Wednesday, January 15, 2020

What's "Inside" and "Staying Woke"

The poem (minus the man's name for privacy reasons).

Just a few minutes before our office closed today, a man walked in; a man I don't recall ever seeing before. I said "hello" and asked what I could do for him. He said, "I wrote a poem today. You want it?" My brain was kind of stuck for a second because it obviously wasn't a typical or expected statement/request. I said, "Uh...yeah...sure." What else could I say?! I figured it would be best to be polite and humor him. I also had a twinge of curiosity and a vague sense that this was something God ordained; as if Jesus Himself were asking "do you want what I have for you today?" I wasn't going to say "no" to a message from the Lord; even if, by chance, I wouldn't like it!

He took out a pen and paper and started writing. I was still intrigued, but a little nervous. I was second guessing my "yes" because his demeanor suggested that maybe he wasn't quite with it. I had doubts as to whether or not this "poem" was going to be anything legible, coherent, or even appropriate. I decided that no matter what, I would just smile, nod, and thank him for sharing. I assured myself that it was going to be ok and that this was going to be meaningful in some way.

He handed me the piece of paper and I started to read it. As I deciphered the words, I wasn't fully grasping or digesting it all yet. I was hoping I didn't look weirded out or confused; I didn't want to offend him. He asked me if he should submit it to the newspaper and I just said, "Yeah, sure. Go ahead and take it to them." I tried to hand the paper back to him and he told me that that copy was mine; that he had wanted to bring it to me first (I don't know if he meant it specifically for me or for our office as a whole...but it works either way). I was still kind of stupefied by the random event and could only manage to be like, "Oh, ok. Thanks!" 

As soon as he left, I slowly read it a few more times. The more I read and studied each word, the more it dawned on me that it really was a message from the Lord for me. I had so many questions to ask that man, but he was already gone. I just sat there for a few minutes; contemplating and crying. I was amazed; wishing I would have asked him more about what inspired him and caused him to bring that word to me! That's because I had been trying to sort out some thoughts and feelings earlier in the day; regarding the very issue that he named! Not only does my work at the Salvation Army deal with those entrenched in alcoholism, but there are friends and family members in my life that are affected by it as well.

I doubt there is a single person out there who isn't being affected by someone's alcoholism, drug addiction, rage addiction, gambling addiction, etc. Whether it's someone close to you (or even yourself) this "poem"describes us all. Inside every person who does the destructive action is the condition/addiction at work inside of them (which reminds me of what Paul talks about in Romans 7:14-25). Alcohol, drugs, behavioral patterns, bad choices, cycles, and evil spirits are all contributing factors to these strongholds. However, underneath it all is a PERSON... the REAL self. It's the human being that's been forgotten, buried, suppressed, stifled, and hidden beneath the mess. It reminds me of something Kanye West recently said: 

I’d say when you go to sleep, would you agree that you are asleep when you’re asleep? And when you wake up, would you agree that you’re awake when you’re awake? Would you agree that those are two different states? People who don’t believe are walking dead. They are asleep and this is the awakening.

Those whose souls are lost (or who are in bondage in some way) are asleep... real life "walking dead." They are in a spiritual coma. Somewhere deep "inside," they are aware and wanting/trying to wake up but...they can't or won't. Maybe they're actively trying to break through, stir, and open their eyes; or maybe they're not. Either way, they are still there; even if it's just a shell of a person who is almost too far gone. Almost. As long as there's still breath, there's still Hope; there's still Jesus! 

Finding JOY again in the midst of tough emotions
This poem was the answer to the cries and burdens of my heart! I am so grateful for the messenger that God sent to me! Lately (particularly today) it has been a struggle; a maddening, frustrating, saddening, struggle. It all eventually reaches a boiling point that feels like something beyond what I can tolerate. Exhausted by emotions, I tearfully fall apart and wonder how I'm supposed to continue empathizing. How can I come back to a "relation point" in order to continue extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those whom I just want to shake and say "WAKE UP!!!" ?! Even when I make the choice to be led by the Spirit, my sin nature screams inside for justice and all my "feelings" collide into each other and nag at me. I tell myself to grin and bear it as I help the homeless man who is demanding that we drop everything for him and meet his needs; and then abuses whatever "help" he gets and continues to suffer the health consequences due to always picking up the bottle. I tell myself to keep on "helping" him and others; even though they don't appreciate or deserve it (after all, this may be all the kindness and "reward" they'll ever get). I try to tell myself not to get mad at that selfish and ungrateful friend or family member that squanders every act of kindness or "second chance" that they get; spitting in our faces and lying/betraying us at every turn with no remorse or repentance. I suck it up and prepare myself to keep sacrificing more and turning the other cheek because the Bible says love perseveres and never
This was the "verse of the day" in my Bible app.
fails. I want to act in faith and love; yielding to the Lord out of worship and obedience to Christ. I have to take my thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and choose it; even though my "feelings" are raging and screaming "I'm sick of this! It's not fair! Why won't they stop and why aren't they reaping what they've sown? Where are the consequences and justice? How much worse does it have to get before they hit the so-called rock bottom?!" Every lamenting Psalm in the Bible echoes my questions and pleas; reminding me that the Lord is as merciful as He is just. He hears us crying out; just like the story of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). He's going to take care of all of it. In the meantime, it's vital to contend for the "awakening" and healing of every person; and continue overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:9-21). Prayer and compassion wins out; not hate, bitterness, and vengeance.

Grace and peace to you, my friends! I'll keep saying "yes" to the Spirit; and I hope you will too! I'll keep saying "yes" to love, compassion, and mercy. Even if the pouting, disgusted, disgruntled, and agitated sinful nature inside me whines and protests, I'll keep praying for Jesus to put my inner "Scrappy Doo" ("let me at 'em!" lol) in her place. It's a constant struggle to get my "feelings" to match my actions. However, as long as I still CHOOSE the facts and promises over my feelings, I won't "gratify the desires of my sinful flesh" (Galatians 5:16). I'll be kind and compassionate; forgiving as Christ forgave me (Ephesians 4:32). I'll remember this day (and this poem) forever; a reminder to "stay woke" so that I won't have to be like the ones that I'm hoping to see awakened from their own sleep. Amen! God bless you!