Saturday, September 12, 2009

Life in the Kingdom

As I continue to try to figure out "normal" life in the midst of all of this, I have something on my heart that I would like to share. Typically I don't know how I feel, don't know what I'm doing, don't know where I'm going... but hopefully this will give a bit of a glimpse into where I am finding meaning and joy. Of course I am so pleased with where Jacob is... he has come so far! He is taking so many awesome steps, and will continue to do so. But every now and then I have these weird "flashback" experiences... when I start to feel like life is normal for me, I then remember where Jacob is and what happened to him, and the emotions turn on their head all over again as I ask "Did that really happen?"

Trusting God to sustain, to carry me through the day, to be a light in my darkness.

Anyway, here's the beginning of my discussion... (it's kind of an awkward transition).

The models that we tend to operate under are based on how to have success (with varying definitions, of course). I.e., manage your time well. Study efficiently. Have a good, secure job. Get stuff done. You should probably get a Master's degree. Have lots of deep discussions with people. Read your Bible every day and get something out of it. Become a better person. Be a leader.

I think that when we go through tragedy, these models are shattered. Because I know that for me, I just can't operate like that anymore.

Which brings me to the idea of the Kingdom of God. It is so easy to define the Kingdom based on these standards of success - that the Kingdom is where "God rules," where "what God wants done is done." These are helpful descriptions, but become distorted when we assume that we know what these things look like. We turn it into "God wants me to do what I am doing." I think that we assume that because we do something in the name of "God," he wants us to do it and supports it. (I can name at least a dozen instances through history and my own life where this got the Church in big trouble!) The definitions of the Kingdom start to distort and fall apart when we start to meld them with what we think our lives should look like.

I have never felt the Kingdom of God before like I did this summer. But did God want Jacob to get electrocuted? I don't think I could trust a God like that.

Did Got want his Son, the Christ, to die a bloody death under his own wrath, to enter into utter physical and spiritual destruction? I don't think so. But out of it came the Kingdom and the Presence of God on earth like NEVER BEFORE. (In an indwelling Spirit! No longer just in the Temple like the Israelites were used to).

I think I typical trait of many Christian circles is that over matters like this regarding "Kingdom" and "Presence," we too easily revert into an endless predestination (Calvinism) vs. free-will (Arminianism) debate. "God is in utter control!" "No, we can make choices!" "No, God determines your choices!" "No, that's slavery/puppetry..." and so it goes, on and on. The problem I see with both of these is, that in arguing, they push God back into this far-off, transcendant Being who either manipulates and controls the universe or turns his head and doesn't care what happens. I wish we could get past the God of Calvinism and the God of Arminianism, and get to the God who comes down to be with us becvause he loves us, to comfort us in our sorrow, to befriend us in our loneliness, to heal us in our brokenness. Not to say that God is powerless to stop these things; but we must also account for evil in the world, for that which acts counter to this Kingdom-way, and understand that our God is a God who visits us in the midst of this horror for the sake of restoration.

Maybe the Kingdom is where what God wants done is done. But maybe all he wants is to be with us and loveus. To hold us when we can't go on. To sit next to Jacob in the hospital bed, crying with Jacob, encouraging him to stand up.

And then I think of this idea of the Holy Spirit... the essence of the Kingdom, the presence of God made real among us. And that is the key to it: among us. The words I said in the previous paragraph: "To sit next to Jacob in the hospital bed, crying with Jacob, encouraging him to stand up..." that is exactly what we are all doing for Jacob right now! We are being the church, we are being the presence of God to him. I picture Jacob as being the pinnacle on a pyramid... my family is the stones in immediate contact with him... and the rest of the stones are all of those who have expressed their support and love either to Jacob directly, or someone who doesn't even know him but is supportive and loving to someone who is trying to help us in this time. And then I realize that the idea of the Kingdom means that this body that is behind Jacob is really just one of the stones in the great pyramid of the story of God. This structure of support is how I have seen the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God work.

I have seen the Spirit work, not through some vague divine intervention, but through the hands, the words, and beneficience, the presence, and the love of people. Which is, in fact, divine intervention! We worship a God who is here, right in our midst. If you tap into this idea of utter love for others, joy in showing hospitality, giving, self-sacrificing... then you are submitting to this Kingdom-way... you are honoring this God. His Spirit exists as this connecting network of those who are seeking this way.

Maybe the Kingdom is more like a lifestyle of interaction, a Way that often goes against how our world operates based on a faulty definition of success - based on greatness, prestige, numbers, vengeance, capitalism, self-sufficiency... Maybe success in the Kingdom is based on how we react to failure, to brokeness, the the "little ones" that we come across (See Matthew 16-18), to the outcasts, to the unfairness, to the wrongs done against us... do we forgive? Do we accept? Do we recognize our own brokeness and say, "you know, I am ther with you... and I still love you..." or do we remain in our pride and say "there is something wrong with you that you need to fix," and employ all methods of passive-agressiveness, vengeance, retribution nad judgment even in our methods of evangelism, saying "Act like me! Just be like me and then you'll be alright."

