Between the silence of the mountains
And the crashing of the sea
There lies a land I once lived in
And she’s waiting there for me
But in the grey of the morning
My mind becomes confused
Between the dead and the sleeping
And the road that I must choose

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it’s done to me
To lose the love I knew
Could safely lead me to
The land that I once knew
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our soul

–Excerpt from “Question” by The Moody Blues


In searching for some factoid last week, I stumbled into a piece about The Moody Blues and their top songs, one of which is “Question” (shown in the excellent video above).

I always liked that song. The plaintiveness of the question that erupts from the heart of the singer resonates.

Many people are looking at life right now and asking how it is we are where we are. Beyond the questions that afflict us all comes that one individual query, the one that haunts a lot of us who scout our personal situations and ask what happened to that place of refuge and hope from long ago, that “land that I once knew.”

I turn 50 in a few weeks, and I guess that’s good enough time as any to get introspective. Now more than ever, I run into fellow travelers paralyzed by the search for the land they once knew, for someone to change their lives, for some miracle to happen that will forever alter the inevitability of the road they find themselves on, the road that winds through the grey mists of morning that lead into forgetfulness and loss.

How is it that some people seem to find their mission and fulfill it, while other people look and look and yet the road never makes itself clear?

How is it that some people can clearly see where they have come from and where they are going, yet they never quite get to their destination?

How is it that some people find the opposition to their entire journey so strong that it never truly begins?

Where the trouble for me begins is that I know a lot of Christians who are stuck in these No Man’s Land locations. For whatever reason, they’ve been sidelined. All those things they hoped to do now seem less likely than ever. The vision that lit up their early lives now flickers, a cooling ember inside a broken heart. You can see that cool nostalgia in their eyes and hear the tremor in their voices when they tell their stories, especially when they reflect on what might have been.

Some wonder how it was that they had a yearning for foreign missions, yet every opportunity to do those missions blew up or met with seemingly pointless resistance.

Some wanted nothing more than to work with young people, yet the vicissitudes of life kept pulling them away, and now they no longer understand youth.

Some wanted to change the world for Christ, yet they got drawn into the embrace of the American Dream and saw their youth and enthusiasm sucked dry by it.

And some reflect on it all and wonder if they are the ones who put their hands to the plow but then looked back. And they wonder if there is any redemption for that very human failing, a second chance, a ticket back to that land they once knew, where they could start again and do it all right this time.

I think there are a lot of people who found that Someone who changed their life. And yet the finding somehow didn’t shield them from broken hopes and dreams, especially when those hopes and dreams were to be all they could be for that Someone.

There is no joy being caught in that time of discernment yet unable to tell the difference between the dead and the sleeping.  When the road we take from here seems obscured. I don’t know what to say to people when I see them struggling to find how to move on when there appears to be no place to move to. I hope that whatever words come out of my mouth have some of God’s life in them, but I don’t know myself how to answer the questions of how one finds himself here, because I’m not so sure of my own location.

At this point in my life, I wonder about systems and how people end up mired in them. Government, institutional religion, personal expectations, other people’s expectations– they seem to conspire to cloud rather than clarify. And the “land that I once knew” seems farther off than ever.

What do you do when you tried to do everything right by God and yet it led to this far off place that feels so alien and removed from where you think you should be?

I wish I had an answer to that question. I wonder if it lies back in that land we once lived in, but I don’t know how we get back there.


See also:

Stuff I Don’t Get: Finishing Badly–Or Not at All


Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
—1 Corinthians 9:24

Nothing is more difficult for Christians to deal with than a lost, dying relative. We all want the people we love to make it to heaven. Which is why so many of us hope for that deathbed confession by a long wayward father or irascible aunt. And many times, that confession does come. I know that in my church I hear those stories all the time.

But the one story you don’t seem to hear much comes from the other side of the coin.

What about those stalwart Christians who give 50-plus good years of service to God but in those last couple years before passing on seem to lose their way?

Fact is, I’ve witnessed this a lot. That beloved soul who ministered the Gospel so effectively and vibrantly for years goes into himself in the end of life, gets grumpy, loses that holy smile, and just fades out.

