Friday, August 25, 2017

CP 281 When the garlic became toxic

CP 281 When the garlic became toxic…
Around the time I was the resident reverend in Eudunda in the early 1980’s, a bunch of blokes were in the occasional habit of camping overnight in the scrub about 20kms from town. Being blokes, there was generous sampling of the amber fluid and the port. Consequently there was lots of unwinding jollity which is permissible when the ‘missus’ is not present. Of course the cooking was, well, basic. On one of those trips, when it wasn’t yet winter but still close to freezing at night, one of those fellows, whose nickname was Hippy, felt the urge to taste one of his culinary delights which was forbidden at home. Hippy loved garlic with his steak, the more the better. Couldn’t use enough of it. His lady couldn’t stand the stuff, so bush camping was the perfect place to over-indulge. When the large T-bones hit the plate they were accompanied by an abundance of the aromatic herb. The steaks were consumed with relish.
Came the time to bed down and a contented, inebriated and tired Hippy wobbled his way into his little tent accompanied by his dog. He was asleep in a flash. Yet not twenty minutes later he was wide awake because the dog was disturbing the peace with a troubled and incessant whimpering, all the while scratching at the zipper. Told to ‘shut up,’ the dog whimpered more and then began to howl. The mutt wanted out of that tent, as of right now! The master might be the master, and the master might be much loved, but the dog couldn’t stand to be in that garlic-flavoured prison for a moment longer. Man’s best friend had concluded that in the circumstances it was better to be outside and freezing than ‘dying’ in a confined space!
I recently recounted that episode to friends while we were cooking, with garlic, a month or so ago. Of course we had a good laugh. Over the weeks since I’ve come to see what a remarkable parable it might be for what can happen in relationships. So here is a question. Is there anything going on in your life which might act as an overdose of ‘garlic’ which impacts on any or all of your relationships? Let’s consider…
·        You harbour bitterness in your heart. Something happened… you were angry and aggrieved… couldn’t, wouldn’t, were unable to forgive… you were right, of course you were. You were thwarted, cheated, ignored and mistreated. You have carefully nursed the resentment and desire for ‘justice’, and it has become an infection in your spirit. How does that impact on your loved ones? Do they want to be close to you as you moan and groan, and mutter and grumble under your breath? Or are they wishing they could be somewhere else? Or do they rather stand up to you and fight for their ‘space’? Or do they, perhaps, escape the harshness by going inside themselves, into that safe place in the heart, and shut down?
·        Even straightforward anger. There is a time for anger. There are circumstances in which it would be sinful not to be angry. Somehow, though, you are prickly, quick to anger… aggressive unrestrained tongue, criticising, judging, yelling, lashing out… How is it for your loved ones? Do your children or your spouse or your workmates want to be close to you or do they long to escape? Or maybe when you skunk-spray your anger on them, do they try make themselves invisible?
·        What happens to the spirit and wellbeing of those close to you when you physically abuse them? Does life with you become intolerable? Should it? I’ve come to a personal conclusion that subjecting ‘loved ones’ to physical violence is just as much a violation of the marriage vow as adultery. Your toxic-garlic nastiness crushes the spirit of those who are afflicted by you.
One thing about an angry-garlic spirit of bitterness, or of resentment or bullying, is that it imposes a suffocating control on those nearest and dearest to us. We greedily invade and impose ourselves into ‘their’ personal space and inflict violence on them by insisting that they conform to our wishes and our view of the world. Who could blame the gentler ones if they want out? Why should we be surprised if a loved one refuses to accept domination? Why wouldn’t the timid ones render themselves emotionally comatose?
There’s another thing about that garlic-laden spirit. It is difficult for the Lord to bless you because his Holy Spirit will never submit to your angry controlling spirit. You find yourself living in your own personal desolate wilderness.
What to do? If you recognise yourself in these word pictures are you stuck with it? As surely as Jesus the Christ is Lord, with all power and authority, it is not his will, ever, to leave you ‘stuck’. There are a number of simple things to do. Some will certainly be painful things to do, but they are also healing things to do…
·        First and foremost, admit the wretched truth to yourself. Put an end to the denial!
·        Next, admit the wretched truth to your Lord. Ask your Heavenly Father for the forgiveness promised in Christ Jesus. He must give it where sorrow for sin is genuine.
·        Also, take courage and acknowledge the truth to your loved ones and ask their forgiveness.
·        Take hold of the truth that he has bestowed on you the very character of Christ himself. His own Spirit is within you. Then ask him, through his Word and Spirit, to reveal to you the roots of this destructive behaviour. This he will do because his promise is to forgive and cleanse.
·        As you ‘see’ how you arrived at this place, withdraw any permissions you ever gave yourself to be angry or bitter or hurtful or harsh. Renounce those permissions and resolves. Instead say yes to the Word… Take to yourself the body and blood of Christ… Seek the community of Christ…
The journey will not be easy. However it is the journey to life that builds up and sustains others too. And go this journey in the sure knowledge that your Lord Jesus lived to absorb your excessive angers into himself. That’s part of what Calvary was about. Her absorbed it but did not surrender to it. In the Spirit he stayed strong and clean. In that same Spirit you can too. And should you fail, he is committed to grace and he freely forgives…
Two comments:
I could write just as easily about the over-indulgence in anxiety or alcohol, or gambling, greed, laziness, lust or jealousy. Any of these things bring a form of lying and violence and destructiveness into the close relationships in which we live.
Writing as a Pastor who struggles with these things myself, I sometimes reflect with regret about people who were on the receiving end of my mis-ministry. Apart from family, the closest relationships I have had and have are with ‘my people’. How has it been for them?
I bless the Father, for the Son, in the Spirit, every day for continuing grace.


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