The Great Escape

Article by Allan K. Kefa: Lead Pastor; Destiny Temple, Nairobi.

My elder sister owned a radiogram- an old school contraption that was both a radio and a record player that played the seven inch vinyl records and the twelve inch long play albums. We enjoyed visiting her home to listen to great musicians like Dolly Parton, or the sweet voice of Skeeter Davis whose hit song “in the sweet by and by” sold in hundreds of thousands and broke every imaginable music record of the day.

We literally grew up on the great Gospel musician Jim Reeves’ songs, who immortalized his baritone with hits like “This world is not my home”; “Across the bridge there is no more sorrow”; “I will fly away,”  among many other hits, as our older brothers and sisters played the songs and sang along the lyrics. Then there was that amazing choir from Rwanda with their Swahili hit song “Kwetu Mbinguni.”  Loosely translated to mean “our home is in heaven.”

These beautiful songs, just like the many other things in life that seem pretty good at first, did their fair share of harm, in strengthening a worldview that does very little to equip the believer to deal with life issues, such that when we suffer or see suffering, we are appetized to go back to the comfort of our “home in heaven” where our Father is resident.

Granted, pain and suffering, a part of our daily life, does create an internal sense of disconnection and disintegration. Discomfort of any kind—physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, or relational— appears as a threat to our existence and leaves one feeling diminished, less in control and incapable of engaging with life.

The “our home is in heaven” thinking inadvertently puts the believer in such a space on “flight mode” –Pun intended- wondering, “when will God gather us to Himself in Heaven and put an end to the pain and suffering?”

The title for this article is drawn from the classic war movie The Great Escape,” released in 1963, based on Paul Brickhill’s 1950’s non-fiction book, giving an account of an escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from the German camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Poland.

We are always escaping; moving from home to start out on our own, from our old neighborhoods, working hard to get away from poverty, looking for visas to go to a faraway country; always looking for the next thing. Even the preaching of the Gospel by a zealous evangelist on the crusade ground will most likely be centered around escaping Hell, and making it to heaven. We want to “fly away” to “the sweet by and by” and get away from it all.

Our stress levels are high, mental illness and depression are on the rise, and, despite all the smiley face emoticons we try to cover up with, what we really want is to escape, to numb it out.

No one wants to think about the high cost of living, or our suddenly obnoxiously bold younger generation.

Who wants to even think about the sense of inadequacy and helplessness brought about by Corona, climate change, and the vicious murderous culture that seems to fill our news on a daily basis?

At our best, we are wired to be in control, and when that does not reflect in our reality, all we want to do is escape… even the strongest among us have morphed into escape artists. The trick is to find an illusion that fits you. Like a group of different magicians in a show, each one of us has crafted a different act to escape the pain that is life.

For non-believers, the escape is a little bit more obvious; riotous living, alcohol and philandering does the trick quite well. For others, it is drug and substance use; get high and leave all your troubles behind. Prescription drugs or otherwise.

Then of course there are the people of faith. Are we, the believers also escape artists?

One of the bestselling books of all time among the Christian circles is a fiction series called “left behind;” A book by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins that focuses on the end times, and puts a spotlight on the rapture of the Christians from earth before the end time tribulation takes place and the anti-Christ rules.

The theme of the book simply re-emphasizes and strengthens the “Great escape” position; that we are simply buying time until Christ calls us home, rendering the faith completely ineffective upon the earth.

The end-time teachings have a lot to say about the rapture, but there is even more evidence in scripture that God wants to rule over His colony(the earth,)through us, than He wants us cowering in a corner, afraid, waiting to be whisked away from earth’s problems.

It is somehow inconsistent with the nature of God, to create man put him on earth to suffer and live a weak defeated life, then later on bring him to heaven to bliss. My mind simply asks, why not create him in heaven and leave him there?

We are called upon to model behavior that behooves a soldier in battle, and not that of a clueless scared group running for cover. “Occupy till I come” Lk 10:13 is what I hear from scripture, not “occupy till you come,” or “occupy till I sneak you away from your troubles.”  “Occupy” has more a connotation of actively taking charge, than a person waiting for an airlift.

The declared intent of God for man is to “Be fruitful and increase; fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:2.

We the church and bride of Christ are waiting for the coming of Christ our Groom, to rule with Him on earth in His millennial rule. He is coming to us, scripture says. We are not going to Him.

Sadly, the Christian army is ill-equipped to represent the Kingdom as instructed. We fail to see the opportunity to colonize our vocations, neighborhoods and workplaces as spheres we have been deployed to, to demonstrate God’s Power and restore His rule upon the earth Luke 19:10.

One of my favorite verses in scripture, Psalm 126:5, Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.” reminds me, over and over, that experiencing life as is, instead of wishing it away is what creates trust and lasting joy. As a famous preacher once said, whatever you are going through, go through. Every step forward is progress, every tear a seed, and every experience a lesson. Whatever is growing in our lives has a built in capacity within itself to last.

The beautiful thing is; in Christ, our experience on earth is a transformational space, the very thing that prompts and pulls us into fuller personhood, being transformed into His image, even by His Spirit.2 Cor.3:18

We have been erroneously socialized to think of life as something to get past, and away from. Some things are labeled worldly, while others sacred. Yet, the world is more of a place we find ourselves.

Life may occasionally feel like walking into a thick fog, and more often than not, we scarcely see what’s coming. We have to trust that God is not leading us off the edge of a cliff, but rather is guiding us to Himself. His invitation edges us to the borders of our relationship with Him, inviting us to deeper trust in Him.

In Him, we’re stripped of our old attachments to shame, strife, and self-sufficiency, to be attached to Him. The very things cause us to press the panic button and want out, are indeed a space that we are intentionally being invited to; to be present to God, to trust His leading, and to allow our lack of control to become courageous faith.

When we yield and allow ourselves to be where we are, instead of treating life and its issues like something to get past as quickly as possible, we open ourselves to be changed. Life becomes the place we find our truest selves, hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).

Our posture toward life’s uncertainty of escape through denial, hiding, or minimizing seems not to work. What if we allowed Christ’s strength to be poured in us? After all, the gospel message is, and will always be, that Christ’s power is perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

My heart desire is to see His Kingdom Come, and His will be done ON EARTH as is in heaven, just as He taught us to pray. That is a prayer He would definitely like to answer, and allow us to experience life here as in heaven.

Allan Kefa is the Lead Pastor at Destiny Temple in Jericho Estate, Nairobi.


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