Ten Week Positive Adjective Challenge: Week Six

The challenge: Once a week, for 10 weeks, choose one emotionally descriptive word that positively describes my wife.

The intent:

  1. As a man, I broke through the boundaries of emotional simplicity and began to explore emotional complexity.
  2. This challenge forces me to positively define my wife.  By doing this, I have to accept what I positively say to be true.  Thus, it being written in black and white, the things I write become a permanent fixture here and most likely in the minds of the readers – including her.
  3. Growth.  Always growth.

Here is week six.

Genuine

I anticipate objections to me using the word “genuine” as an emotionally descriptive word, but I heave a sigh of relief when I consider that my wife is genuine. Let me explain.

My wife is genuine in that she is a WYSIWYG kind of lady. I do not worry that what she says about me to me is appreciably different from what she says about me to others. This is not to say that she broadcasts my faults and foibles hither and yon, but rather that the tenor of what is said in private will match that in public. If she is largely positive about my performance as a husband or father in private, I can trust that she is giving the same kind of report when speaking with others. If she is pointing out areas for improvement, I can trust that those areas remain largely between us.

This also means that what she says is the case is generally the case. She is not, in my experience, one of Those Women (whomever they may be) who says that she “doesn’t care” where we eat, then nix every suggestion I make. The internet is replete with examples of Those Women and my wife is not of their number. If she says she does not care where we eat, then she does not care. What I see is what I get.

This does not mean that my wife is without mystery. There have been reams of material written on the differences between men and women and how incomprehensible one sex is to the other. My wife need not dissemble to be mysterious — she is that by dint of nothing more than being a woman. She can be precisely who and what she seems and I will still be mystified.

My wife is genuine in that she does her level best to speak the truth to me in love. Considering the difficult truths that sometimes must be spoken in a marriage, this is a fine line she walks and I appreciate that she makes the attempt. It would be easier, I suspect, to tell me what would make me happy or to say nothing at all. But to speak the truth to me and to do so with love is a challenge to which she rises.

I could go on, but this is sufficient for the moment. My wife is genuine and that genuineness is comforting to me. It helps me to be at peace, despite all the things that conspire to steal away my peace.

Summoned and Sent (Mark 6:7)

And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;

Mark 6:7

I do not like this time of year. The Halloween season has grown darker and darker over the years and I just do not like it. Not one bit. There is a great deal of focus on the occult and on spiritual things. One writer posited that the druids — a sort of priestly order for the Celts — celebrated Samhain (pronounced something like sah-ween) as a time when the veil between the spiritual world and the physical world was thinned. There are many cultures that have similar holidays — I am thinking specifically of the Chinese Hungry Ghost Day — but they all share this idea of the dead and the living; the spiritual and the physical getting very close to one another.

Jesus, in this morning’s verse, called His disciples to Him and gave them power over unclean spirits and sent them out to preach the gospel. It is no accident that power over unclean spirits and preaching the gospel go hand-in-hand. Whenever the Good News is preached; whenever salvation is offered, there will be opposition from unclean spirits.

I suspect that the Holy Spirit, dictating to Mark, had something specific in mind when He juxtaposed the freeing of a man from demonic possession, the healing of a long-standing hemorrhage, the raising of a little girl from the dead, and this statement about the disciples being given power over unclean spirits. Placing them near one another and in that order may mean something. I am not going to pretend that I know what it is.

What I will do is walk through them and see what they all have in common. Specifically: the compulsion of someone to seek the power of God and the exercise of the power of God. The Gerasene demoniac was compelled by the demons to come kneel before Jesus and God’s power was applied to that man’s life, resulting in freedom he likely never knew before. The woman with the hemorrhage had been bleeding for twelve years (ironically, the same number of years Jairus’ daughter had been alive) and was compelled to find a cure for her suffering — a cure she found in the power of God acting in conjunction with her faith. The little girl; Jairus’ daughter had died and Jairus was compelled to come to Jesus because no one else could help. And God’s power raised this girl from the dead. Before Jesus calls His disciples to Himself, there is a brief story about how the folks in His home town did not belief and He did not do many miracles.

