Monday, June 9, 2008

Defining Moment

It was a defining moment: I provided the students with five minutes of silence. Five minutes in a large group can be eternal, but it only scratches the surface. As Dallas Willard notes, it takes time for muddy waters to become clear.

We all have muddy waters. We all have filthy hands. Our habits, our strongholds, our alliances soil us. Silence gives God a chance to speak to these areas.

As I prayed in the back of the room--for my own issues and those of the students--I sensed an unhealthy degree of anger among us. It had come to the surface in the silence, through questions many of the students were asking: Is this over yet? Why do I have to do this? This is so hokey? This guy doesn't know me, how can he tell me I have filth in my life?

If they only listened to these questions... They prove the need for silence; they explain the need for confession.

"This was the defining moment of the week," I assured the youth as the silence closed. I gave them a opportunity to act upon their confession. Two 10-gallon planting pots were placed at the front. One was filled with soil represeting our filth; the other represented Jesus as the recipient of the dirt within us. "Give your filth to Jesus," I said, "if you want His full life."

Several kids reached in, some in earnest, others in form. We sang songs as youth walked up front. There was dirt everywhere, but mostly with Jesus.

As a speaker, I cannot judge the motive of spiritual activity in a person's life. Altar calls and symbolic replies only show that people heard you ask for a response. The lasting value is uncertain. But for a few minutes, the room was defined by reverence. For a few minutes, the room was defined by worship.

Then sound system screeched. Once. Twice. The screech turned to a cackle, stealing any reverence left in the room.

God does not hijack sound systems as His people sing hymns and confess sins. He works through silence, soil, and human hands. Someone else was trying to define the moment: our Enemy. He works through distractions. And he clearly defined his goal for the week.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and
purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7-8)


chris van allsburg said...

idle time
time with self
self is full of pride

pride of life
life of death
death from sin inside

one of the best poems I have ever read. just came across it the other day going through boxes after our move.

hope things are well.

Sprained Ankle said...

Thanks Chris. Oh, the self-loathing days of college and seminary, where education and sin-patterns made me feel like an object of wrath. Thankfully, now I feel grace.
One correction: third line in first stanza is meant to read 'self-destructing pride.' Moving is the worst--the process, that is.