I have had the pleasure of sharing my life over the last 2 years with some very special people who have touched my heart and my life in so many ways. As I begin to write I write with them in mind and the tremendous amount of hope that they have given me over these last two years and the courage to finish a race that at times simply seems to daunting and confusing to continue to run. It’s their own stories of hope and love that spurs me on. If you are reading this blog you are most likely one of those people or connected to us in some manner as the Body of Christ, thank you.
When I was asked to write about hope it didn’t take long before Zechariah 9:12 ran through my head. I don’t mean to imply that I might be a biblical scholar with an extensive liturgical scholarship in theology because I am far from that and trust me that is a good thing for your sake and I am convinced for mine as well, however, I did ask the Holy Spirit why he or she reminded me of a verse that was likely drilled into my head by a earthly father with every good intention that his son might know love of God. So let me share a little bit with you about what the Holy Spirit has shared with me and then we can let the games begin.
So you can get the context:
“11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. 13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and make you like a warrior’s sword.” Zechariah 9:11-13 (NIV)
I love these verses partially because I am a sucker for poetry but beyond the beautifully written word and poetic prose lies a deeper meaning that stirs the ancient areas of my heart. Zechariah was one of the minor prophets and it is no wonder that he used the phrase “O prisoners of hope.” His ministry to the nation of Israel was during their exile back from Babylonian captivity to rebuild Israel and the temple that the Babylonians had destroyed. It’s no wonder that the meaning behind his name meant “The Lord Remembers”. How appropriate that The Lord (Yahweh) is the the covenant name of God and is an everlasting testimony of faithfulness to his children whom he never forgets and always Remembers. Zechariah along with his fellow countrymen have lived in the confines of the Babylonian Empire under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar forced to worship false gods. Later the Israelites were released to freedom and back to their homeland after Cyrus the Great of Persia conquers the Babylonians and then on top of it all he writes a decree to allow them to live out their faith in freedom and rebuild the temple. Cyrus encouraged them to proceed and so they started to establish the foundation of the new temple and it seemed like everything was going great and then all of the sudden the Samaritans want to get involved in the building process and the Israelites told them to butt out. Well, the long and short of it was the Samaritans got their feelings hurt and their panties all in a wad and started spreading lies about the possible Israelite rebellion that would result due to the resurrection of the temple. The powers to be got wind of this and shut it down. I can only imagine the disappointment that the Israelites felt at this point in time. They had endured years of abuse in a foreign land under the rule of a crazy man and then they were finally set free to go back to their promise land and permitted to worship their God in freedom. Began to rebuild the temple and someone falsely pulls the carpet out from underneath them. I think I would have felt like giving up too! Then hear comes Zechariah proclaiming the voice of God and sowing seeds of hope among the destitute and broken-hearted not only that the temple would be re-built but that their Savior was coming soon and that he would redeem all that they had lost and return it to them two fold.
As I was reading this I was thinking Zechariah had a hell of a job trying to sow seeds of hope to a distraught and destitute nation and all by his lonesome –how did he have the strength to do this? Well he wasn’t alone. He had a friend and confidant in Haggai, another minor prophet who had seen the actual destruction of the first temple all the way through to the present time. I’m sure they both leaned on one another in so many different ways and encouraged and exhorted one another to help see their countrymen to the end of this struggle to rebuild their temple so that they could worship their true Father in freedom. Any time there is a one and another ‘one another’ there is community and community is where hope thrives and somehow there always seems to be enough hope to see us through. When I think about the temple that the Israelites rebuilt I think about our hearts and the rebuilding that goes on daily. The Israelites finally rebuilt the Temple the temple in 516 BC. Construction of a new temple was begun in 537 BC; after a hiatus, work resumed 520 BC, with completion occurring in 516 BC and dedication in 515. If you remember from earlier the rebuilding of the Temple was authorized by Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. God’s faithfulness and the community that surrounds us gives us hope that one day freedom might be restored. Even though we experience restoration in portions of our hearts, just like the Israelites did with the temple, doesn’t mean we are exempt from pain and suffering, in fact, Christ said we would continue to experience trouble (John 16:33) and that suffering that results from the trouble that we experience teaches us to love more deeply, and through that love we give others hope to take one more step. That’s not the end of the story nor the end of what Zechariah wrote to the Israelites. In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed the temple a second time and to this day the Jews are hoping that it will be restored once again when the Messiah returns. Zechariah 14 is the prophecy concerning the second coming of Christ and the final restoration of the temple. Pretty cool story. I tried to tell it as I understood it and I hope it leaves you encouraged.