I, too, have been called to Jesus and sent out by Him. He commissioned all believers to go into the world and preach the Good News. Before I can go out and see the power of God at work, I must be compelled to come to Him; I must be called. And I must answer that call and obey that commission. Let me go out and seek to obey my Master’s commission to me. When I do, I will see God’s power at work and there will be victory over the unclean spirits — both those in my own life and those around.

Testimony (Mark 5:20)

And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

Mark 5:20

The story of the man possessed by Legion — the many demons all behaving as if they were a single entity — seems somewhat appropriate for the time of year in which we find ourselves. The demons are not, however, the focal point to which God drew me this morning. The focal point is the man who was once possessed.

There are some things which I find interesting in this story.

One, the man could not ask Jesus to set him free, because the demons were in complete control. Once the demons were given the boot, the man wanted to follow Jesus anywhere and everywhere He went, so it is entirely likely that this man had been a prisoner in his own body until Jesus set him free. We, too, are prisoners in our own bodies until Jesus sets us free. We are not all possessed by demons, but we are all sold into slavery to sin (Romans 6). But whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

Second, this man lived among the dead; in a graveyard. We, too, walk among the dead. I think that part of the reason for the notion of zombies being so persistent is that we all know, deep down, that we are walking among the living dead. Everyone living their lives apart from Christ is dead in their trespass and sin. The only living walking around this place are those to whom Christ gave Life and that more abundantly.

The third, and most impactful, thing that struck me this morning is that Jesus did not permit this man to travel along with Him, but told the man to go back and report what great things God had done for him. These days, we call that “giving a testimony.” This man’s testimony was powerful. He had been possessed by demons. Lots of demons. He had been living in a perpetual state of madness — cutting himself (cutting is not a new thing) and doing damage to himself regularly. He lived in a graveyard, with only the dead for company. That is who and what he was before he met Jesus and before Jesus set him free. The man was well known. The people came out and saw him and knew that this buy had been demon possessed. They knew that this man had been incurable; beyond help. They also knew that the man standing before them was not the same. The man who told them the story was in his right mind and not cutting himself. The man who told them the story had not a single demon within him and was completely under control.

What is my testimony? From what things has God delivered me? It may be that God’s deliverance for me is from something astonishing like this man’s demon possession or it may be from one of the more modern incurables like depression or addiction. Whatever my testimony, I, too, am charged with going to those who knew me when and telling them what great things God has done for me. If God has truly made changes in my life, those who knew me when will also be amazed.

Revealed (Mark 4:22)

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has [anything] been secret, but that it would come to light.

Mark 4:22

In context, Jesus is talking about parables. He explains the parables to them and goes on to talk about lamps and then this statement comes along. This statement is both generally true and specifically true.

This is specifically true, because God reveals things to those who seek Him. The Bible contains promises that the Holy Spirit will open up the contents of the scriptures to believers who ask. There is nothing hidden in the scripture that God will not eventually make plain as day. All prophecies will be fulfilled. All mysteries will have an unveiling. Eventually, everything will be simple and plain. We will see Him as He is.

This principle is also generally true. We do not hide things unless we want to reveal them to someone. And secrets are truly difficult things to keep. These are even more true when the thing we are hiding or the secret we are keeping is good. Trying to hold back the announcement when my wife and I found out we were expecting a child better than a year ago was difficult, but the information was withheld because we wanted it to come to light at a particular moment and to reveal it in a certain way.

God keeps certain things secret for reasons that make sense to God — and might to us, too, but we will not know until God reveals both the secret things and His reasons for keeping them secret. God keeps certain things hidden. He does not do this because He is secretive or has anything to hide. God has reasons for keeping certain things hidden, just as we do. But nothing is hidden except because there is a right moment for it to come to light.

Father God, please let me be open to receive whatever You would reveal today. Let me not begrudge You the secret things, but rejoice in those things that You determine I am ready to hear and understand. Thank You that there will come a day when I will be able to understand it all. Today is not that day, but that day is coming and I look forward to it with eagerness.

