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March 15, 2018

There are some memories of our wilderness journey that cling to me more than others. One is doing laundry in the bathtub at some remote motel. Especially when we had no other opportunity to get clean clothes. I remember Wanda asking me to squeeze out the excess water of the freshly washed clothes; so they could dry faster. It was tough work. I twisted shirts, pants, towels and other items of apparel, tightly; to wring out every last drop of water I could muster. The job left me feeling exhausted. As I reflect on those memories today, I have a better and clearer picture of what God is accomplishing with His Son’s Bride in this current season.

That act of twisting some article of clothing did achieve its’ intended purpose; no excess water. However, it also made the cloth tight and hard. The same process I used to dry our clothes, is also the same process used to make rope. During the golden age of exploration, sailors used manila rope made from manila hemp. This hemp was braided into strands. These strands were then braided together to make even thicker, stronger, sturdier rope. The tighter the twist, the stronger the rope. This was all admirable and good; unless of course you had an inferior quality of hemp for one of the strands. Although the rope may have been strong as a whole, if one strand was weak the overall strength of the rope would be less. The inevitable outcome would be breakage of the rope.

In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we read “And though a man might prevail against him who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” We often use this curious piece of scripture to describe the relationship of marriage; and although it is applicable to marriage, it is not the context of this passage. To be blunt, this passage is about harmony between two people; whether they are married or not. Solomon goes even further to write that when three are in harmony, it is even more powerful than two alone. It is symbolic of the Lord declaring in the gospel of Matthew that when “two or three are gathered together in My Name, I Am in the midst of them.” It is interesting that Solomon uses the word picture of a cord. The emphasis is in the process of the making of the cord, the rope; and that in this process, the three distinct strands are tightly woven together. The result is this now bound and twisted strands of cord, become stronger than they were as individual strands. This is good if each strand has equal strength; but what if, in the twisting process, the individual strands break?

We like to think, as Christians, in very metaphorical terms; especially when it comes to our faith. Too often we so spiritualize our faith walk, that it becomes more of an exercise of language; rather than physical acts of obedience. This can cause some difficulty when God gives us real earthly issues to deal with. What if God chooses to test our faith by twisting us together with other human beings? What would happen to our faith then?

Our family had that exact experience when we were tightly confined in a small house; together with another family in late 2014 and early 2015. This family had generously and magnanimously helped us in our wilderness journey. They brought us into their lives when we were wandering and homeless. As our lives became increasingly intertwined, and circumstances changed for us all, they decided we should, as one big family, move into a house together. This was to be the location of God’s trial; to see how well our faith could handle His twisting. It did not take too long. The close contact of 8 people in a small home, brought to the surface the obvious outcome of the twisting. Although our family kept our faith intact, we could see the resentment and anger building in the other family. It continued to grow. The small impositions of close confinement manifested themselves. The tension and stress developed until there was no other choice. Our family had to leave. We exited that house on a bitterly cold winter day; not knowing where to turn. Thankfully, God went before us and provided a new place to live within a few hours. The pain of that twisting, however, had long term lingering consequences.

So Solomon was right about a cord of three strands being incredibly strong; but if in the act of being twisted together it breaks, of what use is it? Each individual strand in a rope must be strong in their own right. Clearly when God twists us together with others, we need to be able to equally withstand that pressure; until the rope is fully formed. It is a long, grueling process; but it is in these times of twisting, where God forms the greatest bonds between people; and separates us from others who cannot stand the test. It behooves us then to examine this process more carefully. Since God is currently leading our family through just such a process, we hope to bring some insight into what occurs during these times.

When we left our home for the last time in 2007, we had no idea what our new life would look like. As time passed in that little blue house on P.E.I., we began to see God slowly strip us of all that we owned. It was terrifying at times. Until we had to face the final humiliation of being robbed of what little we had, and walk out into a field. You might be tempted to think that the greatest loss we suffered then, was the loss of possessions, friendships and family we once enjoyed. This would not be entirely true. We have come to realize something else. It is the loss of something infinitely more precious. It was, and is, the hardest loss to bear.

In the twisting our family has endured, as God has wrung from us every last drop of what we had, but it is the loss of freedom, autonomy, privacy, space and dignity that has been the deepest loss. Being bound to man in close quarters ripped all these privileges from us. We had to endure the unendurable. The greatest pain delivered by the wilderness, was to be subject to fallen man. In this crucible, God twisted and turned us until we saw the very depravity of the ‘self’ nature in others; and in our own souls.

