Monthly Archives: April 2016

19: Caught in the Kelp

19 beglib mf

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.” Jonah 2:5 NIV

Sometimes in life we can feel trapped, hedged in (as Job puts it in his book) and we are upside down like Jonah is here at the bottom of the sea with no way out and even the seaweed wrapping itself around us like binding tentacles. And we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that such feelings are fleeting or only last for moments. Some decades feel like this, frankly.

As a writer, I love the seemingly small details in bible stories that tell me these things were really experienced. Jonah could speak for ages about being on the seabed, but it is that the usually friendly greenery there even turns into an enemy that hooks me in both emotionally and suspends any disbelief. And those swathes of plant life must also have impeded his sight, maybe feeling like a blindfold. As someone who suffers from claustrophobia, this is a frightening sensation to be drawn into. I know, like Jonah, that panic and despair would destroy any ideas I might have had about being saved, about my own abilities to swim, or any belief in my own powers. Utterly helpless, totally hopeless, beginning to drown, where is our God then? Well, as it turns out, his solution is hovering nearby. As soon as Jonah manages to cry out in his spirit, sending a desperate prayer sky-rocketing, the giant fish or whale is there to save him.

Rescue often looks bizarre or unexpected at first. And yet, there wasn’t time to get Jonah to the surface, not even to disentangle him from the watery triffids. So air had to come to him, and the plants be torn up with him, so being swallowed down by a great sea creature was an inspired solution, even avoiding the dreaded bends. How our God thinks of everything! And maybe at this point the seaweed blocking Jonah’s sight was a blessing in disguise, as I doubt it would have done much for his faith to see a huge creature coming at him open-mouthed.

Our prayers are anticipated, our desperations understood, however long we have to suffer them. God’s answers may look strange and take us on journeys that seem just as dark and bizarre, but in the end, there is a surfacing and a spewing, and a new beach of opportunity waiting for us.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

18: Pressed into Service

18 StationV Jesster79 CC wiki

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Mark 16:21 NIV

Have you ever been shoved into the fray, given something to do you had no desire to do, finding yourself in the centre of a drama you thought was nothing to do with you? Pity Simon of Cyrene, likely a Jewish trader minding his own business, suddenly thrown into the greatest story ever told.

Was he near the front of the crowd to see what was happening, and next thing he was the thing that was happening? Had he heard about Jesus and the amazing things that were being claimed about this miracle maker? Was he passing on the trade route, used to being respected and then suddenly identified with this troublemaker simply because of his race? That is a story that has been played out time and time again in history, I suppose; the wrong colour skin, the wrong gender, the wrong creed, in the wrong place at the wrong time. And yet. I wonder if Simon might have looked back later and remembered his sudden encounter with Jesus joyfully.

Imagine if the saviour you first came into contact with was a beaten one. A bruised and bloody mess, covered in wounds and spittle. Would you still give him your life? Or do we all hanker for a clean cut, clean shaven, pristine saviour in a suit and tie, with perfect white teeth and a sensible hairstyle? Suppose the first thing he did in his brokenness was to have you carry a heavy load? So heavy that it made your shoulder burn and cut into your flesh? Would you still want to serve him? Would he still win your heart, God struggling and failing, falling and allowing weakness to shine?

Perhaps sometimes we are surprised by the ways Jesus enters our life, how he turns the strangest, even the vilest circumstances into holy encounter. For Simon, ever famed as the carrier of the cross, this seemingly chance pressganging led him into being the first (albeit unwilling) sharer of Christ’s sufferings, and no doubt he followed the rest of the story and watched, bent and sore from the load, and burning from the indignity, as a softly spoken Jewish brother was killed by a vicious regime, and at the same time, whether he knew it or not, saw God turn meekness to majesty, tragedy to triumph, death to life. Nothing would be the same ever again.

 

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo by Jesster79 on Wikimedia used under creative commons license.

17: Strange Tides

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.” Luke 21:25 NLT

When Jesus spoke of the End Times (as we tend to call them) the signs sound terrifying. This verse tells us that the very things that mark our time, our days, nights, months and years, will be out of sync. It would make sense if odd things were happening in the solar system, that seas and tides would be affected, and no wonder that there would then be turmoil. And yet afterwards, on the other side of Judgement Day, Revelation tells us that there will be no seas, no moon or sun, no day or night. So perhaps these things too are passing from one kind of reality to another, just as all souls on earth will do.

I love the sea, or rather, as a card carrying landlubber, I love looking at it, and hearing its sounds, so it makes me sad to think of it disappearing. God though, always changes or redeems things for the better, so I am reassured to know that though things will be very different when heaven finally comes to earth, they will be infinitely better. I have a sneaking theory too, that the seas will remain but become fresh water, fed from the river of Living Water that streams out of the Temple in those days. But I’d be hard pushed to make a theological case for that….

