Israel and me

After Israel was founded, they went through this period described in Judges.  During this time, Israel goes through this whole cycle about 6 times: they mess up, they are taken over, they cry out to God, a judge is called by God to lead them into peace, they do good for a while, but eventually they mess up and the whole thing starts again.

I find it quite ridiculous, that they go through this so many times.   Until I look at my own life.  And realize I’ve gone through this much more than six times.

I discovered today that I never really paid attention to how long Israel spent opressed in comparison to how long they enjoyed peace and good leadership.  I always assumed it must have been little tiny durations of joy punctuating these long periods of despair.

But that’s not right.

With one exception, the period of peace and prosperity were always longer than the periods of darkness.  Early on, the difference was much more pronounced; eight years of being opressed followed by 80 years of self-rule.  There are a few periods that we don’t get a number expressed in years for.  Interestingly, several times the number 40 pops up, which has quite a lot of biblical significance.  On the whole, 111 years are described as ones which God is not protecting the Is Israelites; for 316 years he does.

This cycle stops during the last couple chapters in the bible.  This is where the refrain begins, “In those days, Israel had no king.  And the people did as they wished.”  For my money, some of the most horrible, heart-breaking occurences in the whole bible occur in these chapters.  (I posted some responses to Pastor Marty’s sermon series on these chapters.  Both my responses and his sermons had the title “The Worst Story Ever Told)

If the back-and-forth cycle of Israel is relevant to my life, certainly these observations are, too:  God will not operate on a tit-for-tat basis but will always “err” on the side of genorousity, kindness, and love.  As I continue to need direction in a certain direction, though, this excess of love will slowly decrease, eventually ending in a time of quite significant darkness.

This is all somewhere between scary and comforting.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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