Friday, January 27, 2006

The Price

One morning God says to Ezekiel:

“Son of man, behold I take away from you the desire of your eyes with one stroke; yet you shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down...” (Ezekiel 24:16).

By evening his wife is dead. And he does all that God has said: refrains from all mourning customs, dresses and behaves as if nothing had happened. When the people come to him and ask why, his tells them what God has told him to say: Someday the “...delight of your soul (the temple) and your sons and daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword.” Then they are to remember his stoic response to this personal tragedy and follow his example.

In this matter (and in many others) Ezekiel and other prophets were a living flesh-and-blood, intellect-and-emotion object lesson of being completely – mind, soul, body, family, stuff – God’s possession. He had the rights to everything about them - their time, health, reputation, comfort, possessions, even loved ones.

I am amazed at such consecration. It’s easy to echo Isaiah’s words in response to God’s call: “Here am I, send me.” But to really live it!

Instead, a subtle but pervasive barter mentality has crept into our ‘sales pitch’ on surrender. We tell those who are holding on to tracts of the self-life (including ourselves) that if we give all to God, surrender every hope, ambition, and dream, eventually and inevitably we will get them all back. That God is honor-bound to come through for us in this life with the coming true of every dream, only better – sort of increased with interest.

That this type of thinking exists is proved by how devastated we are when God takes what we said we offer, and burns it to ashes.

What is the solution? It is the real and actual and conscious abandonment to God to the extent of the meat on the altar, the wine and grain and perfume poured out, without the secret hope of salvaging any of it: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Another picture of it is the corn of wheat falling into the ground to die.

This last picture brings me the most hope. For eventually (and it may not be till eternity) that corn does what it was created to do “...produces much grain.” Even Jesus was clear, though, that the harvest of this may not be gathered in life: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24,25).

And from observing nature we know that the form of the harvest from that seed may be utterly unrecognizable. Just as plants differ in appearance from their genesis seeds, so surprising may be the reality of our realized dreams – now or later.

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