Friday, August 24, 2007

Feet of Clay

Personal Note: My girls are safely back in boarding school and we are back to work. I will try and start doing posts at least weekly again. Well, I say that but my home computer- usually used by my wife but also by me in the evenings- has died a violent death. I don't know when I will be able to replace it but pray for us, I am looking into Macs.

He was my knight in shining armor. He showed up for my disaster management team training and I knew that he was just what I was looking for. He was ready to serve, he was intelligent, he had been a lawyer, he spoke English, he had been a Christian for many years and he was active in a local Church that recommended him to us. His name was Boromir and I loved this guy. But then I loved him less. We did the two month team training and he told stories of his evangelistic exploits. He told of his own conversion to faith in Christ and how God had miraculously saved him from his addiction to drugs. Then after the training was over, after two months of being together for 8-10 hours a day and several overnight trips he showed up to my office drunk.

Ok, he had had a tooth pulled and the dentist had suggested alcohol to kill the pain. He made a mistake, no big deal. I told him if he ever showed up to the office drunk again he would never work for our organization- he would be off the team. The next week there he was again. Then the guys- his friends began to fess up. Boromir was an alcoholic and everyone knew it but me. Typical. That was it, he was off the team, he was history, I would not work with this clown. The King had other ideas. God gave me a project to work on concerning John Eldridge's book 'Wild at Heart'. I was to take it and use it to disciple some men. But I needed translation help. So, God in His infinite wisdom asked me to use Boromir and another man to do the job. Both of these guys were seriously flawed. I argued with God every day. I have never worked with an alcoholic before. I knew nothing about this. I had lots of other guys to work with at the time and too many other projects to do. But I was in the end, obedient. It was not fun. As we worked through the concepts in the book, concepts on how to be a real man according to what God wanted in a real man, the guys did not get it. They misunderstood at every turn. The other guy used some of the concepts to justify his domestic violence and chasing prostitutes. Boromir just plowed through the material as if nothing could touch him. As if everything in his life was just fine. I prayed a lot during those days. I kept arguing with God. Then after about three months of this nonsense, just after New Year's Eve, Boromir stopped drinking. He began to make sense. He began to fight the spiritual battles before him and more than that he began to win.

He ask if I could help him get his lawyer's license back. He needed books to study for the exam and he needed money to make it all happen. I helped. We had a vision for a Christian law firm and one was registered only a year before- only we still didn't have any Christian lawyers in it. From January of 2004 on into the summer he stayed completely sober. I was wary and watching him. We studied together several times a week. I met with his parents and helped him share the Gospel with them. They were overjoyed at the difference in their son. Then he got his license and began actually practicing law. We live in one of the most corrupt countries on this planet. I know every expatriot worker thinks that but Transparency International has backed us on this consistently ranking Gondor in the top 5 - 7 for the last five years. Hey, at least we are consistent. I think that a lawyer in any country is tempted to be unethical but here in Gondor being totally above board is not even an option. Boromir told me that the judges just want money and the prosecutors just want to intimidate people with their power.

He began to help the helpless. He began to pray and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and he began to win. He shared Jesus with judges. He managed to reduce bribe payments by 70%- 80% to 100% for families facing unimaginable injustices. I was proud of him. Everyone was coming to me and exclaiming that Boromir had never looked healthier and happier. He found a girlfriend and began a house church in her home. One day in early October he tried one of the biggest cases he had so far. A woman who was a member of a local Church had an unbelieving husband who was a drug dealer. The police knew that she had nothing to do with his business but when they arrested him they found out she was a Christian and assumed that she had links to foreigners. Links that would get them lots of money. So, they arrested her and held her for the astronomical sum of $3500. No one here has that kind of money. Boromir went to work. Talking sense and preaching boldly about justice and God's will he brought down the amount of the bribe to less than $500. When the woman's Church went to pay it they found that the judge refused their money and let the woman go free. He sited his respect for Boromir and Boromir's God as his motivation.

