Saturday, June 13, 2015

Something I wrote as a pastor, humbled; with a prayer for the church I was serving at the time.  Pastoral ministry is beyond definition, perhaps even description.  One is stretched between the competing horses of discipling and administering, of maintaining an institution and serving one's Lord, of calming unnecessary anxieties and leading people into the presence of God, of wrestling one's own ego and pursuing measurable matrix, of living with integrity and coveting security, of being prophetic and of keeping one's job, of being a voice crying out in the wilderness and of being an ordinary parent for one's children.  What a strange mixture of incongruities ministry has become!  Still, I find that nothing compares to what I discover as one who has been shown mercy.  The following I wrote in October, 2014.

My heart has been captured by God.  With Paul, I realize that I contended against God--sadly I still do, much to my dismay, often as my lips utter words that appear quite the opposite.  Of course, my mind--disclosing the deceptive duplicity by which it was trained--Is too frequently convinced that my words are not a betrayal and my life is not an offense to God.  
On occasion I have moments of humbling clarity when I shudder at my pride and weep at my foolishness.  In such moments I resolve to remain faithful--like Peter on the mount when the Lord was transfigured, I desire to remain, building a tabernacle in which to abide unscathed by temptation or weakness.  Such a resolve, however, is not faithful, nor is it possible.  My deep desire remains pure in its hope of faithfulness, but this hope and faithfulness itself is not without the stain of sin.

The old creature does not relent, does not let loose my soul.  It patiently persists and grows in strength as it whispers excuses that become greater and greater wedges driven between my heart and the One who redeems.  

For me, this cycle has been a gift of love, for it has proven that which I could not see, that which I continue to ignore and deny, that which is obvious if not for the blindness of my heart to its own depravity.  What is disclosed by the Spirit is that even my resolve and every effort to remain chaste and pure, unadulterated by the sin that did not pursue me, but rose out of my very own soul, yes even my proclaimed faithfulness was infected by idolatry as it believed in God's mercy to forgive and grace to be saved, but foolishly maintained that my own power was necessary to remain in the presence, to preserve what I had been generously given. Sinner to the core with no cell unaffected by this fallen predicament I am. The darkness does not rest.  It will become a Trojan horse of holiness in order to slip within one's fortified heart and bring it down from within. 
And yet herein is its downfall, for with this repetition I have seen that even my faithfulness and purity are a gift. Do I remain pure and obedient on my own account, is there any percentage of my own effort necessary for my sanctification or am I doomed to fall from this blessing if I am lacking in persistent action to hold this position I have been granted with my Lord?  It is comical to believe so.  And this is a whisper of love! 
So I have been captured and taken prisoner of the Holy One.  But I have not been enslaved or caged or punished--no, indeed I have been freed.  I have been given pure eyesight to see and recognize the lie I have served for what it is: a sweetness on the tongue, but a deadly and mortal poison with no antidote except one, the blessing of the Holy One who draws from the veins of my life the poison.
I am beyond grateful.  Gratitude is now the air I breath, exhaling praise and thanksgiving.  
I am a clay jar--an earthen vessel with chips and cracks--but it is my joy to contain the treasure.  I am deeply moved by the will of our Creator to grant me such an honor as to bear this love and truth.  I have not done so without mistake and there is nothing I grieve more than for the nature of my earthen vessel to become that which is seen rather than what has been poured into me by grace.  It grieves me, though I know that in God's will, even this cannot eclipse God's love.  

My prayer is this: for each soul to plumb the depths of one's heart with the Holy Spirit and be relieved of the burden of pride, be washed pure of deceit, rise new in grace, and pursue truth and generosity in strength and earnestness.  It is too easy to blame and point judgmental fingers and by doing so remain in the chains of sin, and kept from the rich gift of grace.  
May it never be! except as a peculiar avenue to stumble into the mercy of God!


© Stephen Carl

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