They Shall Walk and Not Faint, But Walk With Those Who’ve Fainted Hanging Onto Them!

May 29, 2011

Walk And Not Faint (Isaiah 40:31)

I want to combine today’s passage with something that I’ve read in the letters of the apostle Paul. He writes, for example in First Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak…” Then in Romans 14:1 he says, “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.” And, you see, when we place these apostolic references to the “weak” next to what Isaiah 40 has to say about those who wait for the Lord, not growing weary, but running and walking and definitely not fainting, there’s a huge question mark that’s dangling in the wind.

What I mean is, I cannot imagine the prophet wants us to walk over or walk around those who might have a few fainting spells. I cannot imagine that any more than I can imagine the Good Samaritan walking on the other side of the road like the priest and the Levite. I cannot imagine walking under the power of the Holy Spirit without at least trying to help those who faint—either spiritually, emotionally or physically.

Sheryl and I once went on a date to see the movie Fatal Attraction. I had heard about the plot of the film, but didn’t realize that it occasionally took these very violent turns.
Namely, Glenn Close, who plays the part of the seductress, turns out to be a psychopath. And she turns out to be suicidal. So imagine my surprise when upon sitting back and watching this gory scene, Sheryl says that she needs to get down on the floor. This was the first time this had ever happened to me. I had never been around someone who knew that she was about to faint, who could sense it coming on, and then whamo! She fainted. She passed out beside me in the cinema and then as she regained consciousness we thought we’d leave quietly. We started to then walk up the aisle and when we got to the door, Baam! Down goes Sheryl in the lobby. A guy in refreshments then rushed over and asked if we needed an ambulance. I was about to say Yes, when Sheryl revived again and said No. And after getting our refund we walked slowly to the parking lot.

Now, the reason I’m relating this detail is not to harp on the fact of Sheryl fainting or Sheryl being weak when it comes to certain movies. The reason is to highlight what you and I might do in the event of a spiritual loss of consciousness. That is, I pray and I hope that we would support and stay with the person who is fainting. I pray and I hope that we would not become so proud of our ability to walk in Jesus’ name that we would walk away in Jesus’ name.

Just consider these possible connections:
• Spiritual fainting might involve personal sins like lying, cheating or stealing.
• Spiritual fainting might involve systemic sin or corporate sin like slavery or racism that is built into and reinforced among a group of people.
• Spiritual fainting might involve a loss of trust within the community of faith.
• Spiritual fainting might involve a myopic and overly opinionated view of the world and a corresponding elevation of shame.
If any man, woman or child experiences any one of these conditions, the chances are very good that there will be a terrible fall. The fall may take the form of prison time, or a bad reputation. The fall may take the form of anxiety over our barricaded, locked-down cities. The fall may take the form of a divorce or a nervous breakdown… And yet, here’s the good news. Within the context of these terrible collapses, God has sent those who “run” and those who “walk.” And, here’s the important part: as they “walk” a huge component of their stride is devoted to bearing up those or supporting those or refreshing those who have fainted.

Who does your heart break for? The answer to that question makes up the spiritual muscles and tendons that keep your walk with Christ on track. In the Shawshank Redemption, Andy Defreyne is sent to prison unjustly. He is a bank presient and a trained accountant who’s been accused of murdering his wife. He didn’t do it, and yet the years go by and he has to adjust to his new life behind bars.
One day, however, Andy encounters a new inmate who had been convicted of lots of petty burglaries. Andy becomes Tommy’s mentor and walks with him and talks with him and eventually encourages him to learn to read and to study for his high school equivalency test. Tommy, of course, becomes discouraged in taking the test. He crumples his paper up in a ball and says, “Do you want to know my score? Two points,” and then slams it into the trash can. Andy then goes to the trash can and unwrinkles the paper and starts the process over again—the process of walking and talking and carrying hope for someone whose lived in despair for so long it’s as if he’s fainted…
“Even youths will faint and be weary and the young will fall exhausted…”

Dave Matthews sings a song that I think refers to this dynamic when he says, “Save me, Save me, Mister Walking Man, if you can…” And the fact is, Jesus can and will and does save through our steps. He does make us whole by loading us up on his back and walking on and on. And then at some point there’s a pause in the walk and Jesus turns to us and says what he says in Matthew 11:29—30:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Isn’t that stunning? Just as we imagine that we’re walking alone, above, behind or ahead of others, we meet someone who walks with the world on his back and can do it. And then he honors us by saying it’s time for you to get off my back and pull with me. It’s time for you to pull with others who are also walking in the same direction, others who have hearts that break for those who have fainted.

“Why haven’t you called me? It’s been like five years and you’ve never called me,” he said on the phone. I knew this man from my previous congregation and had mentored him with prayer and conversation. Yet, when I moved away I moved away. And now he contacted me to say that he had stopped going to church.
I listened to him for a while. I listened to him painfully unpack his experiences over the last five years. And then he said this: “Could I come out there and see you and hang with you?” And I hesitated and here’s why. I said to my friend, “Your walk is there, with those people in that place.” I will be here and I will be available for you to lean on from time to time. But God’s Spirit is teaching you to walk where you are. Coming out to see me would be an escape. You’re welcome to come , but here’s what I’d like you to do. I want you to walk back into that church and I want you to go to Charley and go to Steve and go to Frank and I want you say, Would you pray for me? Would you help me? Hang onto them for a while until you have the strength for someone else to hang upon you…” And then I told him that I’d call next week.

Latah Friends–around us are those who are fainting—those who consider themselves Christian and those who do not. Now walk. Where does your heart break the most? Walk in that direction. If it doesn’t break for someone in your immediate vicinity, wait a while. Eventually someone might faint into you and then you’ll see what it means to walk. To walk and not faint is the equivalent to what Paul says to the Corinthians and to the Romans. He says, “To the weak I became weak.”

Amen.

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