Post Tenebras Lux…spiritual lessons after falling out of a plane

“Post Tenebras Lux.”  It is a latin phrase that means, “after darkness, light.”  Historically, this phrase was one of the “rallying cries” of the protestant reformation.  The idea was that the church had experienced great “darkness” because the great Biblical Gospel truth of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone had been blurred, diminished, and in a sense, lost.  But in God’s providence, there was a fresh return to focusing on this truth. The Light of the Gospel had shone forth afresh.  Thus, “after darkness light.” This principle is not only true in Church History but also in the pages of scripture.  There are many biblical examples of God allowing long periods of darkness followed by a “bursting forth” of light.  For example, the Hebrews were enslaved for 400 years before their deliverance.  There was 400 years of silence from God between the end of the Old Testament revelation and the coming of Jesus.  It seems that this pattern of “after darkness, light” is a way that God deals with mankind.  There is a long predetermined period of darkness, followed by great light.  Indeed, when Jesus began His ministry, (a bursting forth of Light!) He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,”  (Mark 1:15 ESV).  Did you see that?  The time had to be “fulfilled.”

I have been recovering for the last five and half months after falling out of a plane with no parachute.  Fortunately the plane was parked….as in “on the ground.”  I dropped about 8-10 feet and broke a disk in my back and smacked my head pretty hard.  I spent a little over a week in an ICU with a “traumatic brain injury.”  I like to tell people, “I”m a little messed up in the head, but I was like that before I fell out of a plane!”  I digress.  All of these circumstances have been difficult and a type of “darkness.”  I find myself asking, “God, why did this happen?”  and “God what are you doing?”  and probably the most difficult (for me anyway) “God, what’s gonna happen next?”  Can you relate?  But that’s not to say that it hasn’t been good.  Friends, family, and God’s people have been an incredible source of comfort from God.  My wife, Melanie, has risen to the occasion and works hard to provide for our family while I can’t.  But perhaps the greatest blessings have been spiritual lessons that have served to move me along in the sanctification process.  Here’s a few…

#1  Time in the darkness exposes your heart idols.  John Calvin once wrote, “the human heart is a factory of idols.”  He means that our hearts are always producing idols that we run to for “worship” and comfort in substitute of the one true God.  Think about it, where do you go when things get tough?  Over the last 5 months I’ve seen my waste line grow.  I keep blaming it on all the kind church people who bring “high calorie” delicious casseroles to the house, but the reality is that I love food and indeed it is an idol of my heart from which I need repentance!  Do I truly desire God above all things?

#2 Time in the darkness refines ones sense of purpose.  Psalm 90:12 says “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Though, I never feared that I would die from my injuries, falling out of a plane gave me a growing awareness of my mortality.  In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about death over the last 5 months.  Largely this has driven me to consider my God given purpose while I’m on this earth and given me a sense of resolve to live every moment with great intentionality toward that purpose.

#3 Time in the darkness exposes selfish human independence from God.  I have to admit that I’m a pretty independent person.  I want things my way and, at least, a “perceived” freedom to do what I want.  Let me illustrate.  Perhaps the hardest part of being in the hospital with a brain injury was that I couldn’t have anything to drink for several days.  Fluid consumption causes the brain to swell after a brain injury and thus nothing was given to me to drink.  One day in the hospital, someone left most of a 20oz coke on the table next to my bed.  I stared at it for a long time.  It looked really good.  I tried to reach for it but it was too far away.  Finally, with a broken back and all, I ripped out my IV cords and somehow manage to get to that coke.  I sucked it down as fast as I could just before nurses burst into the room to see why the alarm was going off.  I was quickly given sedatives and I fell asleep.  When I woke up, my arms were restrained to the bed.  Let me tell you…that was not fun.  I couldn’t move.  It seems to me that God uses “prison like” experiences to teach us to be dependent on Him!

#4  Time in the darkness forms love for the light in your heart.  Need I say more?

