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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Falling-Down Barns

Psalm 119:25-32 (The Message) "I'm feeling terrible - I couldn't feel worse! Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story you responded; train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle-wonders. My sad life's dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your Word. Barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with your clear revelation. I choose the true road to Somewhere. I post your road signs at every curve and corner. I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me; GOD, don't let me down! I'll run the course you lay out for me if you'll just show me how."

Life comes at us quickly, catching us off-guard, even throwing us for loops without our ever noticing the onslaught coming our way. It is easy to get waylayed by the events of our day, the temptations of our fickle emotions, and the ups-and-downs of drama all around us. Without even noticing, we are caught up into feelings of negativity, doubt, and even fear. Our Psalmist is crying out to God in this passage with an impassioned plea to have his "dilapidated" life built back up by the hands of the Master Builder, Jesus. He has experienced these very "set backs" of life that cause him to be less "in tune" with what God is doing around him, less attentive to God's direction, and less impassioned in his pursuit of his Lord. In turn, he cries out, begging God to bring him back to the place of his first love.

Dilapidation carries a meaning of coming to a place of total or partial ruin or decay. This often occurs by misuse or a lack of use and results in a "run-down" state or condition. Another meaning is probably closer to what David was implying here and that is "squandered" - living in such a way that something is frittered away without any real awareness. David has been "living life", but perhaps he has been unaware of the extreme toll it has taken on him - either physically, spiritually, or emotionally - until he comes to the place he feels the internal "decay" of that part of his life.

Regardless of the causes of our sense of "dilapidation", God stands constantly at the ready to answer the pleas of a desperate and sincere heart. One of the things I most appreciate about David is his open and honest heart - his willingness to be "real" in his pursuit of God. He makes all kinds of mistakes in life - some of them huge (committing adultery or sanctioning the murder of an innocent man stand out as pretty big mistakes in my estimation) - yet he always knows exactly where to run to in his time of realized trouble. He turns to GOD - the one who is unchanging in his character, the one who is steadfast and sure in his graces and mercies.

David used simple words to express the agony of his condition. He did not fall into the customary "rules of prayer" of his day, reciting prayers that were merely words on a page. He called out with real words that expressed the misery he was experiencing. This gives me hope that I can turn to God in my times of failure, call out with a sincere heart, "Hey, God, I am a falling-down barn - I need your rebuilding here!" That pretty graphically describes the condition of a sinful heart - decaying, rotting structure; smelly, not so pretty contents; barely held together by any recognizable order; acting as a shelter to birds of prey and venomous spiders.

The attitude of David's heart is that of open, honest sincerity - he is humbly admitting he has fallen and needs to get on his feet again. Whatever the cause of his stumbling, he knows exactly where he is going to find stability in his life once again and that is exactly where he turns. He petitions God from a desperate heart and calls upon God to "remember his promises" to him. Promises like:
  • "I'll never leave, nor forsake you." (Joshua 1:5)
  • "With God, all things are possible." (Mark 10:27)
  • "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)

The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. David is recalling the promises of God and as he does, he is being lifted out of his pit of despair into the beauty of God's holiness.

David goes on to ask God to give him revelation from his Word. He wants to glean all he can from the treasures contained within the pages of the Scriptures - being able to rely on them in his times of need. He asks for the wisdom of God to grow in his life - it is through the teaching of the Holy Spirit that this is possible. Where we lack wisdom, we need only ask. God brings us to the place of revelation - sometimes quickly, and sometimes over a period of time, building upon each past truth with the next until we come into the fullness of revelation that he has for us.

David's words so aptly describe how we are "rebuilt" when we have become "fallen-down barns" - it is through the Word of God. He "posts" the promises of God as reminders in his life of the keeping power of his Lord, the guiding grace of his Savior, and the leading pull of his Master. Rebuilding is much more difficult than simply erecting a new structure. The work of demolition must first occur. We often resist this work of "clearing out" the debris because it is uncomfortable, exposing all kinds of hidden dirt underneath, and "guts us" to the point we feel completely undone in his presence. There is extreme value in removing the old before we bring the new in, but there is no denying that the cleaning out of the old is painful. It can be intense, to say the least. We resist what we find uncomfortable, finding our "discomfort" with the dilapidated state not quite bad enough to warrant the discomfort of the demolition state.

As a nurse, I often wondered at the rationale behind some of the treatment processes we use to bring healing to a wounded body. One such process is the wet-to-dry dressing applications on wounds that require "cleaning out" (we call this process debridement). Soaked gauze dressings are applied to the bed of the wound, allowed to dry in place, forming a "seal" against the tissue below. In turn, when the dry gauze is removed from the bed of the wound, the dead and often diseased tissue comes along with the gauze. This leaves a cleaner wound bed, exposed tissue, and a new blood flow to the area. That simple act of "debriding" the wound brings new life. The discomfort of the moment brings health, newness, and a chance for complete healing. A slight scar may remain, but the original decay of the wound will be gone. The scar is a reminder of what once was, but what no longer is.

God relishes the times we call out for his "debriding" process in our lives. Those times when he may remove the decaying of our hearts with the expertise of his tender, healing touch. In those times of open disclosure before God, health comes into our inner being. We move from going Nowhere in our own pursuits, to going Somewhere with God, in passionate pursuit of his holiness in our lives. Don't be afraid to cry out to God in your times of intense need - he stands ready to rebuild what life has left in ruins. Grasp onto God with all your might and see what he has in store for you today. His mercies are new EVERY morning!