August 23, 2008

Confessions of a Reckless Spiritualist

I write now, for better or for worse, writings that fade that soon will be history, gone with the wind
With ink of tears that hope to brighten up tomorrow though I stand knocking the doors of darkness
Scribbling my life on white-washed tombs within which lie a mockery of victory
I run! Trying to outrun my shadow of defeat but faint I realize it’s now my identity
What shall I say? Where should I start? All these thoughts run down a chill of guilt through my spine
If I could take one step backward and change the course of time, I wouldn’t be one step closer to fading away into despair
A Christian they call me, a born-again believer I claim to be
But as I scribble the first line trumpeting my faith, I see my mask falling off revealing my true identity

JUST AS you got a routine in life, I too have one. Just as you read your Bible while sometimes out of a necessity and by the time you reach the tenth verse you are half asleep, I too have a similar ‘Bible fiesta’. Just as life goes on day by day and you stand wondering at the end of the day ‘what different was life today from yesterday?’ my routine too is written down on similar pages. An unknown compulsion that drives my soul into the routine, a feeling of emptiness that creeps in if I stumble apart from my routine, a sense of pride that develops and runs up my spine as the routine becomes more profound and a sense of hypocritical achievement that I cater to at the end of the up-fall.

Being ruled under the mastery of my routine, I realize that living outside my routine is trespassing unfamiliar territories. It’s become a compulsion that I ought to follow or face consequences that can shatter the essence of my pride. To avoid the fallouts of the downfall I put on a mask of hypocrisy disguising myself to others as ‘a perfect one’-on par their conclusions. Becoming famous as ‘their perfect one’ soon gives me comfort in that mask. The mask soon gets embedded into my character and becomes my identity. The routine becomes me as I wear that mask and I become that mask. Then pride rises to unconquered heights and attains a feeling of immortality. Then I stand and look down to the world and sculpt a statue of my routine - I sculpt my god.

ANOTHER DAY at church and with the Sunday School Anniversary coming up in a couple of weeks, a lot of work had to be done. Song, skit practices and a whole lot of other practices left to be done; Saturday evening was a little exciting. Through all the hustle and bustle I managed to finish off with the practices and reach home before my dad turned red and blue.

On my way back home, I misplaced my music player in an auto rickshaw. At first I thought I would have left it back at church, and made desperate attempts to find it at church but in vain. When I realized that there was no way for me to get it back, I sat down in disappointment. It was dear to me. “Come on, it’s just another music player…nothing precious,” I told trying to console myself. But somewhere down beneath I felt a deep loss within me. I wasn’t crying for the music player, but a kind of sadness filled my heart. That night as I slept I sat thinking about myself. No more bedtime music. That night marked a change. Just silence and thoughts hovered about me. As thoughts dawned over me, I groaned and cried bitterly from within when I realized what exactly I lost.

HOW DOES it feel to be an addict? Bad, bad and really very bad…that’s what I can say through years of experience. Addiction can shatter one’s life and can destroy his character. Secret addiction is more destructive. It can devastate one’s self-confidence and can put him under a burden of guilt leaving him shattered. An addict finds himself caught in a fix between the false character he puts on for the outside world and the true character he dearly hides from the world. Telling an addict what he’s doing is wrong, will not lead to any conclusion or change in his life. Well, firstly, he would have heard that a thousand times from similar ‘advisors’ while secondly, he too admits it! An addict loves a person who can guide him out of the mess he has created. Well, I’ve not written a theory of assumptions, it’s my experience. When I look at my life now, I just hate and am disgusted by the mess I’ve created.

MY LIFE was not at all cool through that whole week, at least in the sight of God. Oft getting into stuff that didn’t please God, I ruined my entire week. As the desire for sin grew in me, I got desperate to satisfy myself. It would have been fine if had this been a sudden problem. Frankly, it’s been following me for over a decade! And the solution for it…well, I have a God who forgives me and he will ALWAYS forgive me. Taking advantage of his grace I ran into gutters of stinking water which seemed to me as rivers of pleasure and comfort. This whole stuff breaks my heart as I write it.