The Lord goes on to speak of war, famine, pestilence, betrayal and persecution unto death for those who believe in him. It is worth remembering that eleven out of the twelve Disciples were martyred, and John only escaped because being boiled in oil somehow didn’t kill him, and endured banishment instead. Being a Christian sometimes has a high price.

But though none of this is really comprehensible to us, and we can grow fearful of what may happen, or even become obsessed by eschatology, as many sects and Evangelicals have, our focus needs to be not on how the supposed Rapture will come and how many will be saved, but on Jesus. Whilst some may read these events as linked to environmental disaster, and still others like Donald Trump, see no further than the ends of their noses, tweeting erudition like “It’s freezing out there today. Where is “global warming?” we need to see the signs, but to read them as birthing pains.

When the world is in chaos, and all is turned upside down, when the enemies of our faith come for us, as has happened and is happening in many parts of the world today, it is our witness that will matter, given by words from the Holy Spirit. And the Lord’s advice to us when all is in turmoil? To stay alert, to not trust in our own words but in his which shall never pass away, and to “…straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 NLT partial). When the sky falls, when the earth crumbles under us, then we find out on what we stand. Not on the fear of a Chicken Licken world, determined to panic, or on the ostrich-vision of politicians, their heads full of wet sand, but on something more reliable than tides, and more permanent than even the very stars in the sky.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

16: Savage Wolves

 

wolf small cropped

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” Acts 20:29 NIV

Paul’s parting from the Elders of the Ephesian church, whom he summons to himself at Miletus before leaving on the next leg of his journey to Jerusalem, is a tearful one. He is keen to warn them with this prophetic word, even though it means telling them that some of these wolves will rise from among their own number. He is being hounded by the Jewish persecutors (of which he used to be one) who will soon jail and kill him. He knows the end is near, and yet his thoughts and worries are all for this church he has spent three years teaching and loving. And this is not a new fear:

“So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” Acts 20:31 NIV

Jesus too, talked about wolves that would rise from amongst the flock, wearing sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Even in the midst of our Christian communities, we need to keep our eyes peeled for danger, for wrong teaching and for those who would lead us astray or attempt to do the devil’s work for him. I suppose that it is in the fold, in our places of safety where we are most likely to let down our spiritual guard, even at the same time as we worship or receive instruction. Here, right in the centre of communion, we can be at our most vulnerable. And as the Church and her members know to their cost, abuses of power have been all too common.

But we must remain gentle and open at the same time as being wary, for our innocence shines out the beauty of God, and our gentle hearts available to all are a powerful testimony of the Lord’s grace. Jesus told his Disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 NIV

Please be shrewd as my readers. I have no training in theology and I write mainly from prayer and my own study. I hope there is wisdom buried in my words. Be wary of those who are vehement in their preaching though, for self-proclaimed mystics like myself will lead you astray, if we ever do so, entirely without intent. The Ephesians, and us through them, are being warned here, not of the ignorant or mistaken, but of the deliberate, subtle turners of hearts, bringers of fear, those who would delude and persuade us to disbelieve the goodness of God, the power of his Grace, the fullness and inclusivity of the Gospel; to doubt the wisdom contained within Holy Scripture.

Shrewdness, awareness means using our brains, our hearts, our instincts, and above all the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It does not mean throwing out hermeneutics, study, self-disciplined prayer, contemplation or thought, for the Lord gave us intelligence for a reason. I think that as well as being wary around our own known weak areas, the main things that should ring alarm bells in us are when people display characteristics that are ungodly: undermining, ridicule, gossip, judgement, division, fear and smugness. When there is a temptation to take sides, to point, to feel superior, to hold a grudge, to fall into self-righteousness instead of God’s grace, those are the hot breaths of the wolf and his or her ways.

And so today I can finish with the advice from one of my favourite verses, let truth and beauty be our guides:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV

 

Text and artwork ©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

15: Cruelty

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.” Judges 15:3-5 NIV

There is, whether we choose to admit it or not, an awful lot of cruelty portrayed in the Bible. Some people ignore it because they think it reflects badly on God, or that it contradicts his loving nature. I’ve heard it said many times that the Bible contradicts itself or doesn’t add up, and this is said as often by Christians (albeit whispered) as by those who’ve never opened a Bible in their lives.

