Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be
I dare you to move, Switchfoot
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Don’t you just love poets that span generations? One was born in 1892, the other was born in 1976. Almost a century apart, yet they complete each other’s sentences into a completed picture of the journey of redemption.
Welcome to the fallout -> the Crownless again shall be king.
Impressions from hindsight:
in-between being anchored into the sea and flying like a kite
Today I finally stepped into church. I smile at the difference of significance this meant to me. For others, it’s another mundane event. For me, I feel like I had just been crowned. A new world awaits. New responsibilities, new rewards, a new appointment, a new shine. This is because it has been almost 7 years since I was forced to minimize going to church or fellowships mainly due to my debilitating battle with my immune system. It seemed a lifetime had already passed by. I had gone through the most perilous journey, challenging limits of my existence – physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. I had to go through the lonely path of being cast in unfamiliar and dark territories that I never asked for.
Very often, we are totally overwhelmed by the Abyss we are in now. It is our overwhelming reality that feeds on our emotions on the inside, and is triggered by events we see in front of us. We feel so small. We feel so helpless. At the same time, we make small the certainty of a New You in a New Country as guided by the sovereignty of God. It is a faint impression on film as compared to the vivid motion picture of the slow motion car crash around us.
Dear friend, but now on hindsight, there is something that I must tell you. In between the hidden training grounds where you are right now, where real darkness, real pain, real crippling adversity exist; to the New Country where God is glorified as He crafts your path as you fully become the New You in the New Country lies a tension. This tension is crafted specially by a loving God to get you where you need to be. The tension is strongest to pull you in the right direction when we are clearer about 2 things. 1) We have no illusions and know the Abyss well thereby weakening it’s power. 2) We increase our certainty of God’s existence, goodness and character.
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams
Melvin Douglas, CEO (1997), Coca-Cola
Memories = Abyss. Dreams = the Vision of New You in the New Country as determined by God, not you.
The Christian idea takes Douglas’ idea and goes much further. It is similar but quite different in nature, and those difference are crucial.
Firstly, the way the statement is made puts all the responsibility and empowerment to do so all on you. It is a good thing for most normal people, but might be a bad thing for those who really cannot do so if they are really in the jaws of the Abyss. (For those who are really struggling, the inability to find success with the above truism adds an additional layer of condemnation!) Those who are truly going through an Abyss have memories that are deeply seated with all of bondage that can ensnare. These memories they wrestle with are not just regrets, but are usually conflated with a reality in which they have reasoned they can never recover from. They have thought about the future, they have greatly analyzed life – they are forced too because their world is crumbling, they react to how the world has treated them and can’t see how they could possibly get out through the “world’s system”.
As a chess player, I would calculate all the different permutations on the various paths and choices I could make while maxing out all the observations about the world and its people. When every single permutation calculated didn’t land me in a satisfying ending, my Abyss started. The Abyss is actually strengthened by earthly wisdom, not weakened.
The limitation of knowledge in the world’s system is the “reason” Chesterton refers to:
Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as well be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say this this danger does lies in logic, not in imagination…
Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite… The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.
– G.K. Chesterton, The ManiaOrthodoxy
We cannot find simulate a “heavenly” solution by our own human efforts. We can only receive a heavenly solution through heaven. If creativity and imagination are the first steps to escape a mental prison, then it behooves us to seek out the Creator of everything. Worldly methodologies can’t work at this point. Those in an Abyss are there because of a fallen world, coupled with bad situations and bad decisions. If Abyssians could escape easily, they would escaped a long time ago. We need a creative solution. We need the Creative solution. A solution not part of world conventional wisdom.
Secondly, for the Christian, we can go further than dreams which could be our whims and fancies that may or may not succeed. Firstly, our dreams are imperfect. We want the “perfect” partner for a spouse, and he/she turns out to be just the opposite. We want the perfect job in the perfect place, and yet out lives can still fall apart by things we couldn’t expect. God’s plan caters to our needs even before we realize them. His type of prosperity is what we really need, and doesn’t come with the trappings of the world that is fallen.
Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction… and pierced themselves with many griefs (toil)
– 1 Tim 6:9, NIV (emphasis mine)
The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without the painful toil for it.