THERE HAD to be something done! Being stuck in such a misery for a long time, I had to do something to come out of this mess! But how? Every time I tried to pull myself out, I kept sinking deeper. I needed help and desperately. I would sometimes cry before God when I was all alone just asking him for his help. I knew his promise that he is always there to help me but… When temptations stood a test against me, I would try hard to let go my desire for pleasure, but just couldn’t succeed. Sometimes, I would feel that I was too weak to claim God’s strength. Other times I would give up myself to pleasures, willing. Caught in a net of self-made failures, was I running away from his presence?

I found friends who tried to help me and guide me out of this mess but their efforts just strengthened me emotionally. The advantage, they helped me make myself responsible to at least someone. To some, I could talk freely about the problems I face. But at a certain point I realized that even they are not perfect. They too were facing similar problems. They too were still fighting themselves out of their problems. Their help would just encourage me of the fact that I am not alone in the struggles of life; there are people with similar struggles too. Again, one really wouldn’t seek advices from such friends but just encouragement. Once stuck in a mental framework that I am not alone in these struggles, I would land up getting disarmed and lazy in my fight getting myself back to the routine I created for myself! Somehow, all this just couldn’t provide me a real solution.

I was caught in a maze of reckless decisions that changed my life into a routine of failures. I was just running around a bush making no sense of my life. With no good solution to the mess, the routine created for me a mask of hypocrisy for a disguise to the outside world. I knew the mess I created of my life, but didn’t have the courage to admit it to myself, though I would readily admit it to my friends. It seemed as if the road ahead kept getting darker with no hope whatsoever. Through all this the mask kept getting deeper embedded into my character until it became my character, and I became the mask.

IF ANYTHING could be done, only God could do something. And Praise God, he acted. That night he spoke to me as I sat in the emptiness of my heart crying for something I lost unknown by me. As he silently whispered to me what I lost, I was completely shaken when he told me that I had lost him. I had lost Jesus! Me, a person so famously known to others as their perfect one, a person who people always saw as walking with God, suddenly lost Jesus! It may not sound fascinating enough to convince an addict, but it convicted me powerfully. I stood emotionless at the thought. God had to take away something material to make me realize the pain of losing Jesus. More than my pain, I realized the pain that God had to go through. As silence hovered around me, I sat down to listen to the whispers of God, for the first time, as he began to testify about me.

At this juncture I realized the mess I had created. I shook myself to tears of repentance. I got myself to admit the situation I was miserably stuck in. Things were completely a failure. Attending church, getting involved in spiritual activities, being active in church, with all those other church activities just proved to be a stage for hypocrisy. To hide the guilt that stayed hard with me after my routine of failures, I would make myself ‘visible’ in church. I had to admit this fact. All these years I just couldn’t admit this fact. Admitting it would prove disastrous to my pride. Admitting it would mean to make drastic changes in my life. It was just too big a thing personally for me to admit. The fact that I was using God and the things of God most of the times as a stage for hypocrisy really pained me. Faint are my memories when I’ve actually done something for God out of a true heart. The rest jumbled up into a platform to cover my guilt. As God kept blessing me in my life, I kept bundling them into the baggage of my routine. With all the things I claimed to be doing for Jesus already bundled up in that routine, I started taking pride in my routine. It became my mask of hypocrisy. It became my essence of worship. It became my god!

Now there was a new god in my life. One that was made up of failures, one that was an addict, one that didn’t have its own identity, one that was an hypocrite, one that despised the true God. Each one of these characteristics built this god-my routine. In the pursuit after this new god, I left behind my Savior. I left behind my true God. I outran Jesus! I lost Jesus in the pursuit behind my routine. This fact really broke my heart. As God kept talking to me in that night, I lay silent to hear the voice of God who cried as he spoke to me. His tears washed away my guilt. His pain strengthened me to leave my past. It gave me courage to face every day with strength from above. It helped me find a purpose in my life. As I end these confessions, my thoughts still stand afresh to the whispers of God that changed my life. If there had to be a change in my life, only God could do something!
Lots more to write on this, but for now, I limit myself. I want to leave you with this sincere plea; Never outrun God.