Those of you with experience understand what happened next in a way I could not. Boromir celebrated. After nine months of sobriety he fell off the wagon with a huge thud. I was not totally caught off guard by this. I knew it could happen but here is what I did not expect. He never got back on the wagon again. I went to the West to be with my wife as she had our fourth child. When I returned I found a still drunk Boromir whose hands were shaking, who had drank all of his money and the money of several of his clients, whose mind was virtually destroyed and who had fallen so far that he was incapable of telling the truth about anything. He stayed drunk for a year. I saw him sporadically, usually he had some scheme to try and get money out of me. I gave him none, though I frequently gave his mom and dad food.

Last January I heard he had sobered up. I heard that he was working for some relatives and doing well. I heard that he was getting healthy again. I sent messages to him through his family asking him to come by and see me. In March I got word that he went to the hospital with what I think must have been a stroke. The next morning he was dead. I went to his parent's home and prayed with them. It has taken me from then until now to be able to write about this.

I tell a lot of stories about the people we work with. I never sugar coat what happens. God does incredible things, miraculous things in my life and the lives of those around me. But there are many things that I don't understand. I don't know how people can fail so catastrophically. I don't know why God has protected me from moral failure and yet Boromir who loved Jesus just like I do sank so low. There is a lot of talk in seminaries and in Churches about Calvinism and the idea of God being sovereign over all or Arminianism and our ability to choose. These debates make sense to the debaters as they sit in front of their computer screens or in the classroom. But out here in Middle Earth I can make no sense of it at all. God moves in my life and the lives of those around me, this is clear. I and those around me screw up all the time. This too is painfully clear. At the end of the day we face Romans 7 and look to Paul to answer our questions for us. He simply says, "Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord." At first glance I am very disappointed in this answer. I want more. I want a winning formula that will guarantee my spiritual prosperity. Like the crowd I want to call out to Jesus and say, 'What are we to do to do the works of God?' Jesus. That is the simple and the complex answer. As I think about it I like this answer more and more. It gives hope to me and to Boromir. Jesus loves us both, Jesus died for us both, Jesus calls us both. Jesus, he's more than enough for me and for Boromir. How about you?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Strider :) You and your stories have certainly beem missed!! Thanks for sharing about the girls safe return but I bet it was hard telling them bye (for them and for you and Arwen.)
This story leaves one with many emotions... like you, I do not understand it either. God knows all about it doesn't he! Also one can tell how close you trully were Thankyou Strider for sharing this.
Sincerely Angie.

Tim Patterson said...

Life is messy, we are flawed, God is gracious... sure is irritating when things don't turn out like we want them to... thanks for the story.

GuyMuse said...
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GuyMuse said...

I can really relate to this post. So many that we work with end up falling off the wagon. I think it has something to do with working with first generation Christians. While they are forgiven and certainly saved, they carry with them so much baggage from their past--the sins of their fathers. It seems to take 2-3 generations of believers to break the bonds of their past. I've never read anything like this in any book, or heard anyone speak on this subject, but it just seems so from personal observation. Most of the believers we work with are 1st generation. They have a lot of obstacles to overcome when they give their hearts to the Lord. It isn't easy, and as Tim points out, MESSY is a good descriptor.

Alan Knox said...

Strider,

Welcome back! I love your stories, and I love this one as well. Yes, Boromir fell... But God loved him anyway. What grace! Those of us in seminaries need to remember that we are not discussing simple theories; we are discussing life and people. Life is messy. Jesus got messy. If we keep our hands "clean", then we are not dealing with people and life like we should.

-Alan

Anonymous said...

Amen Alan, I couldn't agree more. Angie.

Strider said...

Angie, Guy, Tim, and Alan, Thanks for the comments. Let us all stay busy caring for others in the midst of their messy lives.

GuyMuse said...

Strider,

I have a "messy" on their way over to the house to talk about a huge personal "mess" in their life even as I type this. I am learning though that taking the time often rewards fruit. Another messy case we have been dealing with for over a year came to a good end yesterday with the person being restored and reconciled back into fellowship.

Strider said...

Restoration and community does happen. It is why we do what we do. Thanks for doing all you do, Guy. You are always a great encouragement.