Many years ago a friend of mine lost her husband. He didn’t die from an illness or an accident. He wasn’t a casualty of war or self-inflicted violence. In fact, he didn’t die at all. Nor did she lose him to another woman or to drugs. Her husband just closed up inside, spending more and more time on the Internet, searching for God knows what, until he finally vanished from her life, demanding a divorce. My friend was bewildered and hurt, unable to rescue her marriage because she didn’t even know what was wrong. She suspected an addiction to pornography, but she couldn’t prove it. Her husband wouldn’t say. Not a word.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks of the isolating effects of sin and the power of confession to break that isolation: “In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light.”(1)
But as soon as the sin is confessed, its grip is broken. As Bonhoeffer says of the repentant sinner, “He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God.”(2)
Psalm 139 speaks of God’s ability to see through our darkness. Confessing our sins to a trusted sister or brother in Christ can help us enter that place of safety, right in the middle of God’s people.
(1). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 112.
(2). Ibid., 113.
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Zoom to get ready in the morning. Zoom to drop the children off at school. Zoom to get to work. Zoom to make it to the next meeting. Zoom to the doctor’s office. Zoom back to work. Zoom to complete the next assignment. Zoom to the grocery store. Zoom home. Zoom to grab dinner. Zoom to soccer practice. Zoom to the drug store. Zoom home again. Zoom to bed. Zoom, zoom, zoom! No wonder we feel so worn out. Some of us even zoom our way through church.
Okay, enough of zoom. What can we do to dial back a bit so we can experience times of refreshing? The first thing we can do is to realize that trading time for money is often a bad bargain. Much of our rush, rush life is powered by a desire for money. We work longer and play less so we can get ahead. A higher salary, a nicer house, more toys. Wayne Muller puts it graphically by saying that money “is the temple to which we are all drawn to worship, bringing our offerings of time, and taking away the blessings of money.”(1) Put it that way, and our addiction to speed seems downright sinful.
When it comes to work, we may not always be able to slow things down. But most of us have at least some discretionary time. This week, ask yourself how you can get a better return when it comes to investing the precious resource of your time.
(1). Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (New York: Bantam, 1999), 98.
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Having too much is rarely a recipe for peace, though it’s tempting to think so. When you have lots of stuff, you need to spend lots of time paying for it and lots of time taking care of it. Our many possessions can tie us down, making it difficult to respond to opportunities God gives. Oddly, having too much often makes us want to have even more.
In his classic book on the Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel points out that when modern people want to emphasize something in print, we often underline or italicize words. The Bible and other forms of ancient literature used a different tactic—repeating words within the text, as if to say, “Listen and listen up!” Deuteronomy 16:20, for instance, says, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (nrsv). Isaiah 40:1 declares, “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.”
Heschel points out that only one of the Ten Commandments is proclaimed twice, and that’s the last one, which goes like this: “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns” (Exodus 20:17)(1). By emphasizing the command, God puts a double fence around our tendency to want more, especially if the more that we want belongs to someone else.
You may not feel wealthy compared to those around you, but most of us who are living in the affluent West are rich compared to the rest of the world. No matter how much we have, all of us can fall into the temptation of coveting what we don’t have. If you find yourself stressed out by everything you own, ask God for help and wisdom to begin paring things down. Then listen and listen up so you can experience more of God’s peace in your life!
(1). Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), 90.
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Several years ago a business leader by the name of Michael Hyatt embarked on a three-week pilgrimage to Mount Athos, visiting several Orthodox monasteries. Toward the end of the trip, Hyatt and his companions visited a small monastic community located on the edge of the Aegean Sea. During their visit, one of the monks offered the travelers tea and pastries served up with stimulating spiritual conversation.
When it was time to go, Hyatt stood on the veranda overlooking the brilliant blue sea and remarked to one of the monks, “I hate to leave, Father. It is so peaceful here.”
Nodding, the monk remained silent for a few minutes and then replied, “You know, Michael, anywhere can be this peaceful, if”—he paused for emphasis—“you have God in your heart. But if you don’t, then even a place as beautiful as this can be hell.”(1)
Most of us can relate to Hyatt’s experience. Standing at the edge of a lake, staring up at starry skies, or walking through snowy woods, we sense a peace we wish would go on forever. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the created world has this effect on us, coming as it does from the good hand of God.
Let’s enjoy the beauty of nature, savoring the peace we find there without being seduced into thinking that a villa on the beach or a cabin on a mountaintop is what we really need to be happy. Only God, living within us, can give us what our hearts desire.
(1) Michael Hyatt, “Where to Find Peace in Turbulent Times,” Michael Hyatt Intentional
Leadership (blog), February 28, 2011, http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=52d5c7778a3adfda535c3b349&id=c17029a0c2&e=53afb51cde.
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