August 21, 2008

Jepthath’s Sacrifice

It seemed as if the night didn’t seem to end. The clouds had covered the moon. Heavy rains lashed through the night. Lightning slashed through the dark clouds as thunders ran shivers down the spines of many. The night was never so dark since years. A certain unusual unrest ran through the camp. Not a soul was visible on the streets as the elders of the camp made their presence felt around. People sat in their houses in anxiety fearing uncertain futures. As time passed, minutes seemed to be hours as people eagerly awaited the word. Suddenly, a rustle ran through the forests. A shadow cut through the forests, as a man riding on his horse came towards the camp. The elders girded up their loins and made their hands firm on their swords. As the man approached near, silence chilled the hearts of the elders. He removed his sword and raised it high in the air and cried out with a loud voice,

“Hurrah!! Hurrah!! We’ve won…we’ve won the battle. It’s all over! We’ve won!!! The LORD God of Israel and Jepthath has defeated the Amorites with a great slaughter. Jepthath and his army are now returning back and will be here soon.” The victory cry echoed through the camp. Immediately the trumpets played the music of victory and people came running out of their houses in joy and happiness. The long sting of the night was over. Relief and comfort broke the barriers of anxiety and uncertainty. As celebrations began, the family of Jepthath was getting ready to meet their champion of war.

They weren’t just happy as the others were, their joys knew no bounds. Jepthath had just achieved something which the others dreaded and had proved everyone wrong. Although it was past midnight, the joy of victory echoed through the wilderness. Jepthath’s wife ran to the farm and chose the best of the lambs and got herself preparing a grand feast for her husband. Jepthath’s daughter was planning something very special for her father. She ran to the nearby houses and called all her close friends. Her excitement knew no bounds. They got together and prepared a big welcome ceremony for her father.

Morning dawned. Birds chirped sweet melodies and the cock crowed its familiar tone. The sun shined its first rays of light as the dark clouds gave way to a bright new morning. Preparations were still going on in the camp when suddenly the trumpets sounded. Far away yonder, light shone through the forests. Horses and chariots paved their way through the woods as people marched their way to the camp.
“Here comes Jepthath! Here comes Jepthath!!” the messenger cried out his lungs. A wave of excitement ran through the camp. From the old to the young, all the people gathered themselves together at the entrance of the camp to welcome Jepthath and his army. Jepthath arrived with his army as the elders of the camp greeted them with a great pomp. He got down from his chariot, and gathered the attention of the crowd. He thanked God Jehovah for this great and awesome victory. Then he looked onto the multitudes standing besides him and cried with a loud voice, “Glory to God, we‘ve won the battle” Then the crowd roared in excitement and the shouts of victory echoed through the forests.

Jepthath, now all tired and worn out after the battle, longed for the company of his family. Then he looked around the crowd for his family. But they couldn’t be found. He ordered his chief general to search for his family. While they searched through the crowds, a small girl came running making her way through those hundreds of people and saluted Jepthath. “My lord, my lord, your family awaits your arrival at your home, “she told him as she tried to raise her soft voice over the mad rush of celebrations around her. Jepthath was all surprised to hear that his family didn’t come to meet him with the others. Disturbed, he saddled his horse and went towards his house.

As he arrived close to his house, he saw from afar lights arranged in a rather interesting pattern with the whole street decorated. As he approached closer, he saw a group of young girls and boys dancing in front of his house. A huge crowd of people had already gathered around his house by then. He got down from his horse and walked towards his house. Music got louder, and the celebrations got wilder. These young girls and boys put out a fascinating performance for Jepthath through music and dance. Then as he approached the door of his house, his daughter came dancing out of his house dressed in her best apparel and sang songs and played music on her timbrel.

Jepthath walked towards his daughter to hug her when suddenly his heart skipped a beat. His hands and feet began to shiver and his smile sulked. His joy broke like a jar of clay and despair got hold over him as he stood taken aback. “Alas, Alas…” he cried out walking backwards as if he had seen something terrible. He fell down on the floor and took the mud of the ground and covered himself with it renting his clothes. The whole crowd stood shocked. Music stopped. Not a sound was heard in the camp. His daughter seeing this sight stood speechless. She immediately threw down her timbrels and ran towards him.

