Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ephesian Asp

I've recently been reading through the book of Revelation, and I've been freshly stirred by the messages dictated by Jesus to the seven churches in the province of Asia -- particularly in regards to the letter for the church in Ephesus (you can read this letter in Revelation, chapter 2, verses 1 through 7).

I think I would have fit right in with the Ephesians.

At least according to my judgment of myself (which, granted, is not always the most reliable point of reference), I'm a hard worker and a patient endurer. I place a high value on righteousness, and I have a very low tolerance for "evil people." Generally speaking, my life would seem to be characterized by obedience, vigilence, steadfastness, trustworthiness... and so on. Very much like the church in Ephesus.

But of course I'm human. By nature, I'm not perfect. I'm a sinner... Yet it seems to me that my sins do not typically take me down the road of spectacular self-destruction. If I'm "not doing well," it doesn't typically mean drinking binges or one-night stands or violent rages or whatever might typically be categorized as "sinful" lashing-out or backsliding... Rather, if I'm not doing well -- if I'm living in the power of my own will instead of God's Spirit -- it usually means that I simply become more disconnected and more dead. I lose my ability to emote -- to love, to feel alive, to be passionate about anyone or anything... Just like the church in Ephesus.

Honestly, the last couple months have been a struggle for me. For whatever reason (which I suspect is somewhat related to a new wave of culture shock experienced upon returning from our most recent trip to America and a general season of less structure and more chaos), this has been a season of duty instead of romance in my relationship with God. I've been able to see God's face in the midst of the challenges, and I've been consistently choosing to remain in the struggle, striving to regularly create opportunities to jump-start my heart and maintain avenues for connection -- like a parapalegic exercising leg muscles in hopes of future recovery. But I often feel the temptation to let parts of me die and forsake my first love in the process.

However, it's encouraging to know that Jesus is calling me out of this, just like he challenged the church in Ephesus. He affirms my integrity in the process, and he reminds me that he knows my good deeds and my heart -- but he minces no words when it comes to the consequences of choosing for apathy, indifference, and allowing myself to drift off in to an emotional coma. My life and my ministry is at stake!

Yet if I can overcome -- if I can seek God with all my heart, even through the difficult times -- I will be rewarded someday with the right to eat from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God: big juicy pieces of Life Fruit that will dribble their nectar down my chin and stuff my belly so that I can never feel tempted to be dead again... Just thinking about it makes me hungry!

And there's nothing like a healthy appetite to keep me focused on the task at hand.


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