Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Falling Short

I know I need to finish off the Calvinistic Thinking posts but if you can be patient a little longer I promised a friend that I would tell her story. Really, it is the story of her husband but since I have her permission- and encouragement- I will tell the tale.

We didn't come to Middle Earth alone. I remember so well arriving at the home office for Candidate Conference and discovering someone else wanted to go to Gondor. At first we were afraid that we were in competition for the same job! Then we discovered that our Boss is trustworthy indeed- funny how we need to keep discovering that! No, this couple was coming to join us and we were to be a team. The first team to go to Gondor from our Company. Boromir was everything I was not. He was organized, experienced, business minded and analytical. I was and am, a dreamer. I listen to the Boss and do that. That's the end of my unique abilities but the point was that we had never met before and yet we were the perfect match. We went out to dinner the next night and as we sat around the table with our wives we dreamed big dreams and each of us committed to laying down our lives for the sake of getting the Gospel to the people of Gondor. These were not oaths taken lightly. We had just heard that a deacon in a foreign church there was killed with his entire family- 9 children- by Islamic Fundamentalists. I later found out that only the man was killed and not his children but with what information we had we accepted the challenge knowing the costs. I was the team leader and Boromir was the business manager. I was proud to work with such a fine man and his equally talented and committed wife.

We went through orientation together and then went to Rohan. The plan was for us to live in Rohan for a year learning language and then figure out how to get to Gondor. We enjoyed having house church together, learning the new city together, praying and planning together. It became apparent right away that Boromir was very competent and even in a new culture with a new language this guy could get stuff done. After a year I started working on getting to Gondor. I made many trips and began to work out the details of how we would get there, what aid work we could do there, what organization we could work with, where we should live etc. Boromir never went with me. At first it seemed that he was just too busy but over time I realized he had worked hard in Rohan and he was invested there. He was not going to move. In February of 1997 he announced that he was staying to support the team in Rohan. His wife agreed to the decision feeling that God was definitely calling them to stay. I was really disappointed. Not devastated, but really disappointed.

Boromir had always been a fill in all the boxes kind of guy. He was meticulous. I considered him to be borderline legalistic in fact. Everything had to be done the 'right' way and believe me this was not easy to do in a former Soviet Republic. I remember the time he charted the steps we had to take to get a package from the post office in the Capitol city Edoras. It had 18 steps which invariably changed from week to week. Only a guy like Boromir could keep up with that! We left for Gondor in the summer of 1997. Boromir came to visit that fall- the only time he came to Gondor. It was a difficult time for us. The city was a mess as factions continued to fight even though the civil war was over. The aid agency that we were with had a serious breakdown and some good friends were wrongfully fired. A couple from another agency was kidnapped. And to top it all off my wife, Arwen, had a miscarriage that weekend. Boromir was encouraging and his approval of how we were handling such a stressful situation meant much to me. I loved and respected that man.

After he left I did not hear from him often. I saw him one more time the next Spring at a company meeting. He was doing well. The work was going well, if slow. The Government was not getting any easier to deal with. Then a few months later I got word that he was missing. We prayed for him. He was found in Edoras.... with another woman. He confessed to the team there and his wife that he had had prostitutes but then had found this woman. He was going to leave his wife and marry her. This was beyond unbelievable. My first thought when I heard that he had had an affair was that he was so legalistic he would never forgive himself. He may do something drastic. I called him and told him I was praying for him. He never admitted anything to me. But later I found out I was concerned for naught. Boromir was completely unashamed of what he had done. His wife went back to the West by herself and was forced to go through the divorce by herself. Boromir did marry the woman and spent several more years in Rohan before finally bringing his new wife back to the West. I have never seen or heard from him again.

This is a tough story for me. I loved Boromir and consider that he was a better man than I. But he fell- and fell far. How? There are a couple of reasons that I can see. One, legalistic people are often wound too tight. Several who know this story say they were not surprised that the strict guy was the one to fall. Colosians 2 has an interesting phrase in the King James Version where it uses 'will-worship'. Legalism is all about making our own righteousness- or worshipping our own will-power. As every religion on earth has abundantly proven this does not work. Will-worship never leads to purity. We can not save ourselves. Second, we are in a real spiritual battle. We are taking the Gospel where it has never been before. The enemy is fighting like crazy to stop this. Boromir was a casualty of this battle. Dr. Johnny Hunt is a pastor whom I had the privilege to hear speak once and he said that he prays, 'Lord, keep me close and keep me clean' everyday. I pray that too. In fact, I will ask you right now to pray it for me as well.

The cool part of this story is the way our organization took care of Boromir's wife. Once she resigned they hired her on in the home office where she still works. I saw her this summer and her healing is an on-going reality. She is being used- too often- to help those who are in her position, to comfort those who need it with the comfort she herself was comforted with. I love that about our Organization. I love that about our Lord as well. I don't know why Boromir fell and I have not except that I stand in the grace of my Lord who is able to make even me to stand. You can rest in that.... in fear and trembling and no small amount of humility.


Re v said...

That is a sad story.

I know some people over here who... like clockwork, whenever they have a tough day, experience stress, or culture shock they are overwhelmed with this guilty feeling that "they are not sacrificing enough". It is shockingly predictable. It actually really bothers me when people feel that way cuz they are playing into some kind of invisible standard for "success". I can see how it can turn into a destructive cycle. If you interpret struggle as failure, and you are "justified" by your success, your faith is going to give one way or another.

Maybe what im describing is a different type of legalism than what you are talking about.

Have you ever met people like that Strider?

Strider said...

Well the context is different but the cause is the same. Pride. We really believe that the world revolves around us. If the work is going well we say, in false humility, that it is all about God and not us. When things go poorly we decide we must have sin, or need to pray more, or work harder. Both of these are false roads to 'success'.
Success in the Kingdom means you have a love relationship with the Savior. Works can be no part of that. As I love my Lord we will do stuff together and the fruit of that stuff (ministry) will be beautiful. But if I do stuff to try and impress Him or you for that matter then I am at a dead end already- in fact, the worst thing that could happen would be that I would seem to succeed and see great results. Then I would be further deluded into believing that MY behavior brought about this wondrous results. Worse, I could teach you how to do that by writing a 'how to' book and you could become like me. This would be very edifying for me and you too could have your best life now. (for the record I don't want my best life now. My best life will be with Him forever.)
No, it needs to be about Him. We must define success for our lives as growing closer to Him, loving Him better, becoming more like Him out of respect and admiration for who He is. As we draw close to Him He draws near to us and He Himself changes us to become what we never thought we would be: Holy. Not holy and pure as the world has defined it but holy as He has decided you are meant to be.
When we try to short-cut our sanctification by working harder or doing more out of guilt we betray the fact that we still are only in love with ourselves and that our great Lover has been scorned once again.