A week has passed as I again sit in my train which has become delayed in Stockholm. I am no nearer to solving the 'time' problem I broached last week. But let's see -- perhaps some new clues will come our way.
There is another school of thought which maintains that the purpose of this life isn't actually to "get it all together". For those who espouse this doctrine, simply being in the process is what matters. Thus whether or not one completes the dance is irrelevant -- the important thing is to be dancing. And in a way I suppose that's right. If we worried about when the dance was going to end we'd never have the time to enjoy the dance because we'd be too busy asking silly questions like, "Oh my gosh, what if the dance ends in half-a-minute??!" Perhaps sitting here and philosophising is a bit like that. What child, after all, contemplated the growth of his arm? Still, the world has philosophers and unless my eyes deceive me, one of the intellectual greats of the Bible was a philosopher-king (no, not President Havel of the Czech Republic, but Solomon of Israel). But, oh my, didn't the philosopher-king make a mess of things? His treatise on life in Ecclesiastes indicates that this analyst of life fell for many stupid things that the less philosophical would never give a second thought to. Solomon liked to meditate on the meanings behind things and got about as twisted as I am writing this. There isn't, frankly, a whole lot of meaning in this jumbled-up world we call mortality because it is the meeting place of contrary interests. It's a place at war.
I am, however, bound to say that I am grateful for Ecclesiastes...from time to time. It's a sobering book. Solomon isn't, in the end, as concerned about the end result as he is about the process. Simply to be living in reverential fear of God and walking in His commandments is the summum bonum for him.
Now for those of you who are presently riding the crest of a wave (and we all --or most of us -- do, at some time) what I am saying will sound like the ramblings of a burnt-out theologian. But mark my words, your turn will come. You also will one day dip into Ecclesiastes when the waves have gone by and all is apparently still and stagnant....untill the next wave comes along whence you will move on to more dynamic and positive biblical books. Ecclesiastes is a seasonal book, one to which one returns on a cold, rainy day to wallow in self-pity or to take stock of things. I'm stock-taking (liar -- you're wallowing too).
A few months ago the Lord gave me a vision during a time I was having a tough struggle. I had sold my home and was renting accommodation for 10 months not knowing where I was going with my family. It was a transition time, like Abraham pausing in Haran before moving on to an unknown "Promised Land". I was, frankly, exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually and little thought that the struggle would last beyond the coming summer.
Now the vision. I saw a mountain side and running up the side was a track. About three-quarters up was a stretch of railway line indicating a period of relatively easy going. But the rail stopped abruptly and instead of another dirt track all I could see was a sea of mud stretching up to the summit. Mud! Have you ever tried walking on mud on a steep slope? Well, I knew after seeing that vision that the last part of the race would be three steps up and two steps down -- and sometimes two steps up and three steps down. Not only is such a journey physically exhausting but it is also psychologicaly debilitating. Sliding down a slope more than climbing is not very edifying. It tests your will-power to be sure but gives little of what one might call 'satisfaction' until after it's all over. So, yes, I've been swimming in mud recently and not been enjoying it very much at all. And worse, it's been dark at times so you haven't a clue where you are or whether you're making progress or not. And when dawn does come you may not want to see where you are.
When you are in an apparent blind-alley like that it is not unnatural to ask yourself, "What's it all about?" I have a friend who has been in one such alley and he was rapidly running out of steam, feeling very alone and wondering what it was all for. And then "it" suddenly started happening -- outpourings of the Spirit, spiritual empowerment, purpose, new people hungering after the same things, and so on. The wave came and he hopped on it. Yes, the wave will come. Just be sure you're awake when it does.
But what if that desert wandering has been going on for a very long time? Maybe ten or more years? Then the chances are the Lord is waiting for your misguided will to die naturally. Israel had to go through the process for 40 years. That was a long time for righteous souls like Joshua and Caleb who were two men alone amidst tens of thousands. They had a completely different spirit from the rest. But they had to wait for those around them to die because they could be useful in God's plan.
OK, that's acceptable as far as God's purpose for the nation was concerned, but why did these two good guys have to hang around for four decades apparently stagnating (I'm not, by the way saying that I am good -- just these two fellows). What possible purpose could the Lord have had for them rotting in the desert with a bunch of misfits for so long?
Well, doubtless you will have answers. Perhaps someone needed them. Maybe Moses couldn't have managed without them. I am sure they were a comfort. Thus in a way they were serving as saviours on Mount Zion for Moses and for the people as a whole. Without those three, maybe the whole Promised Land Project would have fallen apart. But still, what possible benefit could they have got from this?
Well, I know about as much about the personalities of these two men as you do -- their stengths and defects. How do I know what sort of salvation they had to work out? Joshua and Caleb had a great call later -- they were no ordinary run-of-the-mill people and I suspect their desert affliction tailored them for the task as well as tailoring then for their own good.
Our growth comes from interaction with situations, and with people. Situations present us with strings of choices each of which determines what kind of spiritual growth (or its opposite) we are going to experience. If God is providential, then Joshua and Caleb were tailor-made for their life's circumstances, or rather, the circumstances were tailor made for them.
I am rather tired as I write this. It has been an exhausting weekend and I am none too pleased to learn that my train from Stockholm is 45 minutes late, which means I will get to bed without having an adequate night's sleep for the coming day. What purpose in that?! Maybe there isn't one. With that I conclude my diary today.