with it.

So I found ways to reinsert gaming into a life swept clean of it, hoping in mad stupidity that what Jesus *said* specifically would happen in such an event would not happen to me. I lived in quiet fear of judgment for what I knew in my heart to be disobedience. I begged God to make me into that which obeys Him, hoping to somehow avoid the suffering of the command to deny myself, and, asking amiss thereby, not receiving what I begged God for. Jesus laid His glory down and took the form of a slave, suffered and died in obedience to His Father, and I think I can get a free pass? No, Steven, you lazy, double minded waste of human flesh! No slave is greater than his Master! You must deny what you are, suffer rejection and humiliation for it, and DIE!

I found ways to play at work instead of home, and thought myself clever for my ingenuity, a more mature person for doing so with moderation, as though disobedience to YHWH, Who is nothing if not utterly intolerant of disobedience, is somehow clever or ingenious.

I continued to live as *I* saw fit, just in a suppressed manner. The throne of the temple of the Living God, which I am to be, was still held by the usurper; the Old Tyrant. The one who cares for nothing save his own pursuits and desires to the detriment of all he loves. My mortal enemy. The one possessed of enough wickedness in himself to require no "accuser", no Satan, to accuse me before the Throne; his corruption speaks its own volumes. 

I hate him with the same force I had for the predatory insect that stung my youngest daughter on the eyelid a couple of years ago. The same genocidal disgust. He is selfishness personified; wanting only what he wants, when he wants it, allowing all he knows to be right to be shunted aside by an easy excuse, like "you're gonna sin anyway..." if it means he can attain it. He is the complete antithesis of all which the Word of the LORD called me to be, a living sacrifice unto Him.

He is, in the truest sense of the expression, only good to me dead.

I spoke of it to my brothers and sisters in the LORD and received varying responses. Some were supportive and understanding, even led to conviction within themselves. The most strident were those who, meaning well, admonished me not to "wallow" in my sinfulness, to in fact not worry over it at all, because it will happen no matter what I do and it therefore can not be avoided. That to go on in this way would lead to unhealthy depression over the failure.

While I could see not only how they meant well, but also even their logic behind what they said, my spirit all but ripped out of its clothes in gamma radiation fueled rage at so dangerously, even seductively lazy a claim for the one who is called to die to take hold of.

The LORD did not tell His disciples and those whom He delivered that they were not to overly concern themselves with their failure to obey, or to put forth their very best effort to sin no more. His words were explicit, emphatic--in terms too clear to mistake without the flesh offering such a casual, costless explanation. The woman rescued from stoning, and the man delivered from 38 years of inability to walk in the Temple of Jerusalem, were not told by Jesus to do their best, or make allowances for their propensity to sin.

In John 5:14, Jesus says to the man given the ability to walk after 38 years of inability, "Behold, though art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee."

In John 8:11, Jesus says to the woman rescued form being stoned to death, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

The word translated into English as "no more" in both verses is

μηκέτι (mēketi)

It means: No longer. No more. Not hereafter.

And that is *all* it means. Not as best you can. Not as much as you are able. It means not after this. To say otherwise is to say that, after such a display of grace to achieve the impossible as making a cripple walk after almost 40 years, Jesus then told him to do something which could not by His grace be done in the man's life.   

So I yet disobeyed, but because I yet humbled myself and cried out to the LORD in fear and dismay at my actions, he showed me something in the wee hours of the morning of Friday, June 15th, 2012, before my alarm went off.

I had come home.

It was my ideal home. Not the one in which I live in life, but the one in which I would call home in my heart if I had been able to determine where I could spend my life. It had three attributes to define it as such.

1) On the outside, it resembled the brownstone in which my family lived in when I called Brooklyn my home. Its front steps lead to the massive iron wrought doors with inlaid glass thick enough to stop bullets. It was my fortress. The neighborhood of people who were so kind to me, the city of friends and loved ones I would be torn from, and lose, and never have replaced. I looked at it, and just seeing the outward facade caused me to remember the comfort of being precisely where I belonged.

2) The inside was literally from my imagination. One of the games I play, The Sims 3, allows a person to literally build a home from the foundations to the draperies, using every color and material known to man, and I had built one for my imaginary family in the game; all to my specifications.

3) My wife was inside it. The one who chose me. The one who decided I was worth the risk, when I barely had a pot to you-know-what in, to be joined with me, and share her life with me. She was at the door when I pulled up to the driveway, which could not possibly exist in front of a Bedford Stuyvesant brownstone, looking as beautiful as ever.

Someone else was also at the door. In fact, she was letting the man in as I pulled up.

