Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Like The Sons of Korah

I write to you tonight from the bitter depths of a soul in despair. Psalm 42, 88, and 102 best describe to you what I am undergoing and what I feel is happening to me. "All His breakers and billows" have overwhelmed me to such an extent that like the sons of Korah I cry out, "Why have You forgotten me?" (Psalm 42:9) In this case, my enemy is my own subtle idolatry of food and drink. That's right--you've read me correctly; your pastor is an idol worshipper who regularly paid respects at the foot of the idol of food and belly. I always interpreted the word "celebration", for example, as a banquet of food and drink. I couldn't "celebrate" apart from the delights of a meal. This idol-worshipping mentality has figured prominently in my current predicament. I was scheduled to have a stent placed in the stenosis, the area where tumor pressure was narrowing the alimentary canal, back when this was still a feasible option. But I made what now appears to be a critical blunder when at the last minute I decided to cancel the procedure and trust the chemo to keep the narrowing at bay. And the major reason I cancelled the procedure? Because it would necessitate a change in diet! That's right; an apparent alteration in the meal plan has led to my now having absolutely no meal plan whatsoever! I could not in the final analysis tolerate any kind of change whatsoever laid to my great idol of food and culinary delight! Now I face the prospects of a life without normal food of any kind whatsoever. A decision based on fear instead of faith; a decision based on idolatry, instead of godliness, has wrought a severe affliction.

Now a little background is in order. Any dutiful son of Ralph Blaine Pollock, who desired to emulate his father, as I did, would be pressed not to become a worshipper at the altar of belly and beverage by following too well what I now know to be a bogus parental example. Food was my father's business! As a General Foods (GF) employee, he sold Maxwell House and Yuban Coffee as well as other GF products to restaurants, hotels and hospitals across the Northwest. He was good at what he did and rapidly advanced up the company ladder. But, the passion for food greatly affected the Pollock household and I was totally taken in by it as well. Dad was the meal planner and cook; Mom and the kids were clean-up. Dad was planning tomorrow's menu even before he finished dessert from the current days bill of fare. I marvelled at this partly because Mom, who didn't share Dad's food passion, always made a critical point of it at the dinner table while Dad shrugged off the criticism by pressing ahead with tomorrow's menu plan. I decided as an impressionable young man of ten and eleven that if food was the important to my dad then it was going to be a priority with me as well! A warning to any fathers is that your passions tend to become your sons' and daughters' pursuits and priorities, so be careful where your passions lie! This is not to excuse or in any way ameliorate my own guilt; I stand condemned by my own sinful choices, but parental prioities may become a trap to your children, so beware!

Now my "friends and lovers" are far away and I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit (Psalm 88). I resemble a pelican of the wilderness and my bones cling to my flesh (Psalm 102:5 & 6); my days are like a lengthened shadow and I wither away like grass" (vs. 11). This best describes where my soul lies; among the "ruffians" produced by my own sin and idolatry! God's mercies are sometimes severe, His lessons best learned in the hottest fires. I've doubted His power and goodness in recent days, but like the son of Korah, I'm clingling sometimes precariously to the hand of the Lord. Pray for me and my family.


ReillyClan11 said...

Brother, Pastor, Friend,

We pray daily on your behalf. As study brings me through Habakkuk to 3:17-18 you come to my heart. As our Lord continues to bring your life to where He wants it you continue to "rejoice in the Lord" We realize that we know so little about the experiance that you are going through and even less about the one our Lord is sending you through. We will continue to be in prayer and in awe of the journey and His strength in you and even more your family.
In His Glory

Nanci Smith said...

How I cried when I read this post.

Please forgive me, being a woman, I would not dare to contradict a pastor or discredit or question what He is teaching you, but I hear such self-condemnation (you even say "I stand condemned") in this post and I wonder if it is the Enemy trying to discourage you. There is no condemnation in the Lord Jesus, as you know. Forgive me if I'm wrong about this...maybe it is conviction and again I don't dare discredit this.

Having said that, I myself was delivered from idolatry to food, being raised in an Italian-American (non christian) family where food was openly worshipped so I do understand.

I was just reminded as I was praying for you this morning that when the Lord Jesus walked the earth, food and celebration figured prominently in His actions- the wedding feast where His first miracle took place, countless special meals and fellowship with his friends and followers and of course, finally the Last Supper.

