We lost two brothers. Two sons. Two friends.
Sin rarely comes on all of a sudden. It is a gradual wavering, considering, trying. Choosing.
And then Death.
Our awareness of the pallor of their souls came on gradually too. A conversation here. A lengthy discussion there. The random comments.
We sensed and understood their feet slipped on the slope, but we felt strong ahead of them, slowing our pace to point out the next steps. Coming up alongside them. Offering our hands. Roping together.
We love them so.
I will never forget the Moment. We were watching them tumble over the precipice. Terror and sorrow were ripping up my insides. Jeff and I slid back down the slope towards them our minds racing with how to catch them. How to pull them back.
We secured our feet at the edge of the cliff and tightened the rope to hold them.
The rope pulled taut and we felt the dead weight of their bodies pulling us forward. We anchored shouting encouragement to each other and to them.
Then the weight shifted and with shock, incredulousness and horror…
We saw them severing the rope.
They were disconnecting.
And they were laughing. Mocking our struggle above. Our sweat and exertion.
In some sort of ironic amputation they were separating from their Salvation.
We called for help. We tried to convince them to quit cutting. They shouted at us in anger.
And then we watched them fall. With joy on their faces. They thought they were free. We knew from where we lay in the dirt, the soil wet from our tears and the sweat of our battle, that they would hit the bottom and that it would mean their death.
We know because we’ve been at the bottom too. We’ve hit it hard. Blindly sailing towards it’s rocks and crags. Naively thinking we had been set free. Only to find the wounds and gashes caused from the fall bound us more tightly than the ropes that tied us to the others walking the narrow path on the heights above.
We laid in the dirt exhausted from the struggle. Wordless in agony. Wondering where the energy would come from to stand up and climb again. How we would face the trail without those two, our friends, whom we love.
Some others on the trail came up behind us. They looked lost and needed help to find the Way. We know the Way and understand, it is our calling to lead others on it.
We stand on shaking legs weak from the fight. The rope burns on our hands sting as we offer new rope to those joining the climb. With trepidation, we rope up with strangers, comprehending it’s the only way to climb this path. Unsure as to if they will strengthen our step or eventually pull us to the edge of the cliff again.
We trudge. Each step brings with it grief. Analyzing how we might have convinced our brothers otherwise. Wondering where they got the knife. Remembering the fear of the moments just before they were lost. Feeling the wounds created in the struggle.
Memories push in to the cadence of the heavy steps we take.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…”
“By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”
“By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
“By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”
“By faith, the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land;”
“By faith, the walls of Jericho fell…”
“By faith the prostitue Rahab…”
“By faith Jacob….”
“By faith Isaac…”
“By faith Joseph…”
We remember and we step again.
“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…”
We wince as we drop the bitterness, the anger. We drop it like lead weights on the path beside us.
“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
We drop the weight of discouragement. Pride is torn from our flesh.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Our eyes look up, off the dusty trail. Our eyes search ahead, away from our trudging feet. We strain to see around our own choices. Around their choices.
And we see Him.
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
He has gone before us. The path we walk, He carved.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons….No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Our muscles ache. The wounds reawaken and ooze.
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
The new people behind us ask where we are going. They want some proof that we know the destination.
“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched…But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. “
And then we hear it. The chords. The voices. The Song.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
Suddenly, a second wind overwhelms our breathless lungs. And the Song pours out. Undefeatable. Uncontainable. Loud.
We have each come from Death. The death we chose when we sinned.
On the narrow path, we are all pit dwellers…lifted up. We all have the Song.
“The Lord God is my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army. He makes my feet like hind’s feet, and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering or responsibility]!
Our steps quicken again. The procession around us throngs. Our singing, the praise, reminds us.
He sees us all. And Saves. He alone.
No one falls outside of His awareness. No one dies that His heart doesn’t break.
No pit is too deep that He can’t lift us out.
And we ARE going Home.
We must only press on and rejoice.
This is what He has called us to, for today.
He is Enough. El Shaddai.
Scripture References: James 1:15;Romans 4:18;Hebrews 11 & 12;Psalm 40:2-3;Habakkuk 3:19