The Rigidity of Evil

I have a heart--but it is broken and crushed.

I have a heart–but it is broken and crushed.

Today I realized that I was sick and very tired of myself. It’s really not disgust, or even loathing. It’s more like a weariness, an exhaustion. I’ve never felt this way. In a strange way it intrigues me. Could this definite disenchantment mean something spiritual? Does it have value, or am I just feeling self-absorbed or conceited?

There is a real rigidity to evil. As I have seen it– sin hardens all who touch it, plain and simple. My growing immobility disturbs me, as I know I’m developing a “hardness of heart.” Atherosclerosis is a condition of a sick heart where arteries become blocked. It’s also known as “hardening of the heart, or arteries.” It is a patient killer, slowly and surely making hard deposits that block the flow of blood.

The Bible speaks about having a hard heart. It also uses the metaphor of fallow ground that must be plowed up. Jesus used the same image in His “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.

“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain.”

There are only four real options.

  • The first is seed that never arrives.
  • The second lands on hard stones.
  • The third possibility is landing on thorns and thistles.
  • Only the fourth flourishes.

    Heart of Stone Heart of Flesh

    The Battle of the Heart

The question I have is this, can the hard soil become soft, and can the good soil become overgrown with thistles? Is this a static, set experience? Or could it be far more fluid? I seem to move from one soil condition to another.

I have found that my own  heart drifts. Manic Depression is a mental illness where emotions fluctuate constantly. They gallivant around, floating here and than there. I maybe depressed and suicidal in the morning, and then I can be euphoric in the evening. It’s having the identity of a “wandering star.”

I want my heart to soften. I want to sit with Jesus and hear His words. I need Him to share what He is thinking about. Any sin I entertain has a hardening effect in my spiritual heart. This really scares me. *

*

ybic, Bryan

*

Bethesda, 31 A.D.

healing-the-lame

“Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him,“Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,

John 5:1-9, NLT

We were following Jesus and He led us to the pool of Bethesda. A crowd gathered quickly, but I jostled myself right up front. We stood waiting, we pretty much knew something big was going to happen. And it did. I can never be the same, after what I saw. This is my simple story.

So much was happening, and as I watched I realized that so much escapes me. I can’t take it all in. But when I decide to watch Jesus, I quickly become aware of what is important, what is real. It starts to make sense. The chaos of the moment becomes calm. At least it does when He takes charge.

There were hundreds of sick people camped out. They are laying under the roofs, with their thin mats. The smell alone was really bad, all were unwashed and some with putrid and festering sores. Dirty bandages are used over and over, and shared with all. And I suppose all of them are hungry, but they are at least able to drink from the pool. (What more did they really need?)

Finally, all are watching Jesus, they become quiet wondering what He will say. We’re all pretty curious. We see Jesus as He walks directly into this ugly field of suffering people. He doesn’t hesitate or flinch. He seems almost like He is at home.

Oh my! Just to have a religious teacher visit Bethesda is rare. They never come. And today is the Sabbath (and a special feast day at that) and that alone makes it impossible. And yet Jesus is here, and that somehow is wonderful.

Jesus stops to talk with a man who is an ‘old-timer’ here. Someone behind me mentioned that he had been sitting here for almost 40 years, and that is a long, long time. Jesus speaks. Everyone listens. “Do you want to get well?” And of course, some groan and mutter– “of course he does!” But Jesus waits quietly.

“Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” The man explains. He has an excuse that seems like a reason. Nothing has ever gone right– ‘I always miss out, and I can’t find anyone to help me.’ And I suppose that this is the world of the blind, the crippled, the paralyzed in Israel. They are confined to Bethesda, with the weak hope of finally being healed. I don’t think that this is how it was meant to work.

This man was horribly discouraged.  It was then Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” And this very crippled man was healed on the spot. No ‘hocus-pocus’, no incantations, no magic dust or rubbing of sacred bones. Nothing. He was healed by a few spoken words.

I cannot emphasize my own astonishment enough. It shook all of us to the core. We were all stunned, and undone. The crowds, and all the sick and the paralyzed just stopped and stared. There are so few moments in life, just like this. We just looked at each other sort of stunned.

The ramifications of what we all had witnessed were staggering. Shocked, we turned to each other, and a great fear fell on us like a heavy blanket. The crowd did not disperse, we were completely shocked, and pretty much speechless.

For years that sense of awe has never left me. I don’t really listen to the scorners anymore– they simply have no idea. I heard that some of His disciples wrote about what we saw that day. It completely changed my life. I was never the same after that.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:10, NLT

%

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us.)
 cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)
 

Scorners Have a Certain Power

 

I finally broke through and realized that I am a consummate scorner.  I have cultivated this for many years, and especially the last five.  I will tell now, I am to scorning as Tiger Woods is to golf.  I have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a durmoid brain tumor, lung issues with a chemical accident, manic-depression requiring extensive hospitalization, and a low thyroid requiring meds.  And, on top of this, the death of a newborn daughter.

My faith has been extremely challenged through all of this.  I have pastored a church and taught classes at a local Bible college, all with a lot of enthusiasm and purpose.  My students and my congregation were being blessed.  But all of this pretty much disintegrated around me and I found myself with a whole lot of nothing. 

Scorn has never been anything I gravitated to.  But it has ‘seeped’ into my thinking, through a slow and steady presence.  It works like mercury poisoning.  It has touched me as a gradual toxin, slowly sickening me with its constant contact.  I haven’t been connected with the light as I should have.  But over an extensive amount of time, a venomous and noxious filth has been introduced into my heart and my thinking.  It must be like watching someone die from ‘radiation sickness’.

To scorn means to become ” ‘competous’, disdainful, scornful, to mock.”  I never, ever dreamed I would be brought to this point.  But life has continuously rolled over me, and I find I just can’t make it work anymore.  I definitely do understand the promises of God.  But I definitely do not understand God’s grace on me.  But you might as well try to explain the color ‘blue’ to a blind man.

I am Bryan, the scorner.  I am also ‘a spiritual beggar’, with a significant mental illness.  I should be on the streets pushing a shopping cart and drinking cheap vodka.  When I start to scorn, I get mean and cynical.  I’m contemptuous and I sneer at whatever crosses my path that day.  I hear voices and ‘tune in’ radio stations.  All I lack is a ‘tin-foil’ hat, which I have seriously considered.

My depression molds my thinking, and my despair rules the rest.  The promises of God are not for me, and they seem to always be out of my reach.  In many ways, I am an ‘unbelieving’ believer (there are many people like us).  My own frosty coldness and hardness never seems to amaze me.  I don’t want to be this way.  God, help me please.

A defining word, for people like me is this: “self-forgiveness“.  I consider myself above average when it comes to forgiving others.  I look forward to forgiving others.  But, I just cannot forgive myself.  I simply can’t let myself  ‘get off the hook’.  At times I do sense a comfort and a peace over these sins, but very soon they begin to rub me raw.  Like blisters, or ‘a stone in my shoe’, I begin to limp again. They are incredibly persistant.

This is not self-pity.  I am not looking for any manner of attention or warm hugs.  I do though want to open up my darkness so the light gets in.  I must learn to forgive myself, if I will ever walk clean.  This is imperative.  The adulteress who fell at Jesus’ feet and wept managed to forgive herself of a great deal of sin.  Those of us with mental illness/addictions have to come to this same point.  Is Jesus’ love enough to cover me?