A Dark Basement

I was dating someone recently and something happened that tells me that I either need medication, my mind is getting soft, or God’s work is beginning to take shape.

The first or last options are more favorable than the middle.
Then again, maybe they’re all happening to some degree.

So I was dating this woman and I got into an argument with her. It was our first one, and it was a good one. A day later I was still kinda stewing about things…and then it happened.

I saw myself.

I mean I REALLY saw myself.
What I mean is that we usually see ourselves as the ‘victim’ or some caped crusading seeker of justice with our “justified” thoughts and actions as WE THINK they are.
…but
Once the blinding light of my own pride, my own indignation faded…I saw there, outside of the light…a shadow…a darkness you don’t see unless you REALLY look.
I saw it.

I saw my motivations and selfishness.
I saw my anger.
I saw a hurt child lashing out in his confusion and pain…
That child was me…and it was not pretty.

As I was writing this, God reminded me of a story….so I’m going to switch gears for a second and then I’ll come back to the argument…

When I was 9 or 10, we lived in Lebanon in an old mansion that sat on the corner of Cook and Deerfield Roads. Across the street from a housing division that was being built from that corner towards the YMCA. There was dozens of houses all being built at the same time for several summers. Being the entrepreneur I was, I used to go collect the returnable pop bottles the workers would drink and discard every day. They were returnable glass bottles worth maybe 10 cents a piece and I could collect a couple bucks a day to spent the money on fish for my aquarium, orange Fago sodas, Star Wars cards, and candy.

One day a couple of us kids were playing in the houses…we must’ve been playing some kind of cops and robbers sort of game, when something I’ll never forget happened.

Someone was chasing me, think it was Kevin Revis (but could have been Mark Mason) and I was darting through a couple houses to get away. All the houses were just studs and plywood, many had no roof and I ran into this house thinking I had enough of a lead to safely hide, so I decided to duck into a basement. So, I ran through this house, jumped into the square hole cut into the first floor for the stairs, and ran down the steps.

It was summer and must’ve been mid-day on the weekend because the sun was bright and overhead, so as I got to the bottom of the steps, there was a square of bright light formed by the hole in the first floor where the stairs came down. Standing at the bottom of the steps, I stood for a second just looking into the darkness. Coming out of the mid-day sun, my eyes could not adjust, and darkness was all I could see. I could not see the walls, the floor, or ANYTHING just outside of the square of light.

I must’ve heard my pursuer enter the house, because I stepped into the darkness and put out my hands and walked blindly forward until I touched the cool damp surface of the wall. I felt around in the darkness for a place or way to hide myself but the basement was completely empty…I was trapped and turned back to the stairs and the square of light.

Whoever pursued me raced through the house and then bounded down the steps to the bottom, stopped and stood, in the square light, looking out into the darkness searching for me.

I remember seeing him as clear as if it had been yesterday…I could SEE his excited face as he scanned the dark where I stood. He took a step out of the square of light, then stopped. I could SEE and FEEL his fear of leaving the light as he tried to bring himself to challenge the darkness..and then shrank back. I could FEEL his triumphant victory slipping…slipping into fear.
…but I stood perfectly still and quiet.

He screamed out into the concrete basement claiming victory!!!!! He had found me!!!! He knew I was there!!!! His shrill child voice was amplified by the concrete walls. He had stopped at the base of the stairs, and standing in the light, he was maybe 15 feet from me and I was standing RIGHT in front of him as he faced my direction.

In those brief seconds…in that moment…I could see him PERFECTLY as he stood under the sun’s square spotlight
…but he, in his blindness…
he could not see me.

So, back to my story of needing medication or getting soft (…or both…)

Pulling these stories together….in my argument with the woman, I was the child at the base of the stairs in the spotlight of the sun. And at the base of the stairs, I was yelling in the darkness. In my self-righteousness, I was calling out my victory!!! MY win! I was demanding surrender!!!!
….but all the while, I was blind.

Now today, a day later, I am the person in the darkness. I stand in the shadow of the basement, in the shadow of time, and it’s like I am looking at myself, observing that child standing in that square spotlight and arguing with her as one in the same.

I’m looking at myself arguing with her and i can clearly see today what I did not then.

I can see my fear.
I can see my hollow victory.
I can see me searching in the darkness.
I can see myself afraid of what I cannot see.
…And it’s not a good thing to watch.

Relationships are not easy. There’s the good like comfort, love, support, companionship, affirmation, touch, camaraderie, friendship
But the good often comes with the bad like betrayal, abandonment, distrust, anger, hurt, confusion…all of these are based in fear…

In relationships, like the child in the spotlight calling into the darkness, a lot of times we have to press into our fears, our hurts….abandon our island of light and hollow victory and step into a place of discomfort and disorientation. Like a child bathed in our own blinding light, we have to step into the dark…
…that we might see the other person.

In relationships, like the child in the dark where I could clearly see my friend…God’s light often illuminates them (or ourselves) and we see clearly that they are scared and fearful. They cannot see us as they are blinded and unwilling to step into, and through their fears.

