Sunday, April 17, 2011

::Ten Boundary Stones::

". . . but showing steadfast love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments."
~Exodus 20:6~

Can anyone put words to the texture of pain in watching a beloved spit at the God you breathe for? This God whose hand has smoothed out the sharp edges of my own rebellion with such tenderness. Whose commandments have become the downy blankets which form around my vulnerable, sleeping frame, washing away fear. His Words are my boundaries. My safe-keeping. Within them are the Canaan grasses and sweet waters of goodness that keep me from wanting to wander into the desert again. The wasteland where I playacted at being god of my own brokenness.

Haven to one.
Hated walls of another.

In Exodus 20, God himself etched ten laws into stone for His people. One of them is this: Do not craft another god and hold it up higher than me in your life. God continues to explain that supplanting Him as God will have ramifications that bleed into the future in ways that we can't understand from our limited vantage point.

God assures us that He sees the truth of this: ". . . visiting the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and forth generation of those who hate me. . ." We often read this verse to mean that a parents' sins lead to decades of divine punishment for their children. Looking at the original language we can see that the word visiting, in this verse means review or inspect in Hebrew. In other words, God can see the pattern from his divine vantage point and wants us to know about it-- the slow seeping of a stubborn life of sin into the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Everything within these verses speaks to the reality of natural consequences. I once read a fairy tale about a Queen who became so enamoured of herself, and so fiercely protective of her beauty that she looked into a mirror every moment of the day-- standing vigil for the day of it's fading. Her own reflection held her gaze like a vise. Meanwhile, her tiny daughter was left to wander without her mother's care. Not even a tug at her mother's hem could earn her a look or touch. Eventually it was the shattered mirror that killed the Queen, and a piece of the mirror lodged in the daughter's heart, making her cold-- unable to feel warmth.
The vanity and neglect of a mother.
The coldness and isolation of a daughter.

It would not be hard to draw parallels from fantasy to reality: sad stories of action and consequence.

Stripping the Exodus text down to it's roots we see something that shimmers with meaning under the surface: . . . but showing steadfast love. . . That word actually means build or craft. Whereas the consequences of living outside the walls of God's ways fall upon us naturally and inevitably, the good things in our lives are worked in by a God who builds.

"Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
~John 14:21~

God actively works goodness into our lives when we actively work Him into our lives. God actively carved out ten stunningly clear boundary stones within which, if we choose to live, good will come to us and those who follow us. Within the parameters of God's commandments we are told we will be fueled by a power source unlike any other beyond the gates: Himself. The God who laid the boundaries will show Himself to us throughout our lives of discipline. Never more true is the saying; If we read between the lines. . . If we determine to hedge our lives about with the ten stones of God's ways, He promises to show us Himself in each stone indentation. In each true and perfect word. In each act of obedience to those commands. In each moment safeguarded by a life of self-discipline.

Having spent years watching the back of a loved one, while he walks steadily away from the boundary lines, I can't help but grab hold of this: The consequence of sin are said to last for a time, while the love of God, and the goodness it brings are said to last forever. There is the hope. A boy can turn.

Commandments are not a prison. They are the arms of a Father.
Running from them is like a child who tears free from a parent's embrace and runs headlong into the desert-- leaving behind safety, support and direction. And as he goes, he slowly lays down his own boundary stones. One for anger. One for indulgence. One for spite. One for a throne. Within the stones, he creates a pasture of parched isolation, where the only face he sees is his own. The once-familiar contours of a Father's face fading.

". . . For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
~Ezekiel 18:32~