– Psalm 10:22, NIV
The word “Toil” (עֶצֶב ʻetseb; from H6087) connotes meanings of pain, hurt, toil or sorrow. But it is also used to describe an earthen vessel. It alludes to the sorrow that occurs because of activity that rooted in the ways of fallen world.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you… I will be found by you, declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity…”
-Jeremiah 29:11-14, NIV
The magnitude of God’s goodness is fully expressed and revealed through the nuances of Jesus Christ – the significance of His purpose, quality, sacrifice and the way He loves you. Like a diamond, the more angles we look at Jesus, the more radiant and beautiful He becomes. The sharper the angles, the more light can be intensified, and this light can cut and make changes to our lives to other means cannot. That’s why a significant portion of the book will be to unveil Jesus – in the quietness and loneliness of my bedroom (I couldn’t fellowship much, I couldn’t go to church, or prayer rallies or cell group), the more Jesus was unveiled, the more chain-reactions would occur to get me where I am today. Like a magnet, the Abyss is “negative” and the goodness of God in Jesus is “positive”. The more fully realized both are increases the attractive tension that snaps you into the right place. The place of destiny. The place of peace. The place of love. This love will come from God as well as the people around you that God has ordained. The greater the negative and the greater the positive within the context of a guided journey crafted by God are the ingredients of an incredible story of redemption and meaning.
Example from the Bible: Joseph arrived at his New Country
Within the great darkness of being betrayed to slavery by his own flesh and blood and spending years in dungeon though innocent, to the grace-empowered journey to being the prime minister of Egypt, Joseph had arrived at his New Country, and New “him”. This country is not measured in riches and prosperity although both he had. His redemption is more than the world could ever give. Joseph got to a point of great meaning when he could forgive the brothers that once murdered his soul and save his family. His realization that even great evil done to him is small shows how big his world has become. I smile when we see Joseph summarize his whole ordeal as follows:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about the present result, to preserve many people alive…
(Gen 50:20, NASB)
The result? Everyone wins. The world is characterized by scarcity. People usually win at the expense of someone else. It is not normal to forgive and to save those who wanted to destroy your life. But God is not normal.
“So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
(Gen 50:21, NASB)
That is the quality of the New Country and New You. The word “comfort” (Hebrew: Nacham) means “to be sorry, to console”. In this world, I hear many people say “I forgive”, but what they mean is a passive aggressive intention to ignore. What they mean is that they are going to be indifferent. In this instance, that’s not quality forgiveness. That’s a shroud, an alternative to destroying that person; for in doing so, you destroy that person in your world. I am not saying that you should have unhealthy people remain in your life. I am not saying you should force yourself to give more than you can at this present moment. But I am showing the result of what can happen when you travel with God to the New Country. God can restore you to the point that you can go further than ignoring the person. You can actually have pity to your transgressor, because you realize that your transgressor stole from you because he too is bankrupt. When we realize that no person on earth can stop God from getting where we need to be, we start to feel pity for the pawn because we have a privileged relationship to the creator and controller of the whole chessboard.
At this significant age of 40, everything changing for me soon. I am embarking into healed territory. Redemption is taking its course, and I’m fearfully and wonderfully stepping into my place of career and ministry. The dreams and visions that have bubbled in my heart while absorbing the promises of God while being hammered by the sickness and condemnation has finally emerged in God’s timing. God’s makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecc 3:11).
As I came to church and sat quietly in the corner, I see people socializing with each other. Like a fly on the wall, I notice them, they notice me. But none will know how vast and life-changing the last decade was to me and that is okay. Though many will can be indifferent about your personal journey (those that are actually aware and care are blessings money cannot buy) they have their own paths to travel and I love them.
When I arrived, I was joyfully tickled to the pastor share arguably my favorite poem by J. R. R. Tolkien. I had kept this poem in my heart for more than a decade.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
J.R.R Tolkkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
The poem appears twice in The Fellowship of the Ring. First in Gandalf’s letter to Frodo in Bree, before they knew that Strider (Aragorn) is the subject of the verse. Strider was Aragorn’s ranger persona which he adopted after his exile as royalty. At that time, it would have been so easy to dismiss Strider as anyone important. Strider seemed to look capable, yet he is not adored with any regalia, and bore a weight on his shoulder – a past that he was constantly fighting to make sense of. Strider kept consistently working out his life and skills as a ranger, a profession the world would not recognize as “kingly”. What good is a lowly ranger versus the powerful forces of Mordor that can envelop nations? It turns out, in God’s timing, very good indeed.
Is that you today? I think deep inside, all us are kings without crowns. Many of us spend a lifetime trying to figure out how we got to this point and how to get back our crowns. And what crowns do we look for?
We are created by God and have a royal DNA. But we live in fallen world. That’s the reason all of us tend to do things that try to fulfill that kingly need in all of us. We need to be respected. We need to feel in control. Why do people fight for wealth and power, why do people try to lord over others? It’s a quest to be king, but done in a myopic, fallen way. It’s like grasping at straws hoping to create a straw-framed throne that we hope can carry the weight of our desperation.
You can’t truly be a king by fighting for it. If you are not in a royal kingly line, you can fight to look like a king, but you won’t have the true authority to be king. You would be a slave on a man-made throne, but not a son of royalty with a dignity and destiny that cannot be taken away by people. However, you can be a king, if you are son to a king, and if the King decrees your ascension.