I did not recognize the man from behind, but she apparantly did, as she let him in with barely a backward glance. I went up the stairs and into the house, following him. He did not turn around and acknowledge my polite greeting, and yet I felt no threat emanating from him whatsoever, so I simply followed him. He was older than I was; I could tell from the expanse of beard and the wide, grey-flecked afro that was common in older men when I was a young man living in that part of the world. He had more hair on the sides than on top. He wore a jacket, and his movements were very slow and deliberate. He gestured to himself as he moved through the house. I continued to speak to him, asking if there was something I could do to help him, but he went on as though I were not there, completely absorbed in his own mind, gesturing in the air at some thought or another, making his way through different rooms in the house as though he knew where he was going. When I did catch a glimpse of his face as his head enough to show a profile, it was without any expression other than a frown of deep, absorbed thought, oblivious to anyone around him or any word spoken to him. Meanwhile, all I could think in the dream stupor was, "Who is this guy, and what is he doing in my house?"

Finally he stopped in an expansive room near the front of the house, having gone through the whole thing counter-clockwise. It was well furnished, with a large desk and a comfortable chair.

It was my home office. And my computer was on it.

Immediately his countenance brightened. He even smiled. He had clearly found what he was looking for, and with a satisfied confidence and an animated excitement which belied everything he had displayed before, he sat squarely in my chair and placed his hands on the mouse and keyboard.

Only at that moment, as he sat in my chair and I stood directly behind him, did it occur to me finally that this was not just some man whom we had contracted to do some work or provide an estimate for work in our home. That my wife had let the man in was no longer a question for me to ponder. He had no business in my house.

With the courtesy and authority of the master of the house, I took the man by his arm above the right elbow and lifted him from my chair.

"No," I said, shaking my head and not looking at his face. "You have to leave now."

While I had grown annoyed with him for ignoring me and his disrespect, there was no rancor or animosity in the seizing hold of the man. He was going to leave. Now. Clearly he had not only made a mistake in presumption in my home, he was not there for any good purpose at all. He had neither harmed nor frightened anyone, and he was older than I was, so I was as respectful as I was firm. He did not resist, only looked about him in puzzled confusion, as though this were the last thing he had expected to happen and could not understand how he suddenly found it occurring to him. He glanced over his shoulder, questing, but our eyes never met.

When we got to the foyer, we changed.

There is no other way to say it. We both changed.

I suddenly became him.

And I could not see who had hold of me by the upper portion of my arm. I tried to turn around, but I could not see him.

As I awoke, my thought was, "Why am I being put out of my own house??"

It disturbed me for the remainder of the day. In the beginning, I could not even remember what the offense was that caused me to seize the man and show him the to the door.

It was not until I was at work, getting ready to fire up the game as I waited for some processes to finish, that I sat stunned in my chair and remembered.

"It was this!" I whispered aloud. "He was... at my home conputer, doing *this* very thing!"

"If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself..."

"If you want to see change in his life, give Me yours."

God did not abandon me to my own stupidity. He did not let me continue in my selfish madness to ingore what He has said to me concerning my life and that of my son. He did not have done with me and kill me in my sleep, as I richly deserved, for the things I had said and done in my flesh, but rather instructed me, patiently, despite my foolishness.

There are no excuses.

That I am human and prone to sin is neither excuse nor license to continue in it. Such teaching is not only common, it is lazy and will destroy every soul not granted grace to vomit it out in utter rejection. Provision was made for those whom God has called out from before the foundation of the world to obey His Son. We are to deny what we are, suffer humiliation and rejection for it, and yield it up in living sacrifice. We are, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, bid to come and die when Christ calls a man. The old man, the tyrant, the one that does what he wants whenever he wants, must be shown to the door. That man is *us*. We are given grace to obey that command and suffer for it, to put our very selves out, and the Creator of Heaven and Earth saw fit to show me what that looks like so I would stop struggling in stupid, deadly disobedience, and simply trust and obey Him in all my ways.

The Tyrant must be evicted. The old man must leave and never return. He is, despite all his logical claims of what he deserves, a selfish, rebellious creature that worships only himself, and therefore never can give more than lip service to God, Who *demands* absolute, complete obedience and worship of *only* Him. He is an idol and must be put out. His stone effigy must have its hands and head removed and thrown out.

"And He said to them all, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."" (Luke 9:23-24)

You, old tyrant, are the unwitting, uncaring body of death from which I must be freed. I therefore reject you. I am commanded by my LORD to deny you, I therefore refuse to associate with you and all that you represent, even those attributes of you which I dearly love. I will suffer rejection and humiliation for doing this in a world that deems such things to be utter foolishness. I will be called a fool by people I love. People who once welcomed me will spit in derision at the memory of me for doing this.

So be it. To obey the LORD is worth more than my reputation, more than my very life. So be it! You can have all this world; give me Jesus.

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