Romans 8:14-17 March 19, 2013
Christine and I will be sharing more about our trip, complete with pictures, after church on a Sunday in June for those who are interested in hearing more about it, but there is one story I have to share this morning because it seems to go perfectly with this passage.
In case this is your first time with us, or you’ve been gone for some time, the trip I’m talking about is a trip to Indonesia that we recently took to visit Christine’s brother and his family, who have been living there for about 5 years.
Indonesia is very far away. It takes more than 24 hours to get there, and their time is completely the opposite of ours…so right now it’s like 11 o’clock tonight where they live.
All that to say, when we finally arrived at their house, we had been awake for more than a full day, and our bodies had to get used to a completely new schedule. The first couple days were pretty rough because of Jetlag, even though they had been through it enough to be really helpful.
So that kind of sets the stage for the story.
We landed in Singapore, took a taxi to the ferry terminal where we met Christine’s brother, who helped us navigate buying a ferry ticket and finally getting to their island and their home after what had been a very long journey.
We slept really well that night after our travels.
The next morning we got up and left for another island, where there is something like a resort. Kendall used to work for this place, and they continue to maintain close ties to it, and it’s always sounded like a beautiful, relaxing place, so we wanted to experience it.
Maybe you’ve seen pictures of places like this; like a whole little complex of huts connected by walkways built directly over the ocean.
Now, there are a lot of stories we could tell you about this place, it was just as wonderful as I had always imagined, and it was the perfect place to spend a few days recovering from the trip and getting adjusted to the time change.
But the story that applies to this scripture in Romans happened our first night there, which was our second night in Indonesia.
Remember, our bodies were still incredibly screwed up, we were still exhausted, and we were literally thousands of miles away from anything remotely familiar.
And it was about 2 o’clock in the morning when I woke up and noticed some flashes of light in the sky. The huts have big overhangs, but they’re open to the outside to allow the breeze to blow through since it’s like 90 degrees and humid all year long.
So I noticed these flashes, and I thought to myself that it might be a good idea to close some doors that we had open, and bring in some clothing we had hanging out, just in case there was a storm.
So I did that.
No sooner had I closed the doors than rain began to fall, so I closed the windows because we had suitcases open underneath them.
By this point, the thunder and the lightning were picking up, and the wind too.
And because we were over the ocean, in the hut that was closest to the shore, we had the added benefit of hearing the waves crashing on the beach, almost directly underneath us.
At the time we had no idea that’s what it was…we just knew that we were surrounded by less than comforting noises on all sides, and that this was going to be a pretty ferocious storm! 🙂
I mean…to this day I have never experienced anything like it…and I hope never to experience anything like it again.
We had the doors and the windows closed, but the wind was still whipping through our hut like we were out in the open, because like I said, it was pretty much open from the walls to the ceiling, if that makes sense.
And we were trying to stay on the bed and pretend like this was just normal…since we were telling ourselves that it probably was.
And then the rain started to hit us. The wind was whipping in strong enough to land some rain on us; not a whole lot, but enough to feel it. Between the jet lag and the thunder and the lightning and the roaring sound of the wind and the crashing of the waves…we got out of bed. 🙂
I closed up our suitcase and tried to make sure other stuff was secure.
Eventually I moved it all to the center of the room, because the wind was blowing the water underneath the door until half of the floor in our hut was completely soaked!
Images from the Tsunami in Japan and images displaying the aftermath from various Hurricanes started running through my head, as well as all the tornado training that I had received growing up in Iowa.
So to make a long story short, we ended up in the bathroom of our little hut while the storm absolutely raged outside. (after all, in a storm like that you’re supposed to get somewhere without windows, right?)
I don’t know if it was just exhaustion or not, but you could even feel the building kind of rocking with the wind and the waves.
There’s no other way to say it; we literally feared for our lives.
I was literally trembling as we waited out this storm in our bathroom.
Now, the storm raged for probably an hour or a little more, and as we were waiting it out, Christine had the presence of mind to grab a little devotional we had brought along.
So as we waited, we filled our time with scripture and prayer.
(we figured if we’re going to die, we might as well die with scripture in our hands, right?!)
Seriously though, I’m thankful Christine has the presence of mind to bring scripture and prayer even into storms that are threatening to undo us.
Now, we’ve been talking about a very literal storm that very literally raged all around us; even underneath us. There was literally nowhere to go, and all we could do was wait it out in the safest place we could find.
There are times in life when the storm isn’t quite so literal, but it’s just as real, right?
Sometimes you can see the storm coming and you have at least a little bit of time to prepare…
And there are other times when the storm comes up out of nowhere and it’s all you can do to hold on as tight as you can and pray.
And the fear that we experience when that storm is raging…it’s not a bad thing.
We often think we should never show fear, or never admit when you’re afraid.
That might work with strange dogs or horses…but fear can be a healthy emotion, you know?
Like anger and conflict, it’s how we choose to relate to our fear that makes the difference between it ruling us, and freedom or salvation from it!
Paul writes to the Romans, and he says “You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear”.
It’s implied that we’re going to experience fear…I have to think being shipwrecked, thrown into prison, beaten, flogged, and all the other experiences that Paul had, he had to know what true fear feels like. I have to think he trembled himself a time or two.
He doesn’t tell the Romans not to fear, he rather tells them that they did not receive a spirit that would enslave them to it.
And like we saw last week, slavery is the state of being where you do what your master tells you to do. You have no choice in the matter.
In other words, church, fear is not your master.
Even when the storm rages, or the shipwreck comes, even when your world seems to be coming apart at the seams and you’re scared for your life…
Even then, fear is not your master!
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery.
“You have received a spirit of adoption.”
–did you hear what he didn’t say?
You kind of expect him to say you have received a spirit of freedom, because the opposite of slavery is freedom, right?
And that’s how we see the world today; in black and white, yes or no, this or that…so that when someone says “you didn’t receive a spirit of slavery”, we expect them to follow with “you received a spirit of freedom!”
But that’s not what he says.
He goes into adoption, and how we are children.
It’s like he’s saying that when you’re a child of God, when you’ve been adopted into God’s family, then that reality is strong enough to carry you through the storms, and more importantly, through the fear that comes because of those storms.
For we were not given a spirit of slavery, but rather we were given a spirit of adoption.
And so, it’s that spirit that responds to adversity with a cry of dependence upon our God, as a child screams for their parent in the dark of night, so our spirits cry out in the midst of our fear and darkness “Abba! Father!”
We are not sheltered from fear, or from danger; but rather we are given the strength to enter fully into it, acknowledge it, and stare it in the face.
And the truly amazing thing is, even death has lost it’s sting!
It’s been overpowered by our adoption into God’s family!
So our life now; it’s much bigger and even more beautiful than simply slavery or freedom.
The world is a savagely beautiful place, fraught with danger, hardship, and abundance as well.
Our calling lies within it; to follow the winds of the Spirit wherever they lead.
And at the end of the day, we can be secure only in the knowledge that our heavenly father loves us even to the point of death.
In other words, do not shrink away from fear…rather, stare it down. For we are children of God, and therefore also heirs of God and also of Christ.
We are a new people, a unified people who gather under the banner of the resurrection.
God has poured out his Spirit upon us, and it is not a spirit of slavery; it is not a spirit that leads us back into fear.
It is a spirit of adoption that enables us and empowers us to cry out “Abba! Father!” when all we can do is cry out.
For we are not children of slavery or fear.
We are children of God through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And in the end, that’s all that matters.