A whole lot of groaning

There are three connected ‘groans’ in Romans 8:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15).

That’s a pretty clear cry, though it is childlike, not at all sophisticated, and a cry that comes from deep within.


We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:22, 23).

Two groans in these verses with creation and ‘we ourselves’ groaning. These two are placed together as they are deeply related.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).

Ever despaired as to how to pray? Sure, praying in tongues helps, and maybe Paul has that in mind here, but I think he is also pushing for something deeper than that, with a word used only once in the NT (alaletos, from a related word for ‘mute’ – alalos), maybe we could say with sighs / groans that are inarticulate, sounds without words.


Land / geography holds the corporate memory and so responds from that memory until either the memory is healed or new memories come in. New, as in new and different, do not occur naturally as memory locked in the geography draws yet more of the same kind of action to itself thus layering and re-enforcing earlier memories. (The rape of Dinah in Gen. 34 and the subjugation of the woman in John 4 seem related, being the same geography though separated by more than 1000 years. The pain from Genesis 4 is still present and manifesting in John 4.) Thus there has to be a healing for the memory locked in the land.

The land, responding as victim shouts with a voice of pain, that sound being one that is seeking recompense. Land does not by itself automatically release the pain through forgiveness. We have to hear the voice of the land, but we also have to help the land to articulate more than pain and to rise up so that ‘a better word than that of the blood of Abel’ is spoken; that original word coming up from the land being one that was requiring justice. If that voice is heard and responded to then the cycle will simply continue.

Back then to the Scriptures in Romans 8.

The Spirit within us groans with inarticulate sounds, sounds that cannot be put into words. We might not be able to articulate with words, but in yielding to the Spirit a sound is made, a groan is offered that will connect with creation.

This un-wordy groaning is for the future, for something different than that which is here now to manifest, something that is in line with liberation. The groaning calls for the future but springs from the past. The past of a simple understanding that we have been set free, that an unsophisticated, childlike cry of ‘Abba Father’, an expression of freedom is what we also desire for the land that is beyond us and yet present to us. Nothing smart there, something that could even be viewed as naive and childlike.

And in the same way creation has been groaning for liberation, a liberation akin to ours. Creation becomes our responsibility (nothing new there – consistent from the creation stories onwards).

We were in bondage, the Spirit comes and we receive a firstfruit, and respond with ‘Abba Father’.
Creation likewise is in bondage, but ‘sees’ our future and groans for the same. I suggest looking for our response. How do we respond, for we feel weak; the Spirit comes to align us toward the future, perhaps also we should expect that the land could receive her firstfruits, some measure of freedom, even if not the fullness.

I wonder also with this liberation of the family of God if we are not challenged to hear something from heaven that we can teach the land to speak forth. In 2 Cor. 12:4 Paul speaks of being

caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

Although he uses another (rarely used) word regarding what he heard, there seems something parallel to the Spirit’s help. ‘Inarticulate sounds’ and ‘sounds that are not to be put into words’. Could it be that to truly help the land we have to hear some sounds that cannot be put into words so that the land calls out beyond a cry for recompense but we teach the land to also groan without words?

Our neighbourhood

Unbelievably it is 3 years ago that we were able to get an apartment in Madrid. Three whole years. I was looking at the picture that is on my FaceBook page (the page I ‘never’ look at) and here follows a little explanation (Plaza San Martin). Since 2012 we have always stayed (AirBnB) on that side of Madrid, nearly always in the ‘Lavapies’ barrio, at the bottom of the hill it (literally) means the place of washing feet. It has always been a place that has drawn the immigrants (seems appropriate as that is who we are to Madrid and to Spain), a challenging place where drugs are easily available, the drugs scene run in the main by Chinese mafia with foot soldiers often drawn from the African community. Since 2012 until 2018 we have (all-but) prayer walked every street of the barrio. Gentrification is setting in – the good side it can ‘lift’ a community, the down side of course is that people are squeezed out. We have tried to use the apartment as gift when we are not there, and I am always amazed at how within our hands there will always be something we can do that is small but sows into a future. The ultimate small is the ‘container’ for glory in the Bethlehem context that we mark at this time of year.

Land is interesting. It is the container for the corporate memory, hence can resist renewal or can be very open. Lavapies… a great history.

Quite a crowd, with the photograph taken in 1977 and of a funeral cortege in our area. In January, seemingly in order to provoke a reaction so that the military would have to step in and reverse the democratic process post-Franco, three gunmen entered a lawyers’ office and killed five of those present. However, it appears that the desired result did not take place. On the day of the funeral the response called for from those who identified with the victims was one of responding in silence and not to participate in any violence. As can be seen a crowd of some 100,000 gathered, without any physical retaliation. It is said that rather than reverse the democratic process it was a major catalyst in moving it forward.

Right in the centre of the area (Anton Martin) is this memorial to that event. The ‘hug’ says it all, and at the top of the plaque is a quote:

If the echo of their voice weakens, we will perish.

This is our area, and each time we walk past that memorial it is indeed a memory provoker. Beyond our memory that land has a record of it.

