Last week the students in my Writing Close to the Earth online class read George Orwell's classic essay, "Politics and the English Language." In it ... Read More
I don’t know what’s gotten into me – I’m cleaning out my basement, four rooms and four closets. For awhile after I began, most of it looked like a deathtrap – it had looked better before I started. I’d call what’s down here “junk,” but it isn’t all junk. There’s plenty of that, but also memories, perfectly good gear (I found a stereo I can use in one of the upstairs rooms), years of photos, recordings, practice tapes, bits of songs, and some things that I probably wouldn’t ever want to hear.
In fact, the basement is my life on display. Victories and embarrassments. Joys, sufferings. The births of my children. The deaths of old dreams. But within the good stuff is a lot of junk that was weighing me down and keeping me from accomplishing everything I desire.
On second thought, I do know what’s gotten into me. Early last year I prayed for God to show me anything in my life that is contrary to His will, that I would forsake whatever it was. The first thing that happened was that the band I’m in, Alison Krauss and Union Station, was going to take a year off – after taking one off the year before. We’d play a summer 2007 tour and then be set free. The only trouble was I didn’t like being set free; freedom is scary. It involves choice, and risk, and faith, and I’d spent sixteen years carving out my role in that band – a role that has become comfortable and sometimes not very risky.
I didn’t know all this at the time, only later. So God, answering my prayer, started dragging stuff up. A chunk of Fear. A box of Unbelief. A slimy lump of Self-Pity from the closet – things that have been hidden in there since childhood. It took awhile to take a faith stance, but once I saw the putrid, molding garbage for what it was I handed it over and let Him take it to the dump. Then we replaced Fear with Faith – I choose to believe God is sovereign, that He intentionally filters all of my circumstances, that He has thrilling and adventurous things for me to accomplish for His eternal purposes. I’m a Kingdom man.
Faith takes up less space, smells good, and is actually beautiful and useful.
The next thing He did was show me a serious problem in my parenting. Later in the year I repeated that prayer, and God again answered – this time with a really bad morning with my kids. They were rebellious, defiant. What came up in me was Anger – red-hot anger. Later, I asked God what the anger was all about, because at the time I had no clue. The word came up in my mind’s eye, spelled out: “F – E – A – R.” I said, “Well, fear of what?” And into my mind’s eye appeared a couple of my relatives and their two grown sons, who are in a continuous cycle of rebellion, jail, and refusing to take responsibility. That mental furniture was the source of my fear-turned-to-anger. So again, I gave it up to the dump. “All thy children shall be taught of Yahweh, and great shall be the peace of thy children.” Fear for Faith. Junk for treasure and basement clarity.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of useful stuff in my basement. Passion. A strong love and affection for my wife and kids. Musical talent. A desire to excel. A love of writing. Creativity, and an exploding desire to use it. And other things. But, like the stereo I found hidden behind a bunch of junk, the boxes of Fear hide the good, useful things, and so God can’t make use of us like He wants to.
Sometimes when we’ve opened ourselves to God’s working we get hit with circumstances and have a knee-jerk emotional reaction. We often judge one another – and ourselves – in those times, but it is in those reactions that God is bringing up the junk so that the perfection of the House can be seen and utilized to the highest degree. It’s not the time for condemnation (self- or otherwise); if we choose faith, it’s a time for rejoicing. “For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being made holy.” The House of “I” is perfect; we just need to recognize that, to let go of old ways of thinking, and embrace being new creations. We’re transformed from glory to glory by that mind renewal.
So here I am, cleaning out my basement. Except for two rooms and one closet, it looks trashed right now, but in a few more days this basement studio will be completely revamped, and I’ll be geared up for a powerful and productive year off the AKUS road.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.