Authority (Mark 1:22)

They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as [one] having authority, and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:22

I often find it fascinating that the people of Jesus’ time were not so much awed by the miracles as by His teaching. I do not think for a moment that the miracles He performed went unnoticed — this same chapter includes several flavors of miracles, including one that prevented Jesus from going into cities and towns because of the crowds. I do, however, think that it was His teaching that was unique. Israel had prophets who performed miracles. In fact, many of the miracles that Jesus performed had analogs in the OT. Elijah multiplied food and raised someone from the dead. Elisha multiplied food and cleansed a leper and raised someone from the dead. Miracles were nothing new to the Israelites. They had a long history with them.

But teaching with authority? That was new. To say with certainty that a thing was so was different. The teachers of the time constantly pointed back at the person who taught them and that person pointed back and on and on in a continuous line back to someone with actual authority. Jesus did no such thing. He simply spoke the Word of God and let its authority be its authority.

The same is true today. There are many “teachers” in the world. Scientists point back to other scientists and philosophers point back to other philosophers and everyone seems to be pointing back to a long line of other people going back into antiquity. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see the front of that line. It makes one wonder where the authority comes from. But the Word of God is not so. The Word of God points straight to God and says, “He is the Authority. There is no other before and no other need come after.”

When I stand on the Word of God, I, too, can speak with authority, because I will be speaking the same things that Jesus spoke — the Word of God. I need not worry about the lineage of my assertions — The Bible comes straight from the mouth of God. I need not justify what is said — God is sufficient justification for His own words. Let me, as did my Master, speak the Word of God. Let me not try to justify it, but let it stand on its own. It needs no justification from me.

Impelled (Mark 1:12)

Immediately the Spirit impelled Him out into the wilderness.

Mark 1:12

Where is the Spirit impelling me today?

I should be asking this question with far more regularity than I do. Where does the Spirit want me to go? What does He want me to do?

This morning’s verse took place immediately following Jesus’ baptism. His baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry. It was, in a manner of speaking, His declaration. Somewhat like the candidates declare their intention to run, Jesus’ baptism was a sort of declaration that He was about to begin fulfilling the active prophecies about the Messiah. He had fulfilled the passive ones — where He was born, going down to Egypt and being called back from there, so on — but it was after His baptism that He began to fulfill the prophecies about healing and preaching the gospel. It was well after His baptism that He would fulfill the prophecies concerning how He entered Jerusalem — on a donkey, on a particular day specified by the prophecy in Daniel. The Spirit leads Him into the wilderness for testing. The Spirit continues to lead Him in the wilderness. And the Spirit leads Him when He returns from the wilderness.

I, too, as a believer had a moment of declaration. I went forward and declared that I wanted to be saved. I decided to be baptized and so declared that I wanted to be identified with the death and resurrection of Christ. In short, I, too, have declared and should expect that the next thing that happens is to be led by the Spirit. I should expect the Spirit to lead me into the trials and tests that will refine me and make me more like my LORD. I should expect the Spirit to lead me through those trials and tests. I should also expect the Spirit to lead me out of them and through the daily grind of life. Have I been expecting that?

Today, this very moment, let me take the time to check in with the Holy Spirit and see where it is He wants me to go. He can impel me; compel me; drive me with irresistible force or I can walk with Him.

Ten Week Positive Adjective Challenge: Week Five

The challenge: Once a week, for 10 weeks, choose one emotionally descriptive word that positively describes my wife.

The intent:

  1. As a man, I broke through the boundaries of emotional simplicity and began to explore emotional complexity.
  2. This challenge forces me to positively define my wife.  By doing this, I have to accept what I positively say to be true.  Thus, it being written in black and white, the things I write become a permanent fixture here and most likely in the minds of the readers – including her.
  3. Growth.  Always growth.

Here is week five.

Hopeful

The modern world has re-termed this as optimistic, but there is a degree to which I think optimism misses the mark of what I mean here. I mean, quite literally, what the word says, viz., that my wife is full of hope. She hopes that things will improve in difficult circumstances. She hopes that phases will pass and that the next phase will afford better than the current. I hear her hopes on a regular basis and know that there are always more where the current crop came from.

It may not seem that this is an emotionally descriptive word, but there is a rather terrible amount of emotion tied up in hope. To hope at all is to risk hope being denied or deferred. And anyone who has hoped and had their hope dashed to pieces knows how painful that is and how much they truly risked by hoping at all.

For all that life is challenging and our circumstances less than idyllic, my wife hopes.