We Have More Control Than We’d Like to Admit
The other day a group of us were disc golfing at Hazel Landing Park when, on about the 4th hole, a dog from the group behind us came up to say hello as we were getting ready to tee off. It looked all mangy, like it had not had a bath in weeks. The owner, not too far off, claimed to have a leash but would not attach it to this dog’s collar. If this had only occurred once (…and if the dog were cuter…), our group would have been fine with it, however quite frequently throughout the round, the dog would approach us right before we threw. This became quite the annoyance. The owner kept apologizing incessantly, like he had no control over this thing; we knew better. Even worse was the fact that the owner persisted on yelling at the dog from across two holes instead of walking over to grab the dog and scold it on the spot; this not only cost our group some concentration but the other groups playing that day as well. This was as frustrating as it gets for a leisurely activity such as this.
On Sunday, we talked a little bit about Joseph, the man with the technicolored dream cloak, and how his brothers, because he was so different from them, threw him into a cistern (a very large pit) and sold him to slave traders, eventually winding up as a slave to the Egyptians and eventually imprisoned. We talked about any potential scenarios that would have led him to that hole, concluding that this was not a result of anything Joseph had specifically done but a result of the people and powers around him. He was only responsible for interpreting divine dreams. We talked significantly about how sometimes things around us just happen and the only thing that we can do is remain faithful, which Joseph most certainly did. We also talked about what classifies as a ‘cistern’ and the implications of that differentiation. I would like to further explore those implications.
Pastor Chet mentioned “there is a difference between temptation and a cistern;” that really hit me. A cistern would classify as an event or situation that seems to happen traumatically, leaving you feeling helpless, abandoned, and alone (i.e. the loss of a loved one). Temptation and addiction, on the other hand, are two things that definitely leave us feeling stuck, alone, and abandoned but are not out of our control. We choose the things that we do based on the situations in which we find ourselves. If I, for instance, instead of reading a book in order to educate myself, opt to feed my t.v. addiction, binge-watching the Office for the one millionth time, I have chosen to live in that hole of addiction. The difference between a ‘cistern’ of trying times, trouble, and tragedy and the cistern of temptation/addiction is that the latter is self-inflicted yet almost too easy to cure.
From outside either of these two scenarios, you would have thought that I had gotten everything backwards, because it would appear as though the former would be cured by faith alone and the latter is the process. I did not stutter. In regards to the holes in which we have been placed by outside forces, you would have been right to say that faith will guide this healing and redemptive process, yet patience is the cure, waiting on God in this prolonged and grueling process to which we are called to not only endure but choose . Temptation-based cisterns are curable by conscious effort alone and I do not believe that God owes us anything or has to help us out of this. Our mess; our clean up. He will not leave us alone nor will He cure it for us. Don’t let your dog run around on a golf course with the leash in your pocket. Give even an ounce of effort: walk over, grab your dog, strap the leash on, and save everybody (yourself included) the frustration and utilize your time an energy wisely.
It is by His divine grace that even when we were/are sinning in addiction, and even in the contemplation of the temptation, He did not strike us down by fire on site. He loves us enough to keep us alive that we might sober up enough to accept that undeserved grace in repentance and try our best to climb out of the pit. All He cares about is our effort. He will do the rest.
So either way, whether you are in the pit of despair because of something that has happened to you or your family or because of a self-inflicted fall, my question is this: is your time best spent in patience or with effort? Both? Neither? Is this a process or a choice? How can we pray for you and be with you in this cistern?
You are not alone.
Post your thoughts and experiences below. I look forward to dialoguing with you.
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