The Great Omission from the Great Commission

It’s been a week since my daughter left for Washington. She texted pictures of the landscape once or twice, and says she is having a great time. Because she is so young, she doesn’t understand that you nearly always have a great time whenever you visit somewhere else — anywhere outside of your normal routine — especially when you are on vacation. Listen to a heroin addict describe his first experience of getting high and he will tell you just how wonderful it made him feel. But it leads nowhere good. And given enough time in any place, the “honeymoon period” wears off and it becomes just another place, because problems exist everywhere and you’re the same person whether you are here or 3,000 miles away.

I had a conversation with Sikki the other day where I wondered aloud how I’m supposed to love our daughter when she comes back, and because we speak English and have only one word for “love” of course I had to explain myself. Love to me means doing and saying whatever is truly in the best interest of another’s welfare, and of course “welfare” to me means more than just physical welfare. Sometimes real love might not appear very loving. Jesus loved the Pharisees when He told them the truth from God even though He knew it would make them very angry. Paul loved the Galatians when he called them stupid, and when he instructed the Corinthians to expel the man in their midst who was engaged in persistent sexual sin.

So here I am wondering: My daughter defied her parents’ wishes, in fact has nearly always dishonored us and preferred her peers, and is now texting pictures. Am I supposed to reply, “Glad you’re having a good time?” If she returns more emboldened in her sin and still expects to live under our shelter as she quarrels and disregards us, should I allow that? I’m not even sure I can. Life is perplexing sometimes.

There is so much that I don’t know. I was listening to an audio sermon by the Christian philosopher Dallas Willard this week while I was driving somewhere. I almost clicked away from it because the audio quality wasn’t great, but I’m glad I stuck with it because he was talking about something that has always mystified me. He mentioned that “the great omission in the Great Commission” is that we make plans to get people saved and baptized, but the church by-and-large is really terrible at actually training people — at making disciples. The church is fractured, for one thing. There’s no sense of cohesion or unity in any of it, really. People tell you they love you but they get mad and leave, and they never tell the truth and say they’re leaving because they’re mad. Most of the time they don’t say anything at all; they just disappear. But if they do tell you why they’re going it’s always because they’re so holy and spiritual and can’t walk with the rest of you duds because you clearly don’t know Jesus as well as they do, or you don’t obey Him enough, or you didn’t appreciate their gift enough, or whatever the speck. So there’s barely anything that approaches real relationship or honesty in Christian life, let alone the kind of training or discipleship that Jesus modeled. So a guy like me just flounders through life feeling like a failure and a perpetual orphan and having no heroes, wondering how to live, and looking to the Lord for guidance to do so, but still feeling alone.

Is there a place anywhere on this earth where a body of believers in Jesus Christ are actually doing the things He told them to do, together? There must be. There must be answers to these questions and longings.


Refuse Not Him Who Speaks

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. – Hebrews 12:25

I have had many troublesome dreams lately. We retreated to the mountains earlier this week and I had a dream one night of driving my work truck erratically and striking pedestrians and having many accidents. It was like watching a video game, and the screen kept flashing red with a beeping noise to alert me that the authorities were coming to stop me. When you see red in a dream, it is significant (and rare). It symbolizes anger, of course, as we often speak of “seeing red.” But it also symbolizes great passion or energy – as in the blood which is the life.

A couple days later I dreamed I was holding my daughter down with my hands on both sides of her head, trying to pray for her. She kept writhing to get free and I shouted, “No! For once you are going to listen to me!” But it wasn’t effective: it was just a picture of struggle and wrestling.

Then this morning I dreamed I was at the house of a woman I used to know. I was entirely engaged with this woman and her friends until I went to leave, and then I went into a bedroom and my daughter and my son were tucked into bed. They’re both teens now but in the dream they were little again – my daughter perhaps four or five years old with beautiful blue eyes and creamy skin and wispy dark blonde hair. I went in to say goodbye to them, but my son’s face lay in shadow; it was only my daughter’s face I saw. She looked at me and I just wept and held her for a long time as I said goodbye.

Today she is leaving our house like the Prodigal Daughter, believing so many tragic lies about herself and her parents and God and the nature of love. She goes to do irreparable harm to herself and to her lost boyfriend in Washington, and I am powerless to stop it because she has refused to listen to my voice or even look at me.

While we were in the mountains, we took a hike in Shenandoah National Park called the Bearfence Mountain Trail. It contains a fair amount of rock scramble that requires some thought and dexterity to pass safely, and at one point I noticed the trail led up a steep incline with a stooped fall directly behind it, a kind of crucible where one misplaced hand or one slipped foot would lead to absolute, certain death. My daughter had already gone up ahead. She hadn’t observed the sheer drop at all.

It was her 18th birthday three days ago, so I purchased her a card and put $200 in it and left it on her packed suitcase as she was in the shower. I wrote “Hebrews 12:25” in a corner of the card. I suppose I will close to go mow grass or wash cars or something mundane that keeps me physically occupied so I don’t spend this day through a blur of tears.