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Sunday, January 26, 2014

A strangle-hold

Somewhere in time, the expression "end of my rope" came into use.  In a general sense, it means someone can't take anymore.  The origin of the saying might just shed a little bit of a different light on it, though.  It comes from the practice of hanging a condemned man.  The noose is placed around the neck, cinched a little to make sure it is snug, and then he falls through a trap door underneath his feet.  As he drops, he comes to an "abrupt end" to the rope!  In essence, he is jerked short - he doesn't have any more "give" in the rope to allow him to stand against the growing pressure of the rope around his neck.  Now, this indeed paints a picture of something not quite as casual as being at the point of just throwing up one's arms and walking away - it suggests the "pull" that makes one feel like they have run hard, but come up short of realizing the hoped for end.  There is just nowhere to go when you are at the end of the rope - you are left "hanging".  Sound familiar?  I think we all find ourselves at this point on occasion, but what we do when we "come up short" makes all the difference between the rope having a "strangle hold" and it being the point of realizing we need someone to set us free!

When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.  (2 Corinthians 11:29 MSG)

There is indeed a certain sense of desperation when someone comes to the place of being at the end of one's rope - the strangle hold is somewhat of a threat, is it not?  Desperation carries a hint of recklessness in its definition - for despair leads you to doing all kinds of things you wouldn't otherwise do. Desperate people need immediate intervention.  There isn't a whole lot of time to piddle around with this or that - the answer needs to come "NOW". If you have been around someone desperate - at the end of their rope - you know what I am describing here.  Their every movement is designed to "break free" from the strangle hold of what has brought them to this moment in time. To continue in their present state is just not acceptable - they need a way out and they need it now.  Conditions have become so intolerable, they just cannot go on as they are - something has to change.

I wonder if we are the kind of individuals who can experience the desperation of someone else's rope?  This is really what I think our writer was referring to in this passage - for it was not his rope he was speaking of, but that of another.  It causes HIM to feel the desperation in HIS bones - so identifying with the pain of another that it causes HIM to take action on behalf of the other person!  This is what Jesus wants of us - to care for those whose life has come to the point of a "strangle hold" - where there is no more "give" in the rope.  It is more than a passing awareness of their need, but a "co-mingling" of what you have at your disposal with what their present circumstances require.  Some need only some words of advice in order to see they have become bound by the rope and then they turn around, take a few steps back to give them the ability to slip away from that which binds them! Others need someone to help them break free of the rope because they don't even possess the ability to get loose even if they had some "slack".

To this, our writer adds this idea of being duped.  There are a whole lot of people who find themselves at the end of their rope simply because they have become deceived by something which appeared to be one way, but turned out to be something quite different than expected.  Either a lack of up-front questioning of intentions, or the unwitting carelessness of accepting something at face value has led them down a path they really wish they hadn't ever explored.  Now they stand at the end of the road, feeling totally duped and experiencing the shame of their sin.  Truth be told, I can honestly say, "Been there, done that" - even got the shirt and wore it out!  It doesn't take much to buy into some of the lies which lead us astray - a moment of weakness, a season of frustration, or even an ill-placed hope - all can open doors we would not have opened if we'd have known the end from the beginning.

Does the unwitting deception another has bought into cause a fire to burn in your gut?  It should!  That is YOUR brother or sister who has fallen, not just someone you have no connection to!  Those who have been brought into the family of God are ALL our brothers and sisters - therefore, their fall is something which should affect us deeply.  In essence, our writer is saying we should be so connected to each other that we are affected deeply whenever there is one who has fallen prey to sin's luring deception.  We should be affected enough to take action.  I don't know about you, but when there is a fire burning in my gut, I don't just sit by and take it silently!  I get us and try to do something about it! 

We all have potential to do a little "rope hanging" on occasion - what we do when another is at the end of their rope may just determine what happens to us when we are at the end of ours!  Just sayin!