But there it is, in black and white. Those poor foxes! And the violence quickly escalates. In the next verse, Samson’s wife and her father are burned to death, then he wreaks revenge, then the Philistines come at him with three thousand men, and he slays a thousand of them. For me, such episodes are a part of our relationship with God because they are a part of our lives. Cruelty, unfairness, nastiness, vicious horror, are things people do to one another and to animals.

We might accept that most awful things in the Scriptures are perpetrated by humans, but perhaps the reason we balk at it being part of a Bible story, is because God seems to use it. Verse 4 of the previous chapter bears this out: “(His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)” (Judges 14:4 NIV) How can such awfulness be part of his plans? I say that he doesn’t work through such things by choice, but because we choose to make them part of our lives, he redeems them in part by using them for his own, good ends.

Mother Julian of Norwich received a seeing that made her very sure that all the sin and suffering life on earth goes through, will be redeemed by yet another action of Christ’s, akin to or part of what he did on the cross, or something equally wonderful and mysterious, once we come to the end of days (Chapter 36, Revelations of Divine Love). It is a hope I hold onto gladly, since there seems to be so much that we all suffer, so much unnecessary pain, violence and betrayal. It makes sense that we should one day understand it will all be made right. This is one of the reasons behind the constant refrain in God’s relationship with her, “All manner of things shall be well.” In this hope, I believe we can trust, and not just because of her proclamation of it, but because it is the message borne out by all biblical stories, and the Bible itself as a whole.

The story of our relationship with God is messy, it has more X ratings that you could throw a stick at, more gore and intense violence than we can stomach. But such is the nature of humankind, as is quickly borne out by the savagery we still dish out to foxes in the UK today, despite hunting with dogs being ostensibly illegal.

Thankfully, we also reflect the goodness and mercy of our Father God and we also live under his auspices. He can and does turn anything around, so that even wanton cruelty can be harnessed for good. It doesn’t make the action right, and it doesn’t minimise the suffering, but it does give us a hope in a Creator who knows our hearts and still chooses to work with their darkness, which shall be overcome.

“It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” (Thirteenth Revelation, chapter 27, Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich)

 

 

Text and artwork ©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Fox from a reference photo by Rev. Jeannie Kendall, with permission.

 

14: Death Warrant

14 death warrant mensatic MF

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” 2 Samuel 11:14-15

Evil begins slowly but surely and escalates out of control almost on its own. This murderous letter, delivered by the loyal hand of its victim, had its beginnings in sloth and boredom. For King David decided to stay at home in the Spring, instead of traditionally going off with his armies to war. Was he tired of killing perhaps? Was he weary of fighting? Bored and with nothing to do, he wanders on the palace roof and lusts after a woman he can see bathing. How easy it must be to look down on the rest of the world as your own from the top of a palace! We all know the rest of the story. Bathsheba is sent for (you don’t refuse the King), she gets pregnant; David racks his brains and does everything he can think of to get Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife so that the child will seem his and get David off the hook. But Uriah won’t play the game, and he ends up dead for his integrity. David, avoiding the killing of war, ends up committing adultery and murder.

 

Life and death are incredibly unfair often. But fairness is more of a human concept than a divine one. Our God is not as interested in fairness as he is in justice. David will be made to answer for his crimes, but others will have to live or die because of them. Free will has a high price tag attached to it. David is one of God’s favourites, a special and anointed friend of the Living God, picked out for an amazing relationship with the Lord, and yet he too was capable of being sucked into a vortex of sin.

We talk, in the Church, of falling from grace, of backsliding, we are aware that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, and that we walk on as redeemed sinners. All is indeed paid for, but our sinful nature still overtakes us, and the need to constantly turn back to the Lord, renewing our vows and our loyalty, this is a process that we have to repeat again and again, but it is also one we can do under the new covenant in a joyful instant of remembering God’s goodness and mercy, and one we can receive without performing any penance (though I understand and respect why the Catholic Church still uses this idea). I like to think of this process as a pendulum, swinging back to the centre over and over, and the movements becoming smaller and smaller as we remember God’s heart more and more swiftly, until we appear to have stopped altogether. In reality we are turning back to God so quickly that he becomes the centre of our stillness. This is humility. It does us good to confess our sins to one another as James advises, to those we trust, and also to do so before God in the prayer of examen, so that we can turn the tide of the smaller sins before they swell into a flood of wrongdoing that threatens to overwhelm us and those we seek to harm.

