YESTERDAY, WHEN I WAS YOUNG…
In August 1977, I was 24 years old, slim, fairly handsome, I had lots of hair, I was falling in love with a lovely lady whom I was discussing marriage with, and I am shown here vacationing in Palm Springs, California in the home of a Hollywood celebrity. Yo estaba muy feliz en el tiempo.
I am on the left…Oh, that’s not my dog. It was my host’s.
I was a young Christian man. I had a lot of things going for me. But pretty much after this time, things changed for me, subtly, but dramatically. I lost the girl. I lost some other opportunities. I lost some hair. I moved from California to Texas. That was like a cultural paradigm. I had far different responsibilities presented to me which I later accepted. I didn’t focus on my personal happiness or my personal life after this much.
I didn’t have the opportunity to marry, and to start a family. I had always envisioned this for me as I was much a romantic sort. My favorite movies at the time were “date-movies.” I took one girl, when on dates, to so many of them that she complained!!??
I took employment to survive in a very rural area that I really did not enjoy. It was very hard work. I took on a lot of debt to make the dreams of others come true.
It was this way for me for nearly twenty-five years.
I can blame others. But that is a dead end. I have to look at the “big picture.” I believe in God. I entrusted my life to Him. I had no “personal” agendas or ambitions. When you live by faith or trust in God, you put God first… self, well, as much as possible, to the end of the line.
Sometimes, God has a place for us to be. It is a discipline. It is a learning experience.
I like to read. Books are my friends. I like history a great deal. One of the many topics that I like to read are about the history of other Christian’s lives. I have for instance, nearly all the books on Corrie Ten Boom. She was a Dutch Christian or saint, if you will, in the 20th century.
CORRIE TEN BOOM: She became famous for her inspirational and life-changing Christian testimony much later in life as a old woman as the many photos of her attest. Yet, the building blocks for such recognition came much earlier in her life. So I include a picture of Miss Ten Boom, when much younger, when you can see the character lines and resoluteness forming.
Miss Ten Boom never married. She never had a family. What family that she did have, she tragically lost. Instead, Ten Boom had a school to attend. It was one of “God’s schools.” You never know exactly what the curriculum is going to be when you attend one of “God’s schools.” But you know this. God’s schooling always involves… discipleship.
No one talks much about discipleship in Christian evangelical circles, or in any context of Christianity anymore.
Jesus did though. I think Jesus is right. I think that discipleship should be talked about considerably.
Here is what Jesus said about the topic of discipleship:
“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’ “ (Bible, New Living Translation).
I am not going to explain here, much more about discipleship, than what Jesus stated. Although in the Gospel of Matthew in a related reference, Jesus stated that his disciples must “put him first”…before any other relationships, family or personal. You can read more of this in Matthew 10:37-39.
It is my estimation, that there is a large disconnect in the depths of Christian commitment nowadays among Christian professors in organized Christendom, that is, fundamental or evangelical types, in these two statements that Jesus gave as a simple, but mandatory, adherence. But this is another topic for another day.
Back to Ten Boom.
She was sent to “God’s school.” It was a Nazi concentration camp. The issue in God’s school is not to survive… but to live… according to the precepts of Christ. Some do die… Miss Ten Boom’s family did… in these concentration camps. But they are still “alive”… as they lived according to obeying the precepts and words of Christ. Though they are dead, they died in faith. They died in hope. The hope of a resurrection.
In God’s school, you learn some facets of discipleship. This “taking up of the cross” business, for instance. Taking up “your cross” may be very different from someone’s else’s cross. It is important to take yours. It is a mission. The Cross is an interesting concept.
Here is what I mean about the Cross as a figurative symbol of things.
A simple Cross diagram.
What is compelling about Christ talking about a “cross,” is that he was talking about one long before he was hung on one!
I am not sure that his disciples ever really caught on to his meaning until after the fact of his crucifixion.
I think it would be stimulating to discuss what Jesus meant about the illustration of a cross relating to discipleship without at all, …the idea of his crucifixion.
Can you think of what the cross symbolizes without Christ being crucified on one?
Let me have a “crack” at it.
You have a cross. It basically is two lines that intersect. One goes up and down or vertical.., the other is horizontal, going left to right…
Where they intersect is important. It creates a dynamic of a confluence. Something like opposites meet in a juncture which stimulates conflict. This is important. I will get back to it briefly.