There are other things that God taught me but these are the “big” ones.  I don’t fully see the consummation of light after this darkness just yet, but I’m learning to wait patiently and trust that my God has plans and a purpose.

Until next time………Post Tenebras Lux

 

 

 

 

Hardage Family News

I haven’t blogged as much as I intended, and needed to give a “Hardage Family News” update.  Soooo my second blog post will be a blog/news update combo!

Many of you know that last fall I was going to be planting a church in Horn Lake, MS.  We had gathered a great core group of people who had a heart for a “missional” ministry model and we were moving forward and things were going well.  Unexpectedly, an old friend contacted us last fall and inquired about my interest in pastoring a church that we had been a part of 8 years ago in New York.  Mel and I immediately had a dilemma.  We were genuinely excited about planting in  Horn Lake, but greatly missed New York and longed to be in a pioneer ministry area.  After much prayer and deliberation I suddenly resigned from church planting in order to pursue ministry back in New York.  It was a risk because nothing was definite in NY.  We didn’t know how things would work out and yet we knew that God was calling us to some type of pioneer ministry context.  So I began working at Domino’s pizza as a “fill in” job and we waited.

Whenever we told people the story about what we were planning to do and the risk it involved, we always said, “if things don’t work out in NY, then that will be the catalyst to whatever God may lead us to next.”  Those words turned out to be prophetic.  In February we were talking to this particular church in NY, and exploring other possibilities in church planting and other pastorates.  I was supposed to take a “vision” trip that month.  Literally a few days before leaving I was informed that the church I was talking to was pursuing another candidate, and every other opportunity fell through.  Initially, to be completely transparent and honest, we were shocked and hurt.  Then there were the questions of what would we do next?  How would we survive?  Well, remember how I said, “if NY falls through it could be the catalyst to whats next,”  it certainly came true.

So what is next?  All I can say at this point is that we are taking steps with a mission organization to serve in an international and cross cultural setting.  This process could take as long as 3 years just to get to our potential field of service.  NOTHING is definite at this point but this is the direction in which we are heading.  Please pray for us in this.  We need for God to give us wisdom and to increase our faith.  We are going to soon put our house on the market so that when the time comes to do whatever is next, we will be free to go.  I just recently started a job at FEDEX and I’m still delivering pizzas.  We are content to wait for God and His best.  If you would like to know more about how to pray for us or more about our story, we would love to share!

In closing let me just summarize some of the major lessons God has taught us or reinforced through this process.

1.  God takes care of his people.  It seems like a truth we should know, but I fear we rarely live it out.  I tend to always be looking, strategizing, and trying to predict how things will work out.  However, God has met all our needs through all this.  We have not failed to pay a bill in the last 4 months and I certainly haven’t missed any meals! ;)

2.  We are called to walk by faith and there is great joy in stepping out and “actually” doing it.  We are genuinely excited about the future and have found a sense of joy and seeking God and pursuing him.

3.  God is completely sovereign and in control of everything.  There are things we don’t see or know.  There can be times of great uncertainty and yet we can have confidence that our heavenly father is in control and not surprised by anything.

4.  God’s people will only be happy in doing what He has called them to do and also what He has “wired” them to do.

5.  God uses disappointments to reveal what is first in our hearts.  I believe many ministers suffer from “ministry” idolatry.  They love the ministry and the attention it brings more than they love Jesus.  We must always no matter what find our hope and identity in Christ alone.

Maybe these truths are new to you.  Maybe they are old, and yet needed to be refreshed in your heart and mind.  I hope our story will be an encouragement to others!

The time I almost died….and then did.

First Post…finally, and no this is not some story about an “out of body” experience after dying on an operating table ;) .  It is a story where I almost died…and then did.  But first I need to give you some background info…

BACKGROUND

So…I believe Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah, and that all the universe was created by Him and exists for Him.   Life is ultimately about Him.  Not me nor any other person, but Him.  The Bible is an authoritative and sufficient revelation of the story of Jesus.  Some call it the grand “Metanarrative.”  The huge story of God, Mankind, Redemption, and someday a Restoration of all things.  Part of the reason why I believe this is because when I read the individual stories that make up the Bible as a whole, I see myself in them.  I see my story.  A story of hopes and joys, failures and tragedies.   More importantly, I see the massive and beautiful story of the great hero and redeemer…Jesus.  This story defines me.

