There is a secret – the best place to be is the worst place.
The place we as humans spend all our lives trying to avoid is the place where truth is found and dreams are realised.
For down in the ditch is the place where we are drawn into a deeper relationship with Christ. When we lose it all – we gain everything. But who in their right mind would choose to lose it all! and so it’s by grace that we’re saved so no man can boast. It’s by grace that our lives are torn apart limb from limb. It’s by grace that we’re taken down low and deprived of all the things we long for and believe we need. No one can choose this journey – because no-one would. It goes against every fibre of our very being…. we would fight and scream and kill to resist the agonies of the ditch. But its’ here that God marks us as his own. It feels like he’s branding us at the time… the pain and suffering is so intense and drags on and on relentlessly, but for those who carry his mark there is no alternative. Surrender becomes the only choice – surrender and die. God is God and we are mere mortals – we must carry on, we must walk and not faint. In the dark, in the ditch, alone and desperate, misunderstood and battered, afraid and empty of all hope…. when we finally truly and eternally ‘surrender all’.. in his timing and not ours – He speaks.
He speaks – and he opens our eyes.
And then we ‘see’.
And then one day a few months or years on it hits home. If it wasn’t for the ditch we wouldn’t be who we have become. Ditch dwellers confound those around them. They are viewed as foolish and reckless by the majority of church goers. For what we have become and are becoming more and more is a person who now actively seeks the ditch and doesn’t run from it. For the ditch has now become a chosen home. For a while after God opened our eyes we thought we were finally free and able to soar high above the pit of despair and build a new life in the suburbs, full of comfort, respect and acceptability, where our talents are recognised and our egos are bolstered…..
But, this is not the way of the cross though and those who truly belong to Christ will always find themselves drawn to the sick, the poor and the broken and needy…. particularly those whom society ostracizes and ridicules. Even Jesus indicates this is where Christians should be when he announces the coming of the kingdom at the very beginning of his ministry Luke 4:18: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.’
As we return to the ditch a strange thing happens. Where there used to be only darkness, we see light, the light shines and the darkness cannot extinguish it. And because of the darkness where the light shines it is brilliant and all consuming like looking directly into the face of Christ. Beauty unimaginable exists there and with our new way of ‘seeing’ the ditch becomes a chosen resting place, our home. Sadly though many who Christ calls take their chance to escape the ditch, they run and never look back, and the further they run the less they ‘see’ until in the end they believe they are building the kingdom for Christ when really they are building the kingdom of Man. Many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14)
Only by Grace.The way of the cross is not easy and the road is narrow and few find it. I’ve known those who felt the call of the ditch in their lives who wrestled with this call and understood what was needed, but instead of heeding the call they walked in the opposite direction. The pull of acceptability and popularity within their church was too great for them to surrender. It’s broken my heart to see this happen but it happens all the time.
Why do some stay and some run – only by grace. Those who stay in my experience have the following in common: they have been broken, battered and have known rejection and unbearable loss. They have experienced poverty or disgrace, they know their frailty and desperation only too well. They are humble and meek souls always ready to offer themselves for a fellow human being in distress. Ultimately they are willing to lay down their lives for their brother – whatever the cost to themselves. (John 15:13)
One more thing – ditch dwellers recognise each other without a need to ever speak about what they know….
For all my fellow ditch dwellers you know who you are, but especially for Meg, whose light shines so brightly in the darkness.