The horizontal line suggests a level plane, like the plane of the earth. It is flat. It suggests an earthly perspective. We are only concerned about what is front of us or what is behind us… thus, left or right. We see only so far into the horizon. Some terrain or mountain or hill starts to block our vision in the horizon. Our senses seem limited to this nuance.
The vertical line suggests a heavenly plane. It is upwards and downwards. We can’t see much downwards. The earth is in the way. If we could, we would not be too interested… it is just a bunch of dirt, rock, and sediment. Not much to get excited about unless you are a geologist.
The other direction of the vertical line is upwards.
Now, here is a revelation. We can look and look, and look, and never see the end of what is upwards. Even beyond our firmament, the dark space beckons us to peer onward. We build telescopes, giant refractory lenses, and Hubble space platforms to search as far as we can into the heavens.
Yep, we get inspired by the vertical line going up. By contrast, we are not, by the same line going downward. The horizontal lines can catch our immediate interest, but in the end, you can only see so far.
When you intersect these two lines, they keep going it appears, but it seems that something is implied when they intersect. A dynamic occurs. Up meets down. Left meets right. And vice-versa. This dynamic brings some visual conflict to our eyes. Does one direction supersede the other at this point?
Let me spiritualize this, for a moment. I mean, that is what Christ was attempting to do.
The horizontal line is human will. The vertical line is God’s purpose.
Before the two lines meet, they had been running counter to each other. When they do meet, there is conflict.
This creates the “cross.”
A decision has to be made. The decision is to whether to continue with selfish human will or, align yourself or your will with God’s purpose or Will.
If you continue with your own selfish agenda, you still will have the impact of the conflict… where the lines that ran counter… met and created a conflict and a decision to be made. You can run the other way for the rest of your life… you will not minimize the impact of this conflict. That can be your decision. The flight instinct.
In other words, you can’t get rid of the “cross.”
I have seen folks struggle with “their” choice. They have a “cross” whether they like it or not.
Their lives have been… God interrupted…
They can dismiss it to an extent, but it is always in the background.
How then, do you get rid of the “cross?”
You have to change directions. You have to do a realignment. You have a destiny with the heavens and with the stars. Your will must conform to God’s Will.
You will note that I said, “your will.” God doesn’t want robots. He just wants you to be “enlightened.” This enlightenment will inspire you to conform your will to His Will. When your will and God’s Will finally are in some measure of conformity… not uniformity… then you will have this:
Humankind has been seeking “harmony”… like forever. This is what it takes… going the way of the “cross” …heavenward.
This is the purpose of God’s school. It will take self-denial. It will take a good deal of suffering. It will take perseverance in faith. It will take a postponement of “your plans.” Sometimes, it may not include your “plans” at all…
But at the end… you will be in harmony with your Heavenly Father.
I am sure that Corrie Ten Boom never thought that she would end up as she did. She was just the daughter of a clock maker and repairman. She had no idea that she would be on a world stage of sorts. Whatever her plans were… well, she never really said to my recollection. She had put her life in God’s hands beforehand.
I was in such a school for twenty-five years. When I got out of this “school,” I was a far different person than when I “went in.”
I had my freedom again. I could do what I pleased. But who I wanted to please was God.
Whatever I had “lost”… well, God has been making that up to me.
I married late in life. I have children. I have a family. I cannot express how much this means to me. I am very grateful to God for giving this to me at my age and stature in life.
And, I am still a little slim… and I still have some hair. I am not sure about the handsome part anymore though. But all such “looks” are fleeting anyway… just ask any Hollywood starlet. I would rather have the resoluteness and the character lines!
I am not sure, as one man said, that I would take a million dollars for what I went through, …to do again. But I do not regret going through it.
It was God’s school.
I still have several lessons to learn from our Heavenly Father.
But, it will not be the same school as before.
I graduated from that.
My life was not really in the sense… God Interrupted…
It was Self, Interrupted.
God had better plans for me… than to be living for self, even if I was a professing Christian. I had to have a deeper walk. A deeper commitment.
What are God’s Plans for you?
Can you go deeper?
Thanks for reading.
Copyrighted. Joseph Spickard, 2014. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this intellectual property without prior permission from the author is prohibited.