We are so expert at covering our own tracks and building ourselves up in our own minds, that if we are not careful, we have spun a web of intrigue for the saving of our own faces and egos before our feet hit the floor in the morning. This service to ego and to our own pleasure-seeking is a certain choosing of death, and not just for ourselves, for the choice between life and death is one we make every moment and flows out into the lives of everyone around us. The Lord is the giver of life, and we are his children, so let us be channels of life and of love.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

13: In the Pit

13 in the pit nicksumm MF

“So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.” Genesis 37:23-24 NIV

Joseph was used to being the favourite, with his father Jacob especially. The seed of favouritism had been planted with Rachel his mother, who had been Jacob’s favourite wife. His half brothers hated him and plotted against him, partly out of envy, partly because the young Joseph hadn’t mastered the art of tact. He knew he was special, and he didn’t see much point in hiding it. He had the gift of prophecy through dreams and shared his future greatness with all and sundry.

What a shock it must have been to this confident, cheerful and naïve seventeen year-old boy, to be thrown into the pit by his nearest and dearest! To be suddenly left alone in the cold pit with no way out, ridiculed and relieved of the mantle of his father’s love. This was only the beginning of his suffering, and the suffering of his brothers by their guilt, and the pain and heartbreak for Jacob, who mourned him greatly, fooled into thinking him dead (Rachel had already died by this time).

For those of us who are blessed to grow up with loving parents, secure in all we say and do, looking forward to the future we’ve been led to believe will be marvellous, there is a deep sting in being suddenly left very much alone and helpless. When every prop and favour is taken away from us, when we find ourselves flung into a pit by the very people we were sure loved us, what is left to sustain us?

This is a journey I see a lot in those whose hearts are for God. The Church is good at nurturing the first seeds of faith, great at proclaiming things over us, repeating the prophecy from Jeremiah for the whole of Israel over us as individuals: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) and generally making us hope to be history makers and world changers, with lives full of health, blessing and prosperity, because all the bad stuff has been paid for on the cross, right? So we don’t have to suffer any more! But without negating the power of the cross, this is a childish message on its own.

We are not so good at preparing Christ’s young disciples for the prospect of hurting, brokenness or plans going awry. We don’t explain that sometimes life is crushing, and so many times I see Christians who are bewildered, angry and even side-lined because their lives have become hard. The mantle got taken away and no-one climbed into the pit with them, and no-one preached to them on Romans 8:17 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

We can feel, at such times, that we have been left to rot. And yet, it is right at these times, when he is all we have left, that we have the choice before us of whether to trust God or not. It may take a while, years maybe, before help finally comes. We may, like Joseph, then find we’ve been sold to slavers, seemingly out of the frying pan and into the fire, the first part in a twisting tale of epic proportions. Or we may, like Jeremiah, find an Ebed-Melech, servant of the King, willing to come and gently lift us out of our cistern. Either way, God’s purposes and plans will win out in the end. But there may be a hard road yet to tread.

If we have been there, perhaps we should train ourselves and our brothers and sisters to be on the lookout for any dark dungeons, and to peer into the murk as we pass them, calling out, and remembering to carry sturdy rope with us at all times.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

 

12: Testing, Testing.

12 testing testing ram wiselywoven MF

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2 NIV

God gave this instruction to Abraham, and it took three days for Abraham, Isaac and their servants to reach the intended mountain. Three days for Abraham to think and weep at this strange command, not that we are told anything about his feelings at all in the scripture. But how long that journey must have seemed! I wonder at Abraham’s faith and I also wonder if he got any sleep. There seems to have been no remonstrating with God, no attempts at bargaining, just total obedience.

I often think I’ve given God everything and that I love and trust him so much that I would never withhold anything from him. But I know it isn’t true. I withhold my character and my heart from him all the time when I act or think wrongly, or when I am selfish, and if he asked me to sacrifice someone I loved very dearly (including my pet) I would balk at the command. I only have the little faith I’ve been given, and know that anything I do get right is God working through me, his love or wisdom flowing on, perhaps despite rather than because of me.

For Abraham and Isaac, as so often in the Bible, three days separate deep dark deathly hopelessness and resurrection blessing. When it is clear that Abraham will truly withhold nothing from his God, God blesses him with great promises for him and his descendants.

Most of the Bible translations call this story “Abraham Tested” though of course these headings are not in the original Hebrew, just place-markers for us. I am not sure that we gain much from such a description. The Living God is not a capricious tester of faith. I don’t think that he tests, so much as refines us. We don’t get marks out of a hundred for how we react to difficult circumstances or the things that are asked of us. Instead, these trials are just as much a loving opportunity. God isn’t playing games with us.

This episode with Abraham and Isaac is clearly a picture of the sacrifice that God will make for us much later on, giving us his only son, and sacrificing him to a much more brutal and drawn out death than this poor ram had to suffer. No, there is nothing withheld here on God’s side either and this alone should help us to see that this is no thoughtless whimsy on the Lord’s part. All he does is done with purpose and with our best interests at heart. For some reason, this journey up the mountain with a heavy heart, but one which trusts the goodness of God above all things, this is something Abraham needs to do before he can come into a still deeper blessing from the Living God.

