In the shadow of the cross- the realization of personal failure
A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favour is like dew on the grass. (Proverbs 19,12, NIV)
My dear friends, dear women of God,
"yeah yeah, but you know, that's so and so"
"yes, that may be so, but, ...."
"If it were that simple, but...."
"Again today, but then..."
"That may be your opinion, but ..."
Do you know this? It's hair-raising.
I know it well, from myself and from others as well.
Yes, but, as a good friend once said to me, means nothing other than no.
"I can't" means nothing other than "I don't want to".
Another friend of mine, to whom I was very deeply attached for a long time, basically said, when I called him with a lot of confusion in my head, complaining, whining, "What's really going on now? If you don't want to tell me what's really going on with you right now, I'm going to hang up."
That sounds incredibly rude, doesn't it? But it was a statement of wanting to hear the truth, whatever it was.
We complain that our husband keeps leaving his hair stuck in the sink and has just left the garbage again. Behind: Anger, the feeling of not being seen, not being supported. To be left alone.
We complain about the self-righteousness with which we are judged, and behind it: insecurity, lack of recognition of what our own point of view is - otherwise we wouldn't even care.
But honesty is not so easy. Honesty means looking, acceptance and no longer evading. Honesty means accepting all facets, what psychology calls "blind spots".
It is said that an alcoholic can only successfully go through withdrawal when he himself recognizes that he is at the end of his rope.
It is said that women leave destructive relationships only when they are so deeply humiliated that the will to survive becomes stronger than the fear of what comes next.
The true meaning of this word is not just a predetermined change of mind, but a force that drives us to leave the situation, to abandon the behavior, to seek help because we can no longer bear the wrong path. It hurts, it destroys, and ruefully we look at those who did not expose our sore spots and throw them around our ears, but whose concern for us was so deeply etched in their faces that we could not look away.
Survival patterns are patterns we settle into, however wrong they may be.
The pitcher goes to the proverbial well until it breaks.
We brace ourselves against the headwind, and fight, and fight-until we are blown over. Often, when we finally give up, the wind blows at our backs and we wonder why we resisted for so long.
How could I be so stupid?
How could I have been so blind?
We run into doors until our heads bleed, try to break them down, try to pray them away, try ..but steel doors with security locks don't give way. God's doors that he keeps shut are steel doors like that. Maybe he will unlock them, someday. Maybe they have a timer that we don't see. But by our own strength, by our own will, they do not open, and we must turn back.
The cross of Jesus is the place where all the pain, all the disappointment about ourselves and the ways we went is taken away from us. It is a place of self-knowledge and repentance. Of admitting: I was wrong. I saw signs that warned. I have felt that the wind is changing, that it is blowing against me. I ignored scratches, and I preferred not to look closely. Actually...I knew it. But I didn't want to know, I was looking for the dream, the hope in it. If it falls away, what will be left for me?
The cross is a lonely place.
A place of death, of inner death, of farewell, of silence, where the hope we had is crucified. Crucified with violence, with scorn, with contempt. No way back. And helplessly we watch, with tears in our eyes. Why? it cries within us. Why the heck is Satan triumphant here? Haven't I done everything? Have I not given everything? And we look up to the one who is dying on the cross and beg him to take us with him into his kingdom of hope for new, eternal, reconciled life.
We cannot force anyone to go to the cross. We cannot demand knowledge, and we cannot provoke it.
We all know this too:
we see friends riding with glory to their doom- the wrong partner, the addiction, the unresolved inner conflict, the wrong image of man, but with enthusiastic eyes they cannot be reached. Blind, nailed in heart and mind, holding on and swearing that this spring they drink from is the right one. Absolutely convinced. We see the black eye, we smell the smell of alcohol, we see the exhaustion, we see the suffering child left with the partner as the romance took its toll. We see the effect of sin, but we cannot wipe it away, we cannot change it.
Some Christians believe that we can do without it, now that we are redeemed children of God. But the truth is: we are still stupidly bleating sheep, relying more on our own wisdom than on God's. We still give him trouble, him, the perfect Father. We still come to such dead ends, we still realize our fallenness.
When we are convinced of something, something happens inside us: we block out everything else. We block out what our behavior might mean for others. We block out the fact that we are tearing down walls, exposing ourselves, that we might trigger others. We block out the fact that what we see of the other person may be only a fraction of what makes him or her tick. We may see the top of the iceberg, but not the iceberg of a situation, and be overzealous with our advice on how to get around the iceberg - without seeing that the boat will sink if the other person follows the advice. We are indignant about attitudes, but we do not recognize the right of our counterpart to be as fallible as we are.
What if the one you condemn for devaluing women so much has never had a mother, doesn't know how to be loved and nurtured, and therefore doesn't think it's important? What if the one who hides secretly suffers from devaluation and tries not to see it?
Suffering must become so obvious, failure so evident, that we cry out for life, for freedom, for salvation like beggars: "Lord, have mercy on me!"
Again and again the Holy Spirit brings us to this place, and when we accept the grace of the Risen King, we see that we are in ashes. But something new comes- hope. No, I don't want to go on like this, help me! No, I don't want to be like this anymore, change me! No, I can't stay here anymore, make a way, Lord! Get me out of burning Sodom, and don't let me turn around until I'm safe. And then tell me where we are going - when I am healed.
Confession of sin is always accompanied by three things:
Recognition that it can't go on like this, that the way was wrong.
Pleading for help and mercy because the situation seems so hopeless.
And God's intervention, the impulse to take responsibility again and to deal with what is there.
Those who really turn back experience amazing things: loving help - from God - and suddenly appearing. Paths that sparkle clearly, new perspectives and ways out of the swamp. Healing and liberation.
God is a God of the living.
He is not an abstract construct, not a philosophy. He intervenes directly in our lives, in our everyday life, in our relationships, views and behaviors. How true what he says is, we see only when we understand: He has put fear on the cross. We are allowed to live with him. There is no end for us anymore - there is only darkness that has to give way when we see him again and make his truth ours. He takes nothing away without showing new plans, new ways. And: He does not take away anything that really belongs to us. He will supply everything we need. Refined and wonderful.
His yes to us stands.
Does ours stand with him?
The cross- it is shunned by all who will not be held accountable.
The cross-it is shunned and mocked by all who believe they are infallible.
The cross - it is shunned by all who prefer illusion to truth.
The cross-it is ignored until the weight on the shoulders becomes too heavy and the shame and sadness too engaging to continue living that way.
The cross - it is loved by those who want to grow.
The cross - it is sought by those who want to be pure in conscience.
The cross - it is sought by all who know that true love is kind, practical and supportive.
The cross is sought by all who believe that the cry for salvation will not go unheard and who long for fresh water. For inner shower and release. For white robes without stains, and for good, straight paths in their lives.
Go to him when you mess up. When regret catches you. When you realize that what you thought was right was all wrong. When you hurt. When you've unmasked. When you see suffering where you just saw sin. He forgives you. And then...healing comes.
Sibylle/Daughter of Zion.