Inside in the kitchen, Jepthath’s wife was putting her final touches on the feast that she had prepared for Jepthath. Her heart was overflowing with joy on hearing that Jepthath had arrived home. She just couldn’t wait to see him. While she dressed herself to meet her husband, one of her maids came and told her that something had gone wrong outside. Suddenly her daughter came running home crying and weeping. The beautiful dress that she wore was all muddy and dirty. The timbrels were missing in her hands. Things didn’t at all seem alright. She cried out and told her mother, “Mummy, something terribly has gone wrong. Something has happened to daddy. He’s crying and weeping. He’s even rent his clothes! Come quickly!!” Before she could even finish, her mother ran outside the house. At the doorstep, Jepthath’s wife stood dumbfounded at the sight she saw. She ran towards her husband who lay like a dead man on the ground. She fell down on to the ground and wiped of the mud from his body and tried to lift him up. Her tears covered his body. Then her daughter came towards him crying and weeping.

When Jepthath saw his daughter coming towards him, he got up and started walking away from her. He pulled out all the decorations in anger. He broke the instruments of music. He took the lamps that lit the place and threw it on the ground. No one moved as everyone stood shocked. “No!! No!!...” he cried in dejection. He then walked towards his daughter and caught her on her shoulders and shook her crying, “Why? Why, my daughter, why? Why did you have to do this?” She didn’t know what to say as she was all confused. He then bent down on his knees near the feet of his daughter and looked to the ground and softly said,
“Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back…” He then lifted his head to the heavens and cried, “I cannot go back!!…” he cried in disappointment, “LORD why did you have to do this? Why? Why only her? My only daughter! Take me instead of her. Why??” He kept beating the ground and throwing mud on his head.

He then took his daughter apart and privately told her, “My daughter, I’m sorry. I know you will never forgive me on this.” He paused and cried. “What is it my father, what is the matter?” she asked him looking worried. He gathered up courage and went to close to her ears and whispered to her, “My daughter, I have vowed a vow before the LORD that I will offer to the LORD as a burnt offering, anything that first comes out of the door of my house. And you were the first one to come out. You my daughter, you!”

She shoved him off her shoulders and stood astounded. She slowly turned her face from him and left him weeping out there running towards her house. She barged in her room banging the door right on the face of her mother who didn’t know anything about the vow and locked herself in her room and started crying loudly for hours and hours together. Soon the whole camp came to know about Jepthath’s vow. The whole camp stood shocked at the whole incident. Celebrations were suspended and silence was observed in the camp.

Evening ushered in sooner than ever. As the sun began to set, Jepthath went over to the top of a mountain and sat there overlooking the sunset. Thoughts ran through his mind. The day of victory turned out to be a day of great loss. His hands shivered as he thought of his vow. Killing his daughter!! He just couldn’t think about it. He cursed himself for making such a foolish vow before the LORD. And now he couldn’t go back on his word. He bowed himself and sat weeping and crying for his daughter. He was completely shattered and broken. No one dared to come close to Jepthath. It was all silence in the camp. Suddenly, a hand came from behind and embraced Jepthath on his shoulder. Jepthath turned behind only to see his daughter standing. She caught his hand and lifted him up and hugged him. As tears flowed, emotions expressed itself through silence and tears. She then bend down on to her knees and told her father,

“Father, my father, if you have opened your mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth; For the LORD has avenged you of your enemies. The LORD has done so great a thing for you. I am ready for whatever you’ve promised the LORD. But please give me permission that I may go up into the mountains with my friends…” she said broken and crying. “Let me alone for two months for I want to weep with my friends because I will never get to enjoy marriage. I want to bewail my virginity,” she broke out in tears and sat down on the ground weeping. Her father lifted her up and hugged her dearly and told her, “My daughter, you may go. Certainly go.”

Early next morning, she got up and embarked on a journey with her friends to the mountains and bewailed her virginity for two whole months. At the end of two months she returned back home and submitted herself into the hands of her father. She still was a virgin and never had any relationship with any man. Jepthath then performed before the LORD according to his vow. What kind of an agony Jepthath would have gone through while sacrificing his daughter! Indescribable indeed! He sacrificed his love, his only child for a person who loved him greater than anyone. At the same time, the sacrifice of his daughter was unspeakable. She gave herself, willingly, completely to God. Amazing! The whole camp stood amazed at the commitment of Jepthath and the sacrifice of his daughter. Yearly, for four days in a year, they remembered Jepthath’s daughter for her great sacrifice.