Dull: 1. To be blunt or dim. 2. Lacking interest or excitement. 3. Not having a sharp edge. 4. Dispirited and depressed.
“For the hearts of the people are dull and hardened….they have closed their eyes so their eyes cannot see, they have closed their ears so their ears cannot hear. They have closed their hearts and cannot understand – they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.’” Matthew 13:15
In Greater, the book I’m currently studying with Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study, author Ps Steven Furtick re-tells a short story found in 2 Kings 6 of a man who loses the blade of his axe when it falls into the water. The man cries out to Elisha to help him find it. Elisha asks: “Where did it fall?” When the man shows him the place, Elisha throws a stick into the water causing the axe head to float to the surface. The man then lifts the axe head out of the water and continues his work. End of story.
Now, I can assure you, if I’d read this story in the Bible (and I have no memory of ever reading it before) I would have skipped straight past it and missed any spiritual significance. But Ps Steven draws an analogy from this story that perfectly sums up my recent season.
The axe head is my spiritual relationship and passion for God.
As I read this story, I recalled how I had been swinging my axe one moment and the next it seemed like the blade had either fallen off into the water or it had completely lost its sharpness. I was still swinging my axe handle and following God but I somewhere along the way I had lost my passion and spiritual momentum and I had become dull. Blunt. Dispirited. Ineffectual.
It wasn’t even a cataclysmic event that had caused this spiritual dullness – it was simply allowing the busyness of my day to day life and the flurry of activity to become more important than my relationship with God. Then, when I found myself in a long and difficult season, I added doubt, disappointment and unanswered prayer into the mix and it was then that I looked down and noticed that my axe head is missing. And it wasn’t floating to the surface. It was gone.
My tank was sitting on empty and I had lost the sense of reverence and awe in my relationship with Him. I had lost my passion. I had lost my first love.
I didn’t wake up one day and decide to lose my axe head. It just happened. I dropped my axe head and had no idea where it was or how to retrieve it. Rather than calling out to God for help I almost gave up and walked away.
When I made the choice to renew my relationship with God, the biggest thing I was afraid of was whether or not I’d ever get my axe head back. Would my spiritual momentum and passion for God be the same as what it was before? Would my relationship be restored?
This book has taught me that the first thing to getting my axe head back is realizing I can’t! That’s right. I can’t. Self-effort will not bring it back to the surface. Only God can do it. Only when I cry out to God and ask Him to restore my passion will He answer and hear my cry.
The second thing I realized is that my axe head isn’t actually lost. It hasn’t disappeared. It’s not gone forever. It’s just back where I dropped it. Understanding this was a light bulb moment for me! My passion for God is back where I left it! Back where the axe head fell off the handle. And it’s easily retrievable! It can be recovered.
The third thing this book reminded me is that living for God is not like playing a game. (For the record, I am not a video “gamer”. I have never held a Nintendo DS, PS3 or Xbox controller in my hands and played a game. But I have three boys so I’ve learned a thing or two about gaming over the years.) One thing I’ve learned is that sometimes something happens when the kids are playing a game that causes them to have to go back to the level where they started. But thankfully, I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to go back to Level 1. I don’t have to start the game again. I don’t have to create a new character. I simply have to identify the second where I lost focus, the moment when I drifted in the wrong direction, the time I made a mistake and then ask God to retrieve my axe head from the water so that I can keep going and not spend my life swinging a handle with no axe attached to it wondering why nothing is happening.
There are so many times during these past few years that I felt as though I was disqualified from the race for losing my faith. I felt as though I’d failed God by walking away from Him and not trusting Him. I thought I was going to have to prove myself to Him again. But God is the God of the second chance. Although my axe head has fallen off into the water (more than once) each time He has retrieved it, replaced it, fixed it and placed the axe back in my hands saying “keep going – keep moving forwards into the greater plans I have for your life.”
“Though the righteous falls seven times, they rise again.” Proverbs 24:16