Thursday, May 3, 2012
Halt! Who Goes There?
It’s the challenge of a guard to a stranger: “Halt! Who goes there?” I was thinking about that as I pondered how much we protect ourselves and our egos. We are the guards of our lives, and we don’t admit strangers. It is said that it’s unusual for a person to have more than one or two “real” friends, people who they would reveal their innermost thoughts to, and whose words they would respect, even if they sometimes seemed unloving. A true friend is a good, but rare, thing. In part, we have few true friends because we all put up barriers to friendships, trying to protect ourselves from hurt.
We all question silently any new person we meet: “Who goes there?” While we can receive a superficial answer, a name or a description of the person, we all know that does not really define the “who.” A more crucial question would be: “Are you friend or foe?” In some circumstances our very lives could depend on the answer to that question, and it’s scary to think about, so we don’t ask that one, but the former question goes at the same need for our feeling of security around strangers. We can superficially accept strangers, having them near but not close, because we worry about somehow being hurt, and I think the hurt we fear is more an emotional than physical hurt.
Few people really get to know us, to become a real friend, because we don’t easily trust. Even God finds it hard to enter many of our lives, because we don’t trust Him. We think we need to protect ourselves from trusting almost anyone, for we know the dark secret about trust: Someone we trust can hurt us deeply. Someone we trust can make our life worth living, or make it a living hell if we feel betrayed.
At some point or another we’ve all felt betrayed by our human friends, which makes us leery of trusting anyone again. “It’s happened in the past; it will happen again. They’re only human,” we think. That’s why we find it hard to learn the most critical thing which we must learn in our human lives: that God is not like anyone else. God is not strictly human, and God does not betray us.
We feel human betrayal and point to it: “See! You said you’d do this, and here is proof you didn’t.” Or, “See! I needed your support with me in my trail, and you were not there.” We can look at certain actions at certain times and point to them: betrayal. And we feel friendless at those times, those times when we most needed a friend. When we were hurting, we felt even more hurt, when those we thought of as friends, we felt as enemies. There have been times when I felt this, and times when my friends have felt this.
But our friendship with God cannot be looked at in that way. We cannot point to times in our relationship with Him, good times or bad times, because God is not in time. His relationship with us is on another plane beyond time; it is eternal. There are no “instances” where He proves His love, or shows His betrayal. Instances are in human time.
We may think: “There was a time when I hurt deeply and needed God, but He was not there. I was alone.” As a true friend, however, God saw worse times coming and gently changed events so that the bad we felt happening to us was not worse, and was not something beyond what we could bear. As a true friend, He protected us, although we may not have been aware of it at that moment in time. That’s the hard lesson of life we need to learn. He is a true friend. If we call to Him and as a friend tell Him our heartfelt self, making Him part of our life, we can feel Him as a friend, and trust Him. He will always see the bad approaching us --- outside of human time --- and protect us. And He will celebrate our joys with us, too.
And once, He saw a great bad approaching us all, and even died for us.
It’s a hard thing to learn, this trusting of God. And the lesson starts with our trying to know Him. There are lots of evidences of Him in this world, if we would only look. And if we are serious, He will let us find Him. And we can learn to trust Him.
And then in times of fear we will not have to look at unfolding events and people and say: “Halt! Who goes there?” We will recognize Him for the eternal friend He is. And we will face the trials of our life with much less anxiety, knowing we have a true friend by our side. Always.
A true friend is a rare and precious thing. And there is One waiting for you. Always.