Brothers and sisters.
Good news. In the correct context of where we are as a people in this time of history, God already “did make us kings and priests to his God and Father, to him is the glory and the power to the ages of the ages.” (Rev 1:6, YLT)
You are kings, and better still, priests of the order of Melchizedek.
As a king, you are meant to have a kingdom and legacy, and to exercise your authority to be victorious in this life. If you were an Old Testament priest, you would facilitate reconciliation between man and God. You would seek to get men to repent so that hopefully blessings can come down. But, today you are much better than that. As a priest in the age of grace, you are of the order of Melchizedek. You are a messenger and conduit to share God’s blessings with His people. You are not meant to simply exist and strive for yourself. Your cup will overflow till you will have more than enough to make a meaningful impact in the lives of people. (Psalm 23)
And what God decrees, it shall be done. It is a matter of timing and how rather than if. “… so is my word that goes from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Is 55:11, NIV)
But how can this be, when the worldly reality seems to show the opposite?
Understand that there are two realities. The world around you that is filled with defeat, fallen man, past mistakes, sickness, chaos, and a lack of purpose. And the other, the spiritual world that is being forged within your heart and spirit. In God’s timing, one world will invade the other and impress it’s reality on the other. The fallen effects of the world is a hologram so to speak, that will morph into a promised land as you step into your identity as a king and priest.
“But Ken,” you might object, “you don’t know the mistakes I made. These are mistakes of my own doing.”
“You don’t know how people have bypassed me. They don’t support or help me.”
“I don’t have the abilities or gifts to do anything of note in this world. No one will marry me. No one wants to be my family.”
I know these objections only too well.
I was chronically sick with no real solution. During my times of desperation, I made bad choices in life. The compounding of my sickness that others didn’t want to understand with my bad choices alienated me from some friends and support systems.
But let me share with you what God thought of my objections. They are all irrelevant under the payment of Christ’s death on the cross. Think of all these negatives as debts that you hold. The quality of Christ on the cross is worth so much more than that.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.“
(Rom 8:28, NIV)
The theological basis that justifies this verse is indeed due to the quality of Christ’s sacrifice to us. Christ’s death for us is a receipt that God will work out all things for good, and He also foreknows the good He will do for us.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
(Rom 8:32, NIV)
1) “You don’t know the mistakes I made. These are mistakes on my own doing.”
This grace (hesed) was with Abram. Abram was to go to the promised land God would show him to go. Yet because Abram was afraid of a famine, Abram instead chose to go to Egypt instead (Genesis 12), which is a typology of the world. The Hebrew meaning of Egypt (Mizraim: מצרים) include siege, entrenchment, bind and to show hostility. Abram chose a worldly solution because of the lack of faith in God’s provision. As expected, problems ensue. Lacking moral courage, Abram allows the Pharaoh to take his wife Sarah to be part of his haram. Years later, Abram makes the same mistake again with Abimelek, another foreign king (Genesis 20).
More than once, Abraham makes poor judgments motivated by a lack of moral courage and faith. Yet, in both situations, God used the situation that came about due to poor decision-making to enrich Abraham and move him closer to his destiny. God defends Sarah’s honor directly by communicating to Abimelek directly and both kings never took back the dowries given to the Abraham clan.
What qualifies Abram to have such favor? He simply “believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness.” God told him to follow on a journey, Abram believed this foreign voice had a good heart and simply agreed to follow. Abram didn’t sign up to be a perfect person. He simply chose to walk with God. That’s what you did, dear friend, when you believed in Christ.
Dear friend, He offers his favor freely because of His faithfulness, not yours. It’s done. Finished. If you belong to Christ, He will not turn you away. He can use your wandering and lost period to ultimately bless you and form a beautiful future for you. That’s the Jesus we have. That’s why He is beautiful beyond description.
2) “You don’t know how people have bypassed me. They don’t support or help me.”
Dear friend, the psalmist David writes, “the LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” and continues with “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27, NIV). God promises to never leave you or forsake you (Heb 13:5). We have a God that can create something out of nothing. Even if no one cooperates to help you, God himself will help you. And, if He helps you, rejoice! Because the quality of His help will be far superior to the small scraps others can offer to you. While others are limited to give you what they are good at giving and not what you need, or give out of imperfect intentions, “God will meet all your needs according to the riches and his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19, NIV). God does not give according to your lack, limited imagination, or what you think we deserve. He gives what is befitting based on the character of Jesus. Where is Jesus at the time of this writing in Philippians? Jesus is seated in glorious victory at the right hand of God with His work of redemption finished.
There is a story told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?”
