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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Troughs and Peaks

How many of us have spent an entire day cleaning our house only to wonder why we even bothered by 2:00 the next day – then swore off cleaning our house till the kids go off to college – then got tired of the mess and started the whole process over again two weeks later?

How many of us have started that great diet and exercise program and followed it for those “21 days until it becomes a habit” only to abandon it on day 22 – then picked it back up again on day 83 only to abandon it again on day 91…?

How many of us have been on cloud nine over some great project we aced at work one day, only to be brought back down to earth the next day when our boss gave us a “3” during a job review for an item which we felt sure we’d get a “5” on?

How many of us have loved… and lost… and loved… and lost… and loved… and given up on love… and kind of loved… and lost… and looked for ourselves… and wished we had found ourselves before we lost that last time… and loved… ?

It’s human nature to go through ups and downs. Some of us do it on a roller coaster and some of us on a long, slow hike, but the fact is we all fall into the undulating trap of our nature. We can thank mother Eve for passing down that gene. It is permanently ingrained in all that we do.

In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis uses the character, Screwtape, to share a message about human nature, “Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy therefore is undulation -- the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.”

Our Christian life is no exception. Being a Christian does not make us any less human or any more spirit. Some of us have a human nature that allows us to express our spirit side more boldly than others, but it doesn't make the rest of us less spirit than them. Even an atheist is a spirit being, although they may not face this side of themselves until judgment day.

In what area of your Christian life do you repeatedly fall into a trough only to turn around and climb right back up to that mountain peak again? Is it church or Sunday school attendance? Is it reading your Bible? Is it praying? Is it tithing? Is it serving? Is it maintaining a relationship with God? Is it persistent, intentional sin that you sometimes run from and sometimes run to? Is it all of these things at different times -- It is for me.

I’m in a trough right now, in fact, in my relationship with God. Something is tight in my spirit, and I’m not letting God in like I normally would. Instead of asking Him to come sit with me on the front porch and chat, I’m making Him stand outside the fence, in the street, while I occasionally holler out a “help me.” He’s responding with, “I’d love to, but you’ve got to let me in.” Why do we do that? Why don’t we just open up the gate and let Him in? Darn this human nature.

Eventually I’ll climb back up to that peak and let Him in, but for some, digging out of the trough is more challenging than it is for others. For some, the trough’s lowest spot isn’t the worst place to be. For some, their undulation is a roller coaster with multiple loops and double drops, and they just want to get off, and we are left praying that they don’t get off at the bottom. Sometimes in the pit of the trough, the rain comes and floods the trough leaving them struggling to stay above water and gasping for air. And sometimes the peak washes clean away and they don’t know what to do.

I haven’t been there, but I’ve seen it. My best friend, Traci, lost her 15-year-old son, her only child, in a horrible car accident last year. I listened and prayed when her 2am hysterical phone call informed me, “I don’t think he’s going to make it.” I listened to her and prayed for her as shock buried her in a false sense of calm the following morning when he didn’t make it. I cried as we embraced, when all I could say was, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” I watched her and prayed for her as she strongly carried his pictures, his history, 15 short years worth, into his visitation. I stood behind her and held my hands on her as we gathered around the casket and prayed before the casket was closed – her last human look at her young son. Another friend and I strongly stood close beside her – at just the right time – when suddenly reality sunk in and her legs stopped working and we had to carry her as we walked out of the visitation. Just before his funeral, I pretended to be strong, and I prayed as I fixed Traci's hair and put on her make up because she could barely move. I listened and prayed when she asked, “why would God let this happen?” and all I could say was, “I have no idea why these things happen.” In reality, I was scared, I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry, and I was mad (how could God allow this – she had just lost her father to suicide a few years before – how much can one person be expected to take). I listened and prayed in the months following when all she could do was sleep because when she was sleeping it didn’t hurt . And most of all, I prayed, even when I just didn’t understand. I just kept praying.

Now, 14 months later, Traci has opened a youth center in her small town in New Mexico named, Thomas House, in honor of her son and his love of Jesus and children. Even in our flooded troughs, the peaks can reappear. And even though her climb may not be as easy or fulfilling as it may have once been, eternal lives are being saved through Thomas’s death, and a time is coming when God will bring it all to perfect completion.

No matter how simple or desperate our situation is, God will always give us the ability to climb out of our trough. Our peaks may not always look quite the same, but they will be there.

All we have to do is open up the gate and let God back on the porch.


  1. Melissa said...

    Powerful stuff, my friend. It is so true how easily we fall right back where we were, even when we don't want to. Just what I needed today.


  2. Sue said...

    Wow! What a post. I don't even know what to say after that it was so powerful.