I believe this man of amazing faith spoke truth when he declared to his son that “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” (verse 8 partial) and that he was on the lookout for a substitute all the way, knowing the goodness of the Lord. But when none such appeared, he still trusted that obedience was the way forward. I cannot imagine how either he or Isaac felt, and I don’t pretend to understand why it had to be so dramatic and difficult, but I do see that it is willingness, obedience, trust and the giving over of everything dear that takes us further into God’s heart.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

11: Blank Slate

11 blank slate ranbud MF

And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” Genesis 6:6 ESV

For me this is probably the saddest verse in the whole Bible. Humankind’s wickedness had got to a point where it had made God actually wish he hadn’t created us. The NLT actually says, “it broke his heart.” If we look at the Lord’s reaction from a human point of view, we might be tempted to say that this was God giving up on us, or that the flood which followed was a murderous act, or one comparable with abortion – a discarding of life, or of potential. But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the character of the life-giver, and just how far we had devolved.

I say that because God does not act on his own broken heart in order to assuage his own feelings or mend his own hurts. The love that spoke the universe into being simply doesn’t work like that, because it is not self-centred. The Lord’s deep sadness was not only for himself, but for us. For we had been given the gift of life and turned it entirely over to evil. The previous verse tells us that,

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

I believe the Lord’s deep sadness and broken-heartedness at this point in his relationship with us, was not only that we had chosen this path, but that he knew what he was going to have to do in order to save us. He knew he would have to prune life on earth back to one solitary shoot. We were like a tree gone almost entirely rotten. There was no potential for good or for life or relationship with our creator anywhere except in the heart of Noah and his family.

At the time of the flood, our descent was so marked and irredeemable that even the animals had to die with us, famously two of each kind (more of the “clean” creatures) were also to be a new beginning, and the rainbow promise made as a new covenant with Noah was made also with the world’s fauna.

The mass destruction had to happen. There simply was no other way of reaching us, no words that we would hear, since the evil was continuous, unceasing. All we were doing was breeding more and more death in our hearts. There are plenty of instances in the Old Testament where death seems sweeping and at the hand or command of the Lord, and I do not pretend to understand why this might be, but I do observe that it is often implicit that sin is being destroyed, and that God is always for life, not death:

For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32 NIV)

Our wickedness today I am sure continues to break God’s heart. But although we might sometimes wonder that he doesn’t wish to start over again, we know that we serve a God who keeps his promises, and that the covenant made anew through the blood of Jesus, redeems us whilst we are yet sinners, and that it is now love and life, not death, that begins to flood the world, changing all to a heavenly landscape, albeit slowly and less tangibly sometimes, than we would like.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

10: Shaking Sandals

10 Shaking sandals Flip Flop Sandals-Tan DodgertanSkillhause MF

“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Mark 6:11 NIV

Jesus was not one for giving up easily. He tells us to go the extra mile, even under duress, to forgive our brother or sister seventy times seven times. Yet here is this glaring anomaly. As his disciples we may need to leave a place so entirely behind us that we have to make sure we don’t even take a grain of its soil with us.

Obviously the shaking of the dust from our feet is a symbolic gesture, and Jesus is speaking figuratively, as was his way. But there is something to be gained in remembering that when a place or person needs to be left behind us, as occasionally happens, then we need to sever that association so totally as to not even be connected to the ground they walk on.

On social media, one is encouraged to disconnect from anyone who doesn’t agree with us, who “disses” (disrespects) us, to label people “toxic,” and disregard them when they are negative or difficult. I don’t believe that is gospel living and I certainly don’t think Jesus is talking about us leaving the broken behind us. If we don’t learn to live with, tolerate and even love the difficult or crushed among us, then how shall we accept or face our own shadow places?

No, this is the very specific and sad situation of leaving a place or person because they stubbornly refuse every help we offer. There is no point preaching to a congregation who already believe they know better than us, who dismiss us, who will take nothing we offer. In such a case, we are casting pearls before swine, and our words are just blowing away on the wind. Ties then, can be severed, and we must move on to more fertile ground. Ground is vital in this context, as we need a clean start, and to re-root ourselves in the love of God. If the soil we walk on has been made so dry and dusty that nothing can grow there, we need to shake it off and move forwards, under the Lord’s direction. A cause for sadness, but whilst there is no bleakness God cannot make green again, his servants must stay established in his love, and there is some ground where this is not going to happen.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com