In some measure, we have left a great deal of that season behind. Its’ usefulness as a tool to train us has been fulfilled. God, in His infinite wisdom however, has hemmed in our immediate family to a very small room at this motel; for a long period of time. In this place, with only us four, the last vestiges of training from the wilderness have surfaced. This 400 square foot room that contains all four of us, along with a large dog and a noisy bird, has caused us to wrestle with tight confinement once again. It has been over 7 months; and the inevitable outcome of twisting together comes to pass. We have freedom now; but only as a group. We have autonomy now; but only as a group. We have privacy, dignity and space now; but only as a group. As a group, a team, a family, God has restored to us these privileges; yet we are still being twisted and tested. We yearned to understand why.

As Wanda and I have discussed this current situation, it became more clear to us what God was teaching. Even as a group, that love each other very much, we are missing something essential in our walk with Him. Too often we have heard the message that it is in the group where we are safe. That it is only in the communal church that God works. There is much ado about corporate in the church; and how God wants the corporate relationship; so we are told. How often have we heard the term “Corporate Bride?” Corporate is a concept that is loaded with dual meaning in our world. Often it is touted as the only route to God. Only the group can find Him; that is the argument. Unfortunately, socialism is the major ideology undergirding this modern understanding of corporate; and it has twisted our understanding of how God relates to us. Everyone is the same and can access God equally in a group. That is the mantra of these specific people; but this concept is at odds with how He created us. Herein lies the heart of the problem. On one side you have the false ideology of socialism. It has spread its’ tentacles throughout the modern church; and on the other side you have the truth of God’s Word.

God created man, singular, in the Garden. God did not start with the church or the group. He set up the model as one man who was to be intimate with his God. Singular. Individual. Afterwards, He created marriage. This account is not the model of a group and how the group is to lead us to God. What we can glean from this beginning, is that there is something special about the individual that is important; indeed, it is the very basis and heart of relationship. What we have discovered in this place is that even in a small group, a family that is in close quarters and loves each other deeply, there is still a need to be individual. That means there is a need for individual freedom, individual privacy, individual autonomy, individual space. Without these key elements, even the strongest of people will eventually wither and die spiritually. To supplant this truth, with the belief that it is only in the corporate that we flourish, is wrong.

When we distill these pieces of understanding down even further, we find the root of why the individual is so important. It is only when there is an individual and their God, alone and quiet, that intimacy can be found. Didn’t God say be still and know that I am God? Intimacy is the very heart and soul of relationship. Romance is not possible among the many. Without romance and intimacy with God, real spiritual growth is just not possible. When we are able to find that quiet place, alone with Jesus, we can hear Him speak truth and love into our spirit. We cannot find that in the group. Yes, He can and does speak to us there; but it is not the quiet words of intimacy we need to hear that will heal us and move us to change our ways to follow Him. We need regular romantic, intimate times with God to stir us to action. It is only in this intimate friendship with God, that the love of God flourishes within us. By His friendship we are healed. Isaiah 53: 5. The outcome of this intimate friendship is that the fruit of it flows out to others; the corporate.

Love, surely, is tested and proved in the corporate; but it does not grow there. The fruits of intimacy and romance can come forth in the crowd; but they do not develop there; and neither can they thrive there. It is an impossible task to be tightly constricted in a small space with others and also have what is necessary to be healthy and intimate with Jesus. We need space and privacy as individuals to nurture our relationship with the Lord. We need freedom and autonomy to spread our wings and follow His lead in obedience. These are the fundamental foundations whereby intimacy and romance with God can flourish.

Those with a socialist bent will tell you that there is safety in numbers, in the dogma of the church, in the crowd that knows best; but this is at odds with the truth. It is only when we can know Him personally, individually, intimately that we can ultimately grow to perfection; and do those great acts that obedience calls us to. Only when we surrender all to Him in the quiet place, will we mature; and therefore be able to bring benefit to the group. Not the other way around. God is calling those who are willing to abide in the quiet place with Jesus, to come away, to be alone with Him.

Twisting is a process God uses to force us into close quarters with others; to test us. This is to teach and train us that without the private, intimate, individual relationship with Jesus, we will become dry and hard. For those that can find the quiet place - the twisting together with others after, produces a cord of three stands that cannot be broken. For those that do not come away alone, the twisting will only cause separation. Our family has had the benefit of both the quiet times of individual intimacy with Jesus; and the twisting process. They are both necessary for maturity and growth. As God leads you on the twisting path of faith, may you always drink deep at the oases of individual intimacy with Him.


Homer and Wanda