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Sunday, March 31, 2013

What do you see from down there?

Calamity:  a great misfortune or disaster; adversity; misery.  There was a 20th century American Baptist pastor, Harry Emerson Fosdick, who penned these words:  "He who knows no hardships will know no hardihood.  He who faces no calamity will need no courage.  Mysterious though it is, the characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles."  The idea of the "best" in human character being produced in the times (or fields) of calamity or trouble might just catch your attention here.  In fact, it speaks very loudly to me - for the character which speaks the "loudest" is that which had endured the disaster, held strong through the misfortune and loss, dug in during times of adversity, and withheld the desire to give up in the midst of misery.

For a righteous man falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.  (Proverbs 24:16 AMP)

He also penned these words:  "Life consists not simply in what heredity and environment do to us, but in what we make out of what they do to us."  We often declare we CANNOT because we claim some "flaw" in heredity or some "misfortune" of environment.  It is quite a different matter to declare we CAN because we recognize there is no "flaw" in God's heredity (which we partake of in Christ Jesus), nor is there anything of "misfortune" in his careful plans for our lives.  It is not in WHAT comes our way which our course is established - it is in realizing WHO we are as we walk through those events - a child of God, embraced by grace, overcoming by his power.

Look at our passage this morning.  The writer never says a righteous man will always be standing strong.  It indicates a righteous man may actually fall - not once, but several times!  Take heart, dear one, you may have fallen, but you don't remain down!  Why?  It is because you never face the misfortune, disaster, adversity, or misery alone!  You always have a hand outstretched to bring you through - the hand of Christ.  I think this passage speaks of not just enduring change, but making change happen.  When we fall, we have an opportunity to change what made us fall, don't we?  Trip over our shoelaces and we either learn to tie them or get shoes with velcro!  Drink sour milk and we either learn to do a sniff test each time we open the carton or we convert to a milk substitute!  You don't just accept the "bad stuff" because you find yourself with it or enduring it.  You look for a better solution, don't you?

Solomon presents us with the idea of not just falling, but rising again.  The "calamity" which seeks to get us down cannot keep us down when we have the understanding of the richest of our character being developed not in the good times, but in the depths of such calamity!  Another poet penned these words:  "We are more disturbed by a calamity which threatens us than by one which had befallen us."  (John Lancaster Spalding)  Sobering thought, but so true.  We focus on the thing which seems to be threatening us - nipping at our heels, so to speak - while we neglect the one which had already landed us smack-dab on our rears!  I think we spend a whole lot of time in the "what if" rather than the "hear and now", often not realizing the present place we find ourselves is THE place of our greatest growth.

I spent some time this weekend in the yard - weeding, trimming, and then renewing the gardens with some new topsoil, nutrients, and a few new plants.  I was surprised to find I had a huge leak in my sprinkler system - totally hidden away from my view by the vastness of the bush which covered it.  You know, it wasn't until I took the time to focus on the "cleaning out" of the bed, planting of something new, and the trimming back of the unruly growth that I found the evidence of the leak!  It probably had been there a while, by the looks of things.  A small "elbow" in the plastic piping had cracked, taking the pipe apart, allowing large amounts of water to just escape to the sidewalk.  I wonder how long it would have gone on if I had not chosen to deal with what was right in front of me?  You see, I did not set out to trim the bushes - I just wanted to refresh the back yard.  The break in the pipe was in the front yard!

I discovered the leak which was likely costing me extra money each month in my water bill just because I planted three tiny flower seedlings in the front bed.  An unintentional finding as a result of an intentional action.  I wonder how many times we discover something totally unintentional in our calamity?  We might never have realized the thing which was consuming so much of our resources without that specific moment occurring.  Solomon doesn't say a righteous man NEVER falls - he just discovers something totally unintentional in the moment of his falling!  The thing we discover in our calamity may be the thing which results in the richest growth in our lives - the deepest development in our character.  I know my plants will be hardier with the leak fixed, as the water can now travel to each sprinkler along its designed course.  I think we may just discover in our falling that "unintended blessing" of realizing something capable of producing vast growth because of the  perspective we gain in our falling!  Just sayin!