Today I had the honor of visiting and working with students of the Pauite Indian tribe and as the principal began his school tour he turned towards the dirt parking lot and said, "this is our soccer field". I was flabberghasted. As many times as I'd been there I'd never even noticed the three rusty benches overlooking dirt, with a small goal post covered with tumble weeds, in the distance. Massive land, but completely dead space. Making up just 5 percent of the global population, they account for about 15 percent of the extreme poor. Indigenous Peoples’ life expectancy is up to 20 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous people worldwide. I realized in that moment, that what these kids lacked wasn't just resources but also an outlet to broaden and expand their horizon.
You may be questioning, but what does that have to do with me and my spiritual heart conditional? We are these children. Physically capable, but crippled by our our circumstances. When you shut down your heart to pain you also shut down your heart to joy. One of the reasons the Dead Sea is so salty is because there are no outlets. The minerals that flow into it stay there forever. Most bodies of fresh water have outlets such as rivers and streams, which allow them to dispose of any dissolved minerals that might flow into them from other sources.
When we are in pain we instinctually run off and hide to protect the area that has been injured. Animals do it with a wounded leg, birds with a damaged wing, and humans with a brokened heart. Unfortunately, we move forward, still guarding and withholding our hearts from future hurt and locking ourselves into a Dead Sea, of sorts, in which we have no outlet.
And with no outlet we become 'salty.'
I used to believe that nothing lived in the Dead Sea, hence it's name, but have learned that much lives there, in the form or algae and mircroorganisms, growing and feeding on itself because it has no outlet to purify. The higher forms of life however, like fish, cannot live there. For quite a few years I lived salty, harbouring hurt and pain from all sorts of truama: broken friendships, failed relationships, missed opportunities and such. Only to realize that the only person suffering from my withdrawal from the world was me. That bitterness and anger in my heart had no outlet so it continued to grow and manifest into larger offshoots of a smaller trauma. Shutting out the world had become my safe place.
The story of Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, found in II Samuel, is one to be remembered for how King David honored a man he called a friend, even after his death, by caring for the needs of his disabled son. But it is also a reminder that what we do with our pain dictates the life we live.
Mephibosheth had a difficult childhood early on. With the news of his father and grandfather’s passing, young Mephibosheth was taken away from his home in Gilbeah by his nurse, probably to avoid retaliation from enemies. Unfortunately, in the process of escaping, he was accidentally dropped to the ground and his feet were permanently maimed. From that time on he lived his life in Lodobar, first as a safe place to heal and strengthen, but then as his chosen hiding place.
Are you in hiding today?
I wonder how many of us are dwelling in places much longer than needed for healing. In Deut. 1:6 " The LORD our God said to us at Horeb: "You have stayed at this mountain long enough." There's an eleven-day journey from Horeb to Kadesh, to the beginning of entering into the Promised Land. Instead they have been journeying for forty years and eleven months on an eleven-day journey. About a hundred and twenty-six miles.
Recognize that a part of the wilderness experience was legitimate. To get from the Red Sea into the Promised Land, it was necessary to go through the wilderness, an eleven-day journey, but most of the wilderness experience was illegitimate. Can the same be said of our Christian walk, life and experience? Have we legitimized our illegitimate sufferings? Has what God intended to be an eleven day journey through rough waters turned into a man-made tidal wave?
What I discovered with my kids on the reservation is that life has been built around their condition. Twenty seven miles between the city limit and the reservation and the two worlds seldom meet. Each locked in their individual world of existence and each weakened, in different ways, because the connection to any purifying outlet has been cutoff.
Have we created our own dead sea?
Spiritually God calls us to a life of overcoming, of resurrecting. Examine whatever is beckoning you to hide, to withhold your heart. There is a time in our Christian experience of growth and development, our legitimate wilderness experience, but God surely does not want you to spend your whole life there.
II Cor. 6: 11-13, "We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also."
Once I stopped protected myself from what hurt me, surrendered it to God, and came out of hiding, I began to live.
My prayer for you today is that you too will choose to live.
To throw off all that hinders and let in the living waters of God,
your outlet to all that purifies.