Maybe the Kingdom is actually a dialogue of how to react to sorrow, to distress, to failure - what we do when we realize that the success of this world, the priorities of mankind, are worthless. When we are completely broken, where do we go? I think that in our very brokeness, we find the entrance to the Kingdom. Our world changes when we are able to let our defenses down and see just how weak we are. Brokenness is the door we must walk through. But the doors we walk through are mere doggy-doors compared to the door of brokeness that Christ walked through, willingly, for us - he recognized the role that brokeness played in the Kingdom, and he went through the epitome of all brokeness, that he may walk alongside us in love as we walk through our smaller doors.

-Robbie (Jacob's brother)

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Be here now, right? Thank you for your thoughts. You are in a magical place of enlightenment. Go with it and GROW with it. You are blessed by this, and have much to share. Jacob has much to share too. He too has been blessed to have had this experience and survived. He is clearly gifted and will be enlightened by the experience as well. The world will gain much from this horrible tragedy. Amazing, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I was at a water polo tournament today which was held at Wilcox High School, about a mile from Jacob's hospital room. So of course I was thinking of him most of the day. Aptos High was playing a game right after our school and it was the most inspiring game of the tournament. Aptos had a minimum number of players due to a variety of reasons and was therefor unable to substitute any fresh players. As the game wore on, some got into foul trouble and were forced to sit out (happens all the time in polo). Aptos put on a valiant show of heart and effort even while they were down with 4 players battling 6 opponents. The crowd was rooting for the underdog with whoops and hollers on each play. To see the smiles and laughter on the players faces as they were defying huge odds, to see their coach remain calm and proud of his boys as they faced large obstacles, reminded me of Jacob, his pals, and his family the whole game. After the game I mentioned to their players that Jacob was close by and they lit up even more. What a joy it was to pass on their greetings and encouragement when I went to see Jake later today. He is looking so good!! And yes, his eyes and smile communicate SO much. Right on Jake, You Rock!!
Guy B

John Hixson said...

Oh, Robbie, you are a minister of the Kingdom, explaining to the body of Christ the truths God has taught you through all of Jacob's Journey. And you've learned it at such a young age, God only knows where He'll be leading you in ministering to His people. As an "old" lady, I've only just recently learned that "in our very brokenness, we find the entrance to the Kingdom. Our world changes when we are able to let our defenses down and see just how weak we are. Brokenness is the door we must walk through." Yes, and although we dread the pain, just think of what Christ accomplished through His pain. You will accomplish God's will, Robbie, because of the pain you've undergone along with listening to God and sharing His wisdom with all of us. May this all be true for Jacob, as well.
Thanks from Judy Hixson

Suzanne Mallery said...

There's a stanza of a Yeats poem that I think expresses this idea. It's from Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop. There are a lot of people who treat this poem as just a bunch of sexual innuendo, but it has always expressed this deeper idea to me. Crazy Jane is rejected by the Bishop for being too tied to the tangible material world, which he thinks is unseemly because she's old and her body is going through physical decay. He thinks she should focus on heaven and heavenly mansions and ignore physical decay. Her response is this:
"But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent"

In our brokenness, God is there. Or perhaps in our brokenness the veil over our eyes has the potential to become thinnest. God is present and accessible in unique ways in brokenness. John of the Cross also talks about the times of spiritual "darkness" as being in reality times in which the light of God is so powerful that it blinds us.

kirky said...

Rob,

I love you so much, you made me cry, thank you, I agree, it is in these times of brokenness that we all really just need to be counter-cultural and change our views of what is supposed to be....thank you so much for your words! I love you!

Kirky

Lois Stinogel said...

AMEN!

Debbie said...

"Maybe the Kingdom is actually a dialogue of how to react to sorrow, to distress, to failure..."

Robbie, I couldn't agree more. Beautifully expressed. I too find it is in brokenness and our reaction to it, (be it our own or others) that our eyes & hearts are opened to the "completeness" of God. In that we find mercy, comfort, peace, joy and profound love and acceptance! I love that WE have the ability to "be" this kind of church for each other--caring for one another, carrying one another's burdens--not living in our brokenness alone and meeting God in the process.

Thank you for sharing what God is showing you and your family--in the midst of your & your families own pain and brokenness. I believe it is "trickling" down and impacting the lives of many. :]

Victoria said...

Rec'd email request to post from Carol:

Hi Robbie,
Amen and Amen!!! May God continue to give you insight.

Blessings, Carol

Anonymous said...

Tom,
this made me cry, wow so powerful the words you choose to use. They went straight to my heart. You have a beautiful gift, thank you for sharing it with us, and opening your heart.

Danielle