Monday, October 8, 2007

The River of Life. . .

I was told by my doctor some months ago that I needed to lose a significant amount of weight. Within the past few years I was diagnosed with diabetes and up until this point I have been controlling my blood sugar levels through watching what I eat and a couple of different medications, but in the past year or so, the medications have become less effective and my physician plainly told me that I had a choice of either losing weight or starting injecting insulin for the control of my blood sugar. That is pretty motivating. I'm sure that I could learn to do that, but it will be after I am drug kicking and screaming to it.

So, I've lost somewhere over 40 lbs now mainly by eating lots of fruits and vegetables and not much of the good stuff. . . :) As most of you who have dieted before know, the pounds come off more slowly the more you lose. There are good reasons for that. Today I'm carrying 40 pounds less than I was a few months ago. Just think about the work involved with carrying 4-10 pound bags of potatoes everywhere you walk all day long. That is a lot of exercise in of itself and in addition those 40 pounds weren't just dead weight, but that was flesh on my body that required its own nutritional maintenance each day so I required calories keeping, those very unhealthy 40 pounds, healthy. . .

A few days ago it dawned on me that where I am today is the end result of the equation of my life. If you add all the things I've eaten, from the day I was born and subtract all the calories used by my metabolism, by my growing, by illness or injury, by any exercising and work that I've done the result of that equation is where I am today. In a very real sense I am a few ounces or fractions of ounces heavier today as a result of my best friends birthday party that I attended when I was 6 years old. The reverse is certainly true also. I weigh less today from all the exercising that I did during my Army basic training back in 1975.

So now I not only have to regret the dessert that I ate yesterday at the wedding reception that Jackie and I attended, but I can legitimately feel remorse over dietary indiscretions of decades long gone by. . . The cupcake I ate 25 years ago is just as much still a part of me as the cupcake I ate yesterday. . . You can try as hard as you like to escape this, but you never can. You can say, 'well, I exercised the day after I ate that cupcake 25 years ago, and burned it off.' But the point is inescapable, that if you hadn't eaten the cupcake and exercised you wouldn't have had the cupcake to burn off and you would weigh less today as a result.

The more I thought about this the more obvious it became that really it's not just my weight that operates in this manner but all of me. . . What is it that makes me what I am today? I was so surprised when I had my children, just how different they were right from the moment of birth. My son is a night owl. My daughter is an early bird. This was not something that their mother or I planned or taught them. They came with this preference right from birth. So much of why they are who they are today is in their genetic makeup. Our heredity plays a huge role in who we are. We can surely either overcome or waste what talents or disabilities we have from our genes, but a large part of our who-ness is from the genetic material contributed by our mother and father.

It is fascinating to read about studies done with identical twins separated at birth. It is downright spooky. I read of one pair of boy identical twins separated when they were just a few days old. 40 years later they were both firemen. They both married wives named Debra, lived in similar split level houses, had three kids, drove Ford Taurus cars. . . I mean this is just from my memory, but it was incredible how similarly their lives had turned out even though they were raised by completely different parents hundreds of miles apart.

After birth though, every experience, every interaction shapes and molds us. Most of these interactions and events taken by themselves leave little in the way of recognizable influence upon our lives, but the fact that something is difficult to measure does not mean that it doesn't exist. The little people around us in church, we are helping to shape their lives and certainly their world view by how friendly or unfriendly we are to them.

I am who I am today as a result of my parents genetic contributions, plus the sum total of all the events of my life. Choose any particular day in my childhood and alter it in some manner and I would be a slightly different person than the one I am right now.

I like the metaphor of a river. A river has a definite source, a beginning point, a place where you can point and say this is the source of the river. (Just as an aside, the difference between a river and a creek is that a river is longer than 100 miles in length. A creek or stream is a 100 miles or less in length.) Anyway go 200 miles downstream from the rivers source and the river at that point is a result of every little spring and tributary that adds to the river. It is changed by every wide spot in its concourse. Throw a cup of water into it and its flow is increased by 1 cup of water. It may be hard to measure, but the Mississippi river is changed from one little boy squirting his water pistol into it. This is over simplifying it of course, but every river is the result of the equation of water added by tributaries and springs minus evaporation and porous sandy soil it passes through. . . at any particular point a river is the sum total of what has gone on before in its course.

This explains some things. . .How then is it ever possible for me. . . for anyone to change? Think about how hard is it to change the direction of a river. I deal with men and women every week who desperately need to change the direction of their lives. There is no doubt, they know that they need to change, but the awful truth is that few of them succeed. It is heartbreaking to watch. It's probably not much different for anyone in any ministry, but I watch the same faces return time and time and time again to the jail. The river of their life has momentum. Every rivers channel is a path, the path of least resistance to the sea. Rivers never climb mountains. They never run uphill. Rivers don't ever change directions without first carving a new basin in which to carry them. . .

I ask again, how then is is ever possible for me . . . for anyone to change? If I am the sum total of all my past. . . how can I ever change? How can I ever escape the momentum of my past?

I look behind me. I can see my former thoughts. I can see all my logic. I can see all my former arguments. I can see my past deeds. . . deeds which at the time I found no flaw in. I can still see those things up stream from my life now. They all hang in tatters. . . The fabric of my life has been torn, like the veil. . . torn from top to bottom.

What happened? In maybe 100 days, from the first of June 2000 to sometime in September the same year, my entire attitude changed. My opinion on God, abortion, homosexuality, divorce. . . sin of every kind, illegal drugs, drinking, smoking, modesty. . . really go as deep as you want. . . I was changed completely. . . fundamentally. . . again I ask. . . how was this possible to occur. . . How could a 46 year old man completely change so radically, in such a primal way???? I can see my old ways still in my mind. . . I can see my old justifications in my mind. . . they aren't gone. They are still there, but completely irrelevant, in tatters. . . destroyed.

It surely is no secret. It may only be a mystery to me:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.


I have been reborn. Until the writing of this tonight, I don't know that I understood just what that meant. I have been reborn. . . No longer do I believe this to be mere symbolism. This is truth. I have been reborn. I have passed through new birthing waters. I am a new creature. The course of the river of my life has changed. In any kind of normal circumstances that is impossible. With huge expenditure of effort, it is possible to change the course of a river for a short time, but eventually it will always revert to its former bed. That is the way of rivers. The only way to permanently change a river, is to change its source. . .

That is what has happened to me. I have been reborn. My source has been changed. No longer do I merely have an earthly father. My very foundational makeup has been altered by the addition of the Spirit of God into my core. . . my essence. This is the only possible explanation to the mystery of my, and not just my. . . but millions upon millions of men and women just like me, that have been reborn. . . remade. . . into our new Spirit Father. . . into God's image. . . . This is the true impact of our being reborn upon us. It is a completely new course for the river of our lives. . .

I love you my Father. . .

I love you my Father. . .

I love you Abba. . .

Dave

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