I’ve known people who loved God’s word like no one else yet in the last months or years of life lost all zeal for the Scriptures. The pillar of the church who always talked about Jesus suddenly stops doing so. That elderly saint with the warm heart sees it go cold.

Why does this happen? And why don’t I ever hear anyone talking about it? I’ve got to believe that I’m not the only one who has witnessed this phenomenon.

In those situations, what of perseverance of the saints? Does God allow some kind of special grace here? Or is this a failure to finish the race or some kind of long-delayed negative portion of the sower parable, that seed that grew and finally succumbed 60 years later to the strangling weeds?

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

And God knows that’s not how I want to finish the race.

Dropping Our Stones


One of the goals I have for Cerulean Sanctum is to carve out a godly middle ground on the issues that face the American Church while at the same time never backing down from what needs to be said. Despite the fact that I work hard to find a more godly response to those issues, I’ve had a few people label me an angry young man.

We Americans have always held the angry young man in esteem, especially when that angry young man dispenses his brand of angry young man justice on despicable villains. On the other hand, there’s something about being an angry old man that unnerves us. We have an equation worked out in our heads that looks something like this:

Young + Angry = Hero

Old + Angry = Crank

Watch this play out in public and you soon learn that you’re given a pass till about age 35, then you start sliding into crankhood. That age didn’t escape the notice of the founders of this country, either. No one can occupy the highest office in the land until 35.

I believe the founders understood a deep truth that plays out in the eighth chapter of John:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

—John 8:3-11

My revelation in understanding this passage came when I understood the second half of this snippet:

…they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones…

To me, that’s one of the greatest strings of 11 words ever committed to print.

Do we understand the profundity of John’s Spirit-inspired words here?

When you’re an angry young man, your blood boils at the thought of a good stoning. Finding the perfect rock, heavy, jagged even. You feel the adrenaline enliven your muscles, engorging them with blood. The smell of sweat. Loud roars from angry men shouting for justice. The adultress’s vile perfume stinging your nose. The thought that you can get in the first throw. Wham!  A head shot! That perfect throw that smashes her skull and caves in her head. Your throw. Your death strike against sin.

Can you see it? Can you taste how bad you want it to play out in life as it does in your mind’s eye?

But when you’re an older man, it should be different.

Should be.

Vasiliy Polenov-- detail from 'Christ and Woman Taken in Adultery'You look around and see an old friend standing off to the side, his grip on his stone not so tight. The light had been dim, but you thought you saw him come out of her place a month ago, though you told yourself otherwise. He casts a downturned glance your way because you know, and he knows, too. And what of your own struggles? Who knows about your private sin, your little dalliance from years ago, and how you thanked God every day that you weren’t found out? Though in the end, who can hide anything from God? It should be you in that circle with that woman, shouldn’t it? In fact, it could be every man standing around that woman, stone in hand. All of you, ready to have your teeth shattered, your bones broken. Every last one of you. Buried under a pile of well-deserved stones. Because you had it coming as much as that woman before you now.

One of the greatest self-deceptions the devil throws at us is that our sin is somehow not as bad as their sin, no matter who “they” might be. I wonder how many of us who should know better still cling to that angry young man we should’ve put to death a long, long time ago as part of our maturity in Christ. As much as we talk about grace, too few of us actually dispense it. There is nothing sadder under the sun than an old man, stone still in hand, ready to throw it at whomever he classifies as deserving of it’s granite sting.

It amazes and saddens me that so many Christians out there who should know better can’t drop their stone. They’ve got to hurl it at all cost. And they do so because they have no concept of grace or of their own sin. They live an unexamined life that focuses on everyone else’s failures and none of their own.

Tim Keller and David Powlison wrote eloquently on one way in which we can learn to drop the stone. I would encourage everyone to read it here,  bloggers especially.

The old adage goes “There’s no fool like an old fool.” God help us if Christian maturity doesn’t lead us beyond the angry young man stage and into the wisdom of dropping our stones.