Hello! Here is this week’s Living Water. This is a remix of Sunday’s message. Great news – whether you have a pc or a mac you can listen to Walk With Me live on Wednesday nights – 8 pm on www.yfnradio.com. We also have just added several new affiliates around the nation. Thanks be to God! Christopher
Feeling stuck today?
Maybe you feel stuck at a job; in a relationship; in a rut or routine that’s not helping; in an addiction; in a spiritual valley; at an organization or group?
You’ve thought about getting out but it never happens. Something else always comes up; rationalizations and compromises are made.
Are you haunted by, or overly attached to the past? Do you often wish or even exist as if the past was great and anything present or new just doesn’t match up?
Or do you avoid thinking about the past altogether because it’s too painful or shameful?
Deep down you know something is not right…
Stay and fight for a solution? Start over? They sound good but seem impossible.
What about something new altogether? That’s it! But a new start…scary.
Let it go (even though you’ve tried so many times before)?
Still stuck, right?
Stuck in the middle between old and new; comfortable and reaching; liking and loving; numbed and compassionate; circling and devoted.
Though stuck may feel safe – it’s not truly alive.
Let’s talk about why we get stuck and how we might get un-stuck.
Here are some ways we get stuck: Denial (“It’s not really over,” and “It never happened” and “I don’t have a problem”) and Pride (“It’s not going/ending the way I want it to”) and Fear (“What will a new beginning be like; who will I be if ____ ends, or I let go?”). All of these together point to something we all wrestle with – avoiding truth, reality, endings and losing control. To make things worse, I cringe when I hear the phrases, “just move on” and “swept under the rug” because they don’t work and cause even more damage beyond being stuck.
As you might imagine, truly getting unstuck might have something to do with shifts on these two – avoiding endings and losing control. Professor Walter Brueggemann explains it as, speaking from a Biblical and spiritual perspective, “only embraced endings permit new beginnings.” Not partial, not hints of endings or temporary ones – only embraced endings.
And he’s right. The Bible is filled with only embraced endings enabling new beginnings. The cross is the ultimate embraced ending…Jesus willingly went to the cross (ending) so that the dominion of sin and death could end and the resurrection and new life would occur. But also, in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:18) in which the son decided to return to his father and repent.
Listen to the words of Psalm 32 that is the voice of stuck to unstuck spiritually speaking, “While I kept silent, my bones wasted away…Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity…and you forgave the guilt of my sin… (Psalm 32:3, 5).” Do you see it? Suffering, strife while in denial or proud or afraid; then acknowledging the truth, embracing the need for God’s grace – new beginning – living forgiven.
Keep in mind, the “new” has already come – Jesus announced that the kingdom “has come near (Mark 1:15).” And in 2 Corinthians 5:17 we hear, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new has come.” So the denial, pride and fear can’t keep the new in anything from materializing (this is a key part of the Gospel). It’s whether or not we are going to engage it by first embracing whatever the appropriate ending is. And frankly when we are not engaged with the new that God is doing (which will always be life-giving), we are usually embracing things that are dying or of death.
So I want to say very lovingly to many of you today that yes it happened and it was awful and it was not your fault. I want to say lovingly that the guilt you carry from what you have done in the past is crushing and suffocating you. I want to lovingly say that there is a problem but you don’t have to suffer under it anymore. I am lovingly saying that you will still be you, in fact a more wonderful you than you have ever known. You know, “we are as sick as our secrets” and I am saying lovingly that all the pretending, denying, pride and fear are only hurting you and keeping you from the goodness and grace God wants to and is ready to pour out on your heart and soul. The irony of course is that to welcome and receive that healing and restoration, you have to embrace the truth of what has happened, what you’ve done, what you can’t control anymore, and what you fear; and it is in that embrace that it’s or their power over you will end and the healing and new beginning can begin.
Maybe it starts like this, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God…Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love for they are from of old…Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord (Psalm 25:1, 6-7).”
And when you lift up your soul and trust in Him above everything and everyone else, and He supplies you with the strength to embrace whatever ending you need to embrace today, He will absolutely be remembering you according to His love and grace. Then you’ll see that those dreams that seemed so far away will be as close as a whispered prayer. Those dreams of forgiveness and restored relationships, those dreams of getting clean or sober, those dreams of being free of guilt and the expectations of others, those dreams of being and feeling loved unconditionally, those dreams of living fearlessly and purposefully, those dreams of the past being the past, those dreams of no longer being defined by past events or decisions, those dreams of having a future with hope, those dreams of finally more fully experiencing the joy and peace of God’s presence.
Rev. Christopher B. Wolf
Christopher B. Wolf is pastor of First Reformed Church of Saddle Brook and is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and With You Every Step of the Way; and the host of Walk With Me, Wednesdays 8 pm on WYFN 94.9 FM-NY and on www.yfnradio.com.
“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.