Finally I will end by sharing with you something that happened to me in the fall of ‘08. I have struggled with SA since I was a young kid and the last several years God has surrounded me with a great community of people both men and woman who have loved me and created a safe place for my heart to heal. I suffered the consequences of a lost marriage and as I have grown and healed over the years the prospect of dating has come up. I certainly keep hoping that one day I might be able to remarry and have a family. It’s a deep desire that I have had to put on hold for a long time, but now that I’m here I still hear the lies that tell me that I am damaged goods and that I could never love or be loved enough to sustain a relationship so I remain stagnate. It has been a difficult transition for me and probably one of the scariest things that I have faced most recently. This last Fall I relapsed. Usually when that happens I isolate and hide, but this particular night I decided to do something different and it snowballed into something more than I would have imagined –something redemptive. I decided to go to the Refuge. They were having a dinner that night so I kind of hung out in the foyer trying to be as discreet as I possibly could and I am really good at that, trust me. As I hung out and watched people getting their dinners and sitting around fellowshiping I saw this peculiar older gentleman walking around in what looked like fatigues and a mohawk with all kinds of cool earrings and tattoos. It definitely got my attention, but then again the Refuge is a melting pot of everything and everybody that’s what makes it so good. I just thought to myself it must be a new guy and continued to people watch. About 5 minuets later Kathy got up and started to introduced a friend of hers that she and Karl had met up in the NW and then asked him to come up and share a little bit about himself. It was the new guy I saw. I thought to myself “this should be interesting cause you never know who Kathy’s going to bring even though it’s usually always good” and just by his looks alone he seemed like a helluva character. I was intrigued to say the least. Well he got up and no kidding he said the following,” Hello, my name is Ken and I have 22 days of sobriety from alcoholism……” I lost it inside I started to tear up and the feelings of loneliness and shame slid right off my back. Under my breath I said thanks Ken, I only have 30 minutes but I know I’m not alone any more. I can’t really describe to you the rest because it would take too long and I don’t know that I could put words to it that would do it any justice, but I did get a chance to talk to him a couple of days later and found out he had a heart bigger that the state of Texas and a huge burden for the homeless. Earlier that evening his wife Deborah shared with the group and I was blown away by the fact that she had stayed with Ken all those years even though he had struggled with his addiction for so long. You see I have always bought the lie of perfection: kick the addiction then you will be acceptable enough, otherwise you’re just damaged goods that nobody wants. That was clearly not the case and Deborah and Ken were living proof that challenged the lie that I had lived with for so long. I’m generally a pretty private person and a little bashful with people I have never talked to before, but I felt a deep need to thank Deborah for loving Ken despite his battle with alcoholism, and I’m not sure how this works but by loving Ken she loved me and gave me hope that one day I might be married and loved for Drew, the good the bad and the ugly, and not for my goodness alone. Later I spoke to Deborah and told her what I had shared with Ken about my journey and what she had done for me by loving Ken and how much it meant to me. She smiled and thanked me and said that no one had ever told her that before then she gave me a hug and said she was hopeful that someone special would come into my life soon. I wrote Ken later because I wanted to share with him a quote that I had found that I thought represented their love for one another….
Any way here is the note I wrote:
How are you doing? I wanted to write you and Deborah and thank you for your time spent with us here in Colorado. I enjoyed talking with you Thursday night and wanted to let you know that you really spoke to my heart and give me hope. I looked up the quote from CS Lewis that Deborah gave during her talk and found that it came from a Sermon that he gave in 1941 called “The Weight of Glory”. I love CS Lewis and have enjoyed reading his works when I can keep up with him sometimes his thought are quite deep and it’s a daunting task to understand what he’s exactly trying to communicate, but he always has some amazing insight. I came across another quote the other day and thought of both you. I hope it is a blessing to you as you continue to be a blessing to so many others. I’ll keep you both in my prayers, take care.
“Loving all of it even while he had to hate some of it because he knows now that you don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.” -William Faulkner
With Love, Drew
I love Ken and Deborah and I love the body of Christ. It’s amazing the amount of hope there is when we love despite. It’s the message God gave Zechariah in 520 BC and it the same today. God bless you and when things go south try to remember you’re loved, O prisoner of hope…