God continues to work on me and my life. It’s often hard and painful to work through dark places in my heart, places where I got hurt, where my pride has blinded me, places where someone was supposed to be safe, where someone was supposed to be our friend betrays us…but God loves us enough to take our burdens and help us lay them down.

Light is a funny thing…
Sometimes the light makes us blind.
Sometimes the dark helps us see.

I Corinthians 4.5. …”wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”

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The Story of Boaz

To most the book of Ruth is about, well, Ruth.
Not to me. Not at all…it’s a story of Boaz.
Boaz was one lucky guy.

An older man, seasoned, wise, and past his prime. Not bitter, not selfish.
He was Righteous, influential, and wealthy is what we’re told.
He took care of business.
He kept his affairs in order, and watched over his interests.
He learned to be faithful with what God had given him.
…but…
for whatever reason, he did not have a wife.

Maybe he squandered his early years with riotous living…maybe he HAD a wife, but she had left him or he left her…maybe she had passed from this world into the next in a shattering tragedy of losing a beloved.
Maybe his story is much like mine, where his anticipatory spring had ticked away into the ‘less than perfect” fall of his life.

Whatever the reason, the results were the same. He was alone living without a wife and we know that Boaz was not in the spring time of his life, but what we do know speaks volumes. He owned fields and had workers under him… so we do know that he took care of what God had given him. He probably had a good work ethic and good management that put him in a good financial standing. His example stands for all of us who are waiting sometimes oh-not-so patiently, to be good stewards of the “little things” that God has given you because money, wealth, and resources we are stewards of are oh-so-inconsequential compared to the being entrusted with the wealth of a human heart.

What else do we know about Boaz?

He took notice of a younger widow woman that showed up in his field one day. She was a widow taking care of another widow who was a foreigner, a Moabite, in Israel. Moabites were a detested race so she was an outcast and reject ..most would not want her in their field and some…some would have their way with her, because, after all, who would take up for her? Who would defend her?

But Boaz did.

In the story, he put word out that none was to touch her. We don’t know how powerful Boaz was nor do we know how much he had to impress upon his workers his “wishes”, but what we do know that no harm came to her. What he willed to happen was made to happen. What we also know is that he wanted her to be provided for as he told his workers to leave a little extra food in her path in the fields she was working. He made sure that not only was she taken care of but her mother-in-law’s well.

Now, Boaz did a good thing here, taking care of a couple widows, but did he go out telling everyone how good he was, patting himself on the back? Surely this was his golden opportunity to made himself look good, not including a chance to impress a girl maybe get a little something for it?

No, his order was simple leave some food for her to find, don’t harvest so completely and efficiently where she was. He did what was pleasing to God…the Bible says to camouflage your good deeds with humility, let no man praise your work so that God can lift you up. She was never to know the reason for her good fortune.

This may show a little something about his heart, something of his character. I personally believe that Boaz took notice of her, admired her from afar and deep down inside saw someone he really liked. Maybe he was in love with a beautiful young widow who worked hard in the fields to provide for a mother-in-law that would die if she left. Maybe Boaz saw a woman whose character and beauty captured his heart. I believe he saw something of beauty and I believe he wasn’t the only one who saw this. If this had not been so, why would he have had to put out word to keep her from harm right?

But I believe Boaz knew he was no young stud, and that woman like this were always meant for someone else, more blessed, less years, less wear, less tare.
So he did what he could do for her and left it at that…and then went about his business.

It could just like all the other stories of yesteryear, you know, the traditional boy meets girl, they fall in love and so on… but it wasn’t. This was a story of God’s love for a man who wished for a wife, the story of a young widow looking for a second chance and a kind man. God writes this story because He loves a redemption story…He loves to make his servants whole again, in the heart and soul.

There’s a lot of us who think that God has forgotten us and we ended up in the lost and found at the divine dating service…we’re kind of like Rudolf The Red Nose Reindeer at the Island of Misfit Toys. Maybe our “one and only” has never come around, or has come and gone leaving us to mourn in the “would’ve”, “could’ve”, and “should’ve” of yesteryear… then this is OUR story, a story of lost love… and then found. Story of God and duty first, story of boy meets girl written God’s way.

In the story several things are out of place. The girl offers herself to him, puts herself at his mercy to offer the only thing she had, her body. Boaz resists, and, because he was honorable and just, and turns the situation over to God to place her into his hands, or to place her where she would be taken care of. You see we are often called to release something so that we can be given the right things in the right way. Boaz could have taken Ruth at any time but he chose the higher road, asked God into it, and reaped a wife.

Ruth saw a kind, gentle man who she entrusted her purity with.. and he adores her for choosing him. She SEES him and says “your people will be my people, your God will be my God”. They gave each other everything because I believe God knew their hearts were ready to love, ready to surrender, ready to give up the cheap counterfeit for the authentic….maybe because they were both ready to partner with His chosen.

Boaz was a lucky guy and Ruth was a lucky girl, but their story didn’t start that way…could be kind of like our story…only we’re in the middle…we’re Ruth or we’re Boaz and we’re doing what we’ve got to do to survive. This is a story from God, for us.

When Boaz and Ruth came together, I’m sure they were the talk of the town…brokenness made whole by the only One who could.

For many of us…this is our story.

…and I can’t wait to meet you Ruth