But everyone has a story that defines them.  A family or circumstances they were born into.  Things that they have done or not done.  Many people also reject this notion of God and His story.  One of the problems I see in this rejection is that these people try to define themselves, but in reality they have no authority or power to give meaning to their lives.  That was me almost 20 years ago.  My parents were Hippies and I was raised under those ideals.  Some were bad and some I still live by.  After a brief stint of living in Oregon, we lived in North Mississippi in a little country community called Arkabutla.  Let me tell you, long haired hippie kids didn’t fit in too well in Arkabutla in the early 80′s!  So I spent a lot of years trying to fit in.  I became fairly popular at school and became a pretty decent athlete.  But what I found was that even that popularity didn’t seem to satisfy what was missing.  Eventually,  I followed in the footsteps of my parents and pursued the 90′s version of my parents hippie lifestyle, replete with sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

The Story

cliffdivingI think it was 1995, maybe 94.  Those years were kind of fuzzy.  I was living with a 4 or 5 of my so called friends in Midtown Memphis.  We were a pretty pathetic bunch.  One guy was a drug dealer and we just kind of existed,  floating from one party to the next.  One weekend we decided to go camping at Greers Ferry lake in Arkansas.  Greers Ferry is a beautiful spring fed lake that has cliffs that rise around it.  The water is very deep and many people scuba dive and some go to jump off the cliffs. We wanted to party, meet girls, and jump off the cliffs.  Not necessarily in that order.  We loaded up our cars with camping supplies, drugs, and lots of beer.  We wanted to score some LSD, the consummate hippie drug, and while “tripping,” jump off the cliffs.  I know, not the best idea I ever had.  Unfortunately, it gets worse.  We couldn’t find any LSD, so one of my “friends” came up with another idea.  He had heard that if a person ingested a whole box of dramamine, that it had an LSD like effect.  Thus, we proceeded to the local Wal-Mart and promptly purchased a box of dramamine for each of us.  Yeah, it was bad.  For me, the dramamine basically made me lose control of my motor skills.  It was like my mind was telling my legs to go, but they just wouldn’t.  All this while sitting on top of a cliff, looking out over the lake, in the pitch black dark of night.  Again, not a wise move on my part to say the very least.  After sitting on the cliff for a while, we decided to go down to our camp site.   I stood up to go down and as I said, my motor skills weren’t working.  I started to fall over….over the cliff.  Amazingly one of my cohorts had the presence of mind (and strength!) to grab me as I stumbled and pull me back from the edge.  I’m certain he saved my life.  I would have drowned in the deep cold water of Greers Ferry Lake.  This aimless, lost, and foolish, 21 year old kid would have died and faced a Christless eternity.  I still shudder at the thought of it.  Later that night while we were being loud in our camp ground, someone called the Sheriff’s department and we spent the night in jail with some country boy, pot head, who had hepatitis.  Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun to go to jail in Arkansas.

We made bail the next day and went home.  A few months later, late one night, I was alone in my bedroom.  I was thinking about God.  I was thinking about my sin… the evil things I had done, the people who I had hurt.  I hated myself.  My mother had become a Christian a few years before.  She had faithfully shared the message of Christ and redeeming love with me.  It was inconceivable to me that anyone would allow themselves to be executed as a substitute for my transgressions, much less Jesus, the son of God.  I wrestled with God for what seemed like hours.  Finally, in deep anguish and sorrow, I cried out to God to have mercy upon me.  I pleaded with Him to forgive, cleanse, and save me.  He did.  That night Jason Hardage died and a new Jason Hardage was born.  I picked up the phone at 3AM and called my mom.  I asked her if I could come home and told her that I was leaving my old life behind.  I started a new life of following Jesus.  That was the day I died.