by Miss Dawn Rutan
The movie “The Lion King”is an interesting allegory for life. As I’m sure you remember, Scar arranges for the death of Mufasa, and then convinces Simba that it is his fault and that he should run away rather than facing the penalty. We’ve been deceived by our own sin or the sins of others, and we run from God and hide because of shame and guilt (like Adam and Eve). We do our best to forget the past and move on with life. We may even be living the good life (like the prodigal son) at least for a time. But eventually God breaks through our defenses and finds us where we’re hiding (not that we can ever really hide from God).
One scene from the movie comes to my mind fairly often. Simba, out in the wilderness and far from home, has a vision of his father. King Mufasa says to him, “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me.” How often does God say the same thing to us? We’re children of the King of kings, heirs of the kingdom, and yet we’re living in the wilderness like orphans. Forgetful wilderness living has several characteristics we could focus on. I’ll highlight just a few.
- Lack of obedience. It was sin that caused Adam and Eve to hide from God in the garden, and sin begets sin. If you’re hiding from God out of fear, what is the likelihood that you’re seeking to do his will? How can you even seek his will if you don’t want to seek him? The two go hand in hand. James writes, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (1:23-24). I suspect many churches are full of people who hear the Word regularly but are not inclined to seek the Lord. They may be doing the “basics” of the Christian life, but they don’t care to be in intimate relationship with the Father, perhaps out of fear of judgment, or fear that God will rock them out of their comfortable little boat.
- Lack of growth. The apostle Peter explains, “For whoever lacks these qualities (faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, affection, love) is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9). Paul David Tripp writes, “They have lost sight of their identity in Christ, so they do not realize the resources that are theirs. Because of this, they fail to live with hope, faith, and courage” (“Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands,” 262). Though we have a Father who forgives us readily (1 John 1:9), it’s easy to forget that we are forgiven. Memories of the past bring up the same feelings of guilt and shame, and we get stuck in the mire all over again. When that happens, the opportunities for growth are limited. It’s kind of like the student who gets so torn up by the test he failed that he doesn’t pay attention to the new material being taught. We can’t live in the past, but some of us certainly try to.
- Lack of joy. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, they lost the intimate communion they had with the Father. Work became toil. Life wasn’t the same joyful, carefree existence they’d had before. When the prodigal son left home, he may have had some fun times until the money ran out, but pretty soon he was yearning for what he’d left behind. Whether you’re consumed with shameful memories or yearning for the “good ol’ days” (or both), you aren’t enjoying the blessings that are available for today.
Having wandered through some wilderness experiences (hopefully not for 40 years like the Israelites), I’d share a few recommendations:
- Remember who God is. As our Creator, Redeemer and Father, he knows us better than we know ourselves, and he loves us anyway.
- Remember who you are in Christ. We are forgiven, loved, chosen, adopted, heirs and children of God. We can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:12) because of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.
- Forget the past and move forward in obedience. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “Let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus … ” (Hebrews 12:1-2). And in Paul’s words, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). This kind of forgetfulness is the result of having the right focus. Only when we’re focused on God can the past fall away and stop tripping us up. Focusing on Christ also enables us to discern the truth and avoid future deception so that we may “be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19). As soon as we take our eyes off of Christ and focus on self or others we’re likely to veer off the right path.
It would be nice if once you became a Christian the road was straight and smooth with guardrails to keep you going the right direction. But instead, we go over mountains, through deserts and maybe even under oceans. Some of the obstacles are of our own making when we wander off the road. Some are created by the enemy to divert our attention. But all are allowed by the Father as means to bring us to greater reliance on him. Lord, let us fix our eyes on you today and every day!
Dawn Rutan serves as Director of Finance for ACGC.