Feargiveness

Sorry for cursing in my last entry. I’m not much of a verbal curser. I probably curse 10 times a year. I had a swear jar at work when I worked in construction where I put a quarter in every time I cursed or every time someone thought they heard me curse. There were six quarters in it over the course of close to two years, two of those quarters because I accidentally said curse words in Portuguese. I don’t curse because I love words too much. I don’t want to waste them. When I do curse, I am confident God will forgive me and hope I don’t take forgiveness for granted.

With that said, let me tell you about the hell of a night I had.

Chaplaincy can be utterly terrifying. After working a normal 8-hour day of visiting patients and family, I responded to two calls that occupied my time from 6:45pm-midnight.dvinfernohomerclassicpoets_m

The first call, a patient was dying, 20-25 family members gathered in the ICU.  I prayed with the patient and most of the family before they removed his breathing tube, then after he passed away I prayed for the family. The two minutes I walked away from the room was when he died. I walked up moments after feeling goose bumps from the changed air of one less person present. Death is still surreal to me.

There was a part of me that wanted to be in the room when it happened, but someone dying also feels kind of like an intimate moment. Afterwards I stood around, got ice waters for family, tried to remain available and then 45 minutes later, I left.

I got a call from the switch board operators to visit another patient who was not dying but wanted to see a chaplain at the other hospital (the one I sleep at). I drove back, stopped at Taco Bell (where else? I had a coupon I had to use). And arrived on the patient’s floor at 10 pm.

And I walked into darkness. You’d think being in a situation where there is death is dark, but what’s darker than bodily death is walking into a room that smells of cigarette smoke body odor from someone who is somewhere between alcohol withdrawals and dehydration. main-qimg-d00c0f2057a768e32f242967ccfed9a8-c.jpg

He also took an hour and a half to tell me his life story in third person, which consisted of getting saved, going to prison, solitary confinement, being a bouncer for a strip club, getting married five times, having 7 sons from different wives, persistent substance abuse, witnessing a church bus driver molest a 9 year-old girl, paying for his son to have a failed threesome on his birthday, 18 consecutive seizures, renouncing Jesus and probably something else I missed. (He gave me permission to share his story, but part of me wishes I never heard it)

We prayed, he worshipped Jesus for 6 minutes or so while I sat and thought about how nice it would be to go to sleep in a world where shit like this didn’t exist (also I literally just wanted to go to sleep). Instead of sleeping I wrote about it at 1 am trying to find God in it.

Instead, or perhaps in showing Himself to me I have this Scripture from Psalm 130:3-4 making rounds in my head:

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.

I’ll be honest, after hearing the guys story I kind of felt like this guy doesn’t deserve salvation. I then reflected on my own life and realized I also don’t deserve salvation.

But one terrifying attribute of God is the depth and length of forgiveness Jesus Christ offers us. Most of us aren’t even fully aware of the depths of our sin. For some us, the surface sins are enough to overwhelm us.

Forgiveness terrifies me because if God is real and is as holy and good as He says He is, the psalmist of #130 is right, if God kept a tally of how much mine and your actions suck, we wouldn’t be able to stand. If I kept a tally of how much the actions of some people I would like to call friends suck, I would cut them off completely.

Instead of fearing the implications of forgiveness, we are tempted become users. I let myself be so used by some people. But, so does God in ever greater quantity and in darker depths of quality. God ascribes purpose to the blood of his Son. That costly blood cleanses our guilt, our conscience only for us to likely use again, to accidentally attempt to re-crucify.

Okay maybe you don’t, but I do. And yet I have tried to make it my job to minister forgiveness to people in the midst of their filthy, shit-stained, sulfur-scented dump heap of a life as they drain oxygen from this fallen world.

Yet in that darkness, in that pit Jesus promises to reach in and love us with a light that is simultaneously as bright as the day and as subtle as the flicker of a single firefly in a field at night.

During the minutes in which this patient of mine uttered the words, “Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you for your presence again,” on repeat; I sat there tired, numb, wondering what I am also most afraid of.

The Chasm Depth: A Metaphor Before I Move

I had this unction this year that God was doing something deep inside me, that we were digging into a depth we had yet to venture. And in that place I would find something I was not prepared to face until we got there.

I remember assuming that when we arrived at what God was digging at, I would find water. I expected a geyser to come out or at least a trickling of some sort.

But what I think I’ve found instead, is a chasm.

This bothers me. We had been digging and preparing a work, just to find a dark void. I was hoping that I would immediately see what I was getting when we reached the depth. I expected immediate overflowing, not darkness and new challenge.

I have felt that I am both experiencing and entering a season of abundance, which I warily declare, because outwardly it could look like I’m starting at a deficit.

But God is patient and generous and knew what I was getting myself into and has prepared me for this moment. He has prepared me for an accelerated depth. But why downward, why now-ward?

As quickly as I ask why, I remember that the past 3 years has taught me the why matters so little. More importantly than the why is the will. Will I follow if I know hardly anything?  I have repeatedly tried to say yes while struggling with all my own sin and burdens.

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We dug and we prepared and I’m looking down and I feel with everything within me that God, the good Father would not ask me to jump to my death or to be deserted.

And then I felt this question pop into my head: “Do you want to jump or fall in?”

The undercurrent of that question that I heard was this: “Either way this is where you are going because this is what we have prepared for.”

Up until the past 2 weeks I have been eager for a lot of things. I have looked forward to moving, to starting a new work, to leave behind some things, to celebrate victories and growth, to conquer some sin and weakness; then I became very acquainted with something all too familiar.

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With fear, more specifically the fear of not being able to guarantee the outcome of my choices. Without that guarantee I become tempted to resort back to familiar choices.

When you or I choose fear or sin, there is a part of us that knows even if that choice is bad or terrible, at least it is familiar and we can predict the outcome. Sin feels like death or disappointment which gives me some deceived solace that my failure is my own and in my control rather than left to chance. It feels better than failing while obeying, which might tempt me to blame God in anger.

This is a real temptation in the face of getting bad news about your father’s health or having to leave behind the potential for romance or missing your favorite friendships or job security.

For now though, I know that if I must go, I might as well jump.

And I might as well jump because I believe in a God who does miracles and wonders all the while clinging to the hope that what God has for me is better than me trying to hold tightly to my desire in these moments.

So I want to prophesy over myself and perhaps over you, a word. And the word is one word in Hebrew: The word is Tehom. It is a word that describes a large depth of water, specifically waters existing at a depth that is hard to reach. And from this depth, one of my favorite verses in the psalms exists.

Psalm 42:7:

“Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.”

It conjures up an image of an inverted waterfall pouring out of the earth to create a wave sweeping over us, but it is not wave of harm or destruction. It is a wave of love and song and joy.

This is the chasm depth I’m believing I’m jumping into.

After being in that depth, I could be carried out in a wave.

The word Tehom also is a symbol for creation in and of the world. This is the deep that darkness hovers over in Genesis  And from the deep creation begins to fill the void, as God speaks.

That is what I believe God is speaking over you: God and your creativity is filling the empty and dark spaces. It is part of God perfecting you through the sacrifice and work of Jesus. Darkness has no place to hover when the void is filled with God’s work.

Thank you reader/friend for stepping into this work with me.

*Note: Forgive me if the metaphor is too convoluted. I lean into unnecessary complexity too much on occasion.