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Full Circle

There’s a folk saying that trips off the lips of we commoners, and it runs like this: “What goes around, comes around”. It's our way of saying we've seen a cycle repeat time and time again, to a certain result. Whether people are referencing actions of good (“For in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not), or actions of hubris returning on the head of the mischief-maker, both are true. The unalterable spiritual law of sowing and reaping is in full motion, acknowledged in unity by both believer and pagan alike.

Undeniably deep within ourselves we know that our actions reap exponential consequences of like variety, we still don’t always make the most brilliant choices. We’ve witnessed how, all too often, nice guys finish last, and the accumulated virtue of their laboring can be lost in the dust kicked up by tyrants. Foolish decisions have lasting impact which can often come back and bite us in the butt at the least propitious moment. We’re left with the acrid realization that we’ve no one to blame but ourselves.

Contrarily, there are seasons when life seems to stand in maddening doldrums. We’re working and stock-piling and going through the motions with commendable hope, but it all seems lost in the great void, returning nothing. Massive, sweeping billows of life’s vicissitude swallow up individual laboring like a hippo inhales a gnat. The grand lamentations of that venerable preacher, Solomon, come to mind.

"Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again. All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 NKJV

Wise as he was, Solomon’s true words do not capture the entire breadth of life’s contradictions. Testimonials abound which confound any simplistic approach to the importance of one’s life and task. When I find myself floundering in cynicism, I remember the remarkable story of Moses. Raised in the courts of Pharaoh, and privy to every high-born status, he forfeited it all with a rash act of impetuous justice. One thoughtless, ill-considered expression of rage cost everything. What a height to fall from! He fled in a murderer’s shame, leaving all to start an entirely new life in the back-country of Midian. What deep ponderings did he entertaine as he tarried there in the desert heat, one eye on the sheep, and one on the horizon? Did he look in Egypt’s direction, recalling the pleasures, the tutelage, the conversations, the strange conflux of events that shaped his youth? How it must have weighed on him to meditate his privilege and the potential to utilize it for the betterment of his people, squandered. The fact of knowing the Lord had bestowed on you a singular inheritance, and you blew it. Did he castigate himself, sickened with regret? Did the scenarios play over and over in his mind? Did the burden ever lift?

Honestly, we get Moses. We comprehend all too well the cost of life’s follies. Simply to survive, we come to an uneasy peace with even our own unrelenting self-condemnation. At that moment, count on it, the tectonic plates of life are about to shift. Just when you think you’re done, you’re 80 years old and it’s way, way too late for singular achievements, a flash catches your eye. It’s a burning bush, and a voice, long silent, is calling you by name. You had better draw near! Apparently, the Lord hasn’t given up on you quite the way you gave up on yourself. All things have been working together for good, despite your blundering. Life’s tempering of triumph and failure has brought you to an indescribable vindication. You’ve come full circle.

As Moses completes a major life task in bringing his people out of Egypt, he stands amazed, watching the dead debris of old enemies wash ashore. There’s majesty in the moment. It’s both a corporate and very much personal victory. The encumbrance of the past miraculously evanesces.

I will sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation… Exodus 15:1-2 NKJV

The Lord makes us revisit the places of our most intense fear, failure, humiliation and trauma in order to prove to us that He is no liar. Things are not the same as they were. Victory was surely at work even in the shadows. Full circle is a place where the promises of God, incubated in your spirit, and fleshed out in your actions, bear sweet, stunning, sanctified fruit. Despite all the odds, the Lord did exactly what He said He would, through the ridiculously flawed and frail vessel that is your life. Stay in the equation of faith long enough, and God will hallmark, and vindicate, your back-trail with glory.

I seem to be in a cycle, at the moment, of closing chapters. Several aspects of life are arriving at this intensely interesting intersection. Interminable processes of discipline, training, testing and honing are wrapping themselves up with supernatural swiftness. Sweet halleluiah! There's light at the end of the tunnel! Hopefully, it’s not a train, but the Lord’s visitation of approval and favor as we take a serious upgrade.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

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