Alexander responded in royal fashion, “Copper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.” (Source unknown)
How much more would suit the heart of Jesus, who can “do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or think?” (Eph 3:20).
3) “I don’t gave the abilities or gifts to do anything of note in this world. No one will marry me. No one wants to be my family.”
Two pictures are enough.
Here’s Nic Vujicic inspiring as a world-class speaker.
Here’s Nic Vujicic with his beautiful and pregnant wife.
I think anyone would admit that a man who speaks on a world-stage and has a beautiful wife that loves him despite a massive disability would be rich beyond measure.
Back to the poem that started this whole blog. Not all that is gold glitters. The adversities around you can be gold in disguise as God is setting up your bright future using the dark crap in your life as fertilizer.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.“
(2 Cor 4:17, NIV)
You might not be glittering at the moment, but you too are gold. You are royalty that the world hasn’t recognized yet. It is only a matter of time before the crownless will be made king… because that’s who you are in Christ.
At the end of LOTR, Return of the King, Frodo had the whole of middle-earth bowing down to him in recognition of the massive achievements and sacrifice he endured during his treacherous journey to defeat Mordor. Yet, when he returned to the Shire, nobody knew or bothered to care what adventure he had. Most elderly folks chided him for gallivanting again – they never believed Frodo and gang could have done anything praise-worthy. But his experience in the bigger, more massive world outside of the Shire (that most of the inhabitants of the Shire were ignorant about), empowered him to do great exploits within the Shire itself. Exploits in the bigger world which no one knew in the Shire is what precisely empowered Frodo to do great exploits that others could not. Similarly, the world may not recognize you. But you have a heavenly journey and identity that far surpasses this world. And it is a matter of timing, when that legacy of heavenly experience and identity stamps its imprint in the world around you.
You are to be crowned. Not by your efforts. God has decreed and God will fight for you. It’s because He fights for you, that’s why He gets all the glory. If you fight your own battles, with your own ambitions and machinations, you might make it out the battlefield with what seems like a victory. But such victories are usually tainted with pride, a damaged ego, a seared conscience or bitterness. Let God fight the battles. See His humility in action while exercising paradigm changing power. See your world change. See you promoted. See Him give you back more than others have stolen from you. He gets the praise. You are amazed by His grace. You forgive your biggest transgressors. You become a blessing to others instead of hording ego, power and praise to yourself. In this is the greatest expression of what it means to be a King and Priest.
In the meantime, if you are at my phase in the journey, where you have experienced the pain, capitulation and are at the beginnings of the actualization of grace/favor, you are still of great value. Due to the constant battling of low self-esteem and insecurities, your heart might feel worn at times, like a very old and ragged T-shirt. The world may not find value in ragged T-shirts – the brand and color has faded, the obvious beauty and sheen are gone. But ironically, they also offer the most comfort to people. That’s what you are to the world. Many people may not recognize your value, but to some, you are very important. Many people who are born as “shiny objects” in life do not have the “privilege”to go through the journey that causes them to get to the end of themselves, and are oblivious to their lack of depth and can be self-centered. Yet some others who are in poverty (social, or financial) can also be ugly if they don’t get to the end of themselves – they get hardened by the world. Right now, God is working on you heart, the hidden part of you. Few will comprehend how fearful, lonely, desperate,life-changing and epic this part of your journey is, just as Joseph was forgotten in prison. But your “prime minster” day will come, and at that point, you will have the best of both worlds. The beautiful thing about that point will be this: by then, even when people start recognizing you wouldn’t care that they do. That is the highest form of existence.
While you are in “prison” also known as “God’s champion training ground”, do not despise it. There will be fruitfulness even from within this hiddeness. Keep trusting in God’s call. In Henri Nouwen’s journey through his own Abyss, he penned these words:
As you come to realize that God is beckoning you to a greater hiddenness, do not be afraid of that invitation. Over the years you have allowed the voices that call you to action and great visibility to dominate your life. You still think, even against your own best intuitions, that you need to do things and be seen in order to follow your vocation. But you are now discovering that God’s voice is saying, “Stay home, and trust that your life will be fruitful even when hidden.”
It is not going to be easy to listen to God’s call. Your insecurity, yourself-doubt, and your great need for affirmation make you lose trust in your inner voice and run away from yourself. But you know that God speaks to you through your inner voice and that you will find joy and peace only if you follow it.
The Inner Voice of Love, Keep Trusting God’s Call, Henry Nouwen
A person could seem to struggle because he is trying to follow his inner voice in the midst of circumstances too big for us to understand. So the next time you see someone struggling and that person doesn’t seem to be able to amount to much, take heed. That man could soon be king. See him. Help him be fruitful. And rejoice in his restoration. Not all that is gold actually glitters.
Click here to go to the next chapter – Working through your Abyss with Jesus (Part 1).