I mean no disrespect at all in saying this. Please, please forgive me if this comes across the wrong way or if I sound like I am trying to teach you, because I am not. I am just sharing what I heard in prayer to encourage and uplift you. I hear your pain and continue to pray fervently for you. If you think this was wrong of me to write, please do not post it.

O'Briens said...

Dear Pastor Bryan, Susan, and children:
We continue to pray for each of you. We count it precious (in a bittersweet sort of way) to know you in this journey of suffering.
Much affection from John and Leslie

Anonymous said...

Bryan and Susan,

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Our love for you both and your children continues to grow as we get to know and love you more and more. As part of the body of Christ, we hurt when you hurt, and we are not ashamed to shed tears when we read about your journey. We continue to pray for each one of you.

Joy Ng

Sandy Bryan said...

We know this is a very difficult time for you and your family and your words pour forth both hope, pain, frutstration, and faith. Praise God that He alone can bring joy out of mourning. His mercies are new each day. Perhaps Jesus portrayed himself as the bread of life because he too understood mans necessity for food and how much we needed Jesus as our all in all. He is the very sustainer of life. Martin Luther said, "God creates out of nothing. Therefore, until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him." We already thought you were pretty terrific Bryan but now we see that the Lord is doing an even greater work within your life. Take joy in knowing that your are well loved even by God himself.
Many Blessings,
The Bryan Clan

Dina said...

Dear Bryan,

Wow, an excellent warning, although what an unfortunate experience to gain that wisdom. I have already had a "teaching time" with my 15-year-old about it. (We, too, love our food and beverage, but as I discussed with Ryan, it is applicable to many other things...important for my husband and I to keep in mind when we are teaching our children where to find our enjoyment!) I totally agree with Mrs. Bryan about "your words pouring forth hope, pain, frustration and faith." Indeed, tears come to my eyes as I read your recent posts and heartfelt cries out to God, and the honesty with which you are writing. And I loved the Martin Luther quote. I have written it down and will place it in a prominent place as I consider it and tuck it in my heart, and share it with my family. God bless you, Bryan, and help you see Him in this strange time of your life, which, while following this blog, has taught and blessed many people, myself and my family included. Sincerely, Dina Allen
P.S. Building 429 has a song called "Always, Always", and some of the lyrics go: "Friend, I don't know where you are, and I don't know where you've been. Maybe you're fighting for your life, or just about to throw the towel in. But if you're crying out for mercy, if there's no hope left at all, if you've given everything you've got, and you're still about to fall, well, hold on, hold on...'Cuz I believe always, always, our Savior never fails; Even when all faith ["hope" in some refrains] is gone, God knows our pain, and His promise remains, Always, Always, He will be with you."

Brenda for the Ngs said...

We are encouraged and blessed to see that even in this extreme trial, you are just what we always have known you to be: humble, teachable, self-examining, contrite, firm in your faith, and most of all a true shepherd of the flock entrusted to you. Not many of us can see our own suffering as "the will of God" as you continue to declare & know yours to be. May He sustain you & bless you as only the God of all grace can.
"Therefore, let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good....And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen
1 Pet. 4:19 & 5:10+11

Bryan and Susan said...

Thank you, every one who posted on this particular entry. You've all been most merciful and gracious in your words, and you've all been used of God to bless and encourage us.

Nanci, I do agree that God intends food and drink to be celebratory items, but my point was to show to what excess we can carry what God intended to be a good thing, but this is the corrupting nature of sin in our lives; sin undermines and taints God's good things.

Please do not read too much in my use of the word condemnation. While indeed there is no condemnation in the Lord Jesus Christ because He bore the condemnation of sin on the cross for His people, still, we can be "condemned" in a lesser sense for individual acts of sin. In such cases we all do indeed "stand condemned", but this shouldn't be construed with Paul's usage of the term in Romans 8:1 which has to do with our standing in grace in the sense of our justification. In the realm of our sanctification, we must do daily battle against the unmortified corruptions of our wicked hearts and very often we come up short in this conflict when we fail to apply the means of grace properly in the struggle. In this case, we do, indeed, "stand condemned" for this failure, but we are still justified and very much uncondemned in our standing of grace see Romans 5:1-2. I hope this clarifies the issues raised in this blog post.

Pastor Bryan