(Image by Tulimori – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34138915)

How many places are there that we can stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, those who had faith and those who did not, but they knew somehow that their responses were sowing for a future. Add to that a true apostolic vision, marked by long term patience aligned to consistent direction, and I am sure there are many geographic situations that are waiting for us nobodies to connect with.

Living in or on?

Some of us have little choice about where we live, others do have a choice. Some have no choice, and I should really write ‘many’, having no home, fleeing violence, war, persecution, hunger or desperately searching for some work. It is ever so easy to pontificate when one is part of the top 10% (probably more likely top 5%) wealth-wise in the world. There are luxuries we have that others do not have. We turn a tap on and drink the water; we go to the fridge and can put something together to eat. I am aware of our luxuries as I write.

Land has been an important part of my life for as far back as I can remember. Maybe being born on a farm gave that to me? I recall back in 1991 receiving a prophetic word about moving geographically. It impacted me greatly and the seeming imminence of it felt as if it was immediate. At 5.30am the next morning I got up walked the area, and can remember stopping at one of the corners saying to the town – don’t worry someone will come and look after you, considering your interests before their own. One Christmas I was in Paris, and in a dream I was taken to the bottom of the Eiffel tower. There Paris came to me and said, ‘People come here from all over the world. Romantic words are often spoken, engagements take place. But when will someone come here just for me, to love me for who I am?’ A short while later I woke with a tear-filled face, the pain of the land being very real.

So many conquests have been to possess land, to change the civilisation. Even a lot of tourism follows suit. Plant restaurants that cater for our taste buds, our culture, buy a second home… The result is an enjoyment of the land, but a living ‘on’ the land. I could go on and comment on financial investments in countries that profit us but long-term impoverish others. I realise we live in a complex world (though the drop-out culture does appeal at times) and our feet certainly get dirty whatever direction we walk in. I am not knocking those elements per se, but simply relating the above examples to indicate that so often we see it as our right to something, and never connect with the land, other than as an observer. Sometimes that might be all we can do.

But, if at all possible, we need to live in the land. At this moment of time Gayle and I are immigrants in the land of Spain, but we are seeking to be in the land. To be in the land does connect one to the voice of the land, the cry of the land, the history, the pain, disappointments but also hope and destiny. To marry the land does bring about a phase of receiving from the land what is in it. It can affect one’s finances, even one’s health. But the long term issue is for the land to be affected.

We cannot – God does not and we cannot – control outcomes. We cannot override peoples’ choices but we can stand in prayer and stand in attitude and stand in humility and stand in persistence and stand, so that there is an interchange to the land, so that the land begins to gain the benefit of who one is in Jesus. The land begins to change; (bad) fruit that was once fruitful no longer grows; good fruit begins to appear, small at first then in greater measure.

We have had some major setbacks these past weeks. We have stood and drawn a line. The line has been walked over. The very words we have used (they shall not pass here) as we have stood have been literally spoken back on TV news – the ‘conquerors’ saying publicly ‘we have passed’. Even after 2015 and the incredible shifts noted by every newspaper after we prayed at the Valley of the Fallen; after going to Franco’s birth home in 2018 (11 hours away) and the government passing the next day the edict that they will move his remains from the Valley of the Fallen – we are back with the governments edict being stalled and resisted. I could enter a few other such examples, and truth is we are very sore indeed.

I could also outline other positives, some of which have been recorded even in the press beyond Spain.

There will be setbacks. But to live ‘on’ and not ‘in’ the land is something we have to resist. We have to stand but the standing is in the land.

I am not looking to trample on anyone’s convictions, but I consider that we all have to regularly ask if we are simply ‘on’ or are we ‘in’ the land.

And to those in the land. Stand. The day of evil does pass, even if not as soon as we would like.

An angel came knocking

This morning we read a headline about a certain politician who should have been facing trial for corruption but had evaded this by holding on to her seat as a Senator, thus giving her immunity, that she died suddenly of a heart attack. The Guardia Civil had announced that her administration had been involved in nothing less than organised crime. A certain group of MPs did not respond to the minute of silence for her but walked out of parliament. Maybe I can understand their feelings but the good/bad line runs through us all and however guilty she and her administration was I don’t think the walking out was a good response.

It is though a reminder that all of us have a limited opportunity to stand in the gap between the past and the future. There are so many challenges that come our way and it does seem necessary every now and then to re-examine one’s integrity and authenticity in relation to the land. I have been doing so recently. On the one hand knowing that the land cannot evict us now (took us all-but seven years to get there) and yet facing the painful journey of regular reminders that my level of language, and inabilities with respect to learning, can raise the challenge for authenticity. Ah well, we all have a few battles I suspect!

Angelic OrangesThen last night just as we are about to eat, we can hear on our steps, very, very slowly someone coming up the stairs. Eventually our door bell rings. There is an angel on the doorstep. For sure. He appeared as the 40 something old man from a very humble family down the street. Struggling with health, strength and I am sure financially, he passed over a wonderful bag of oranges/satsumas, saying

This is what the land gives to us.

Truly an angel and a message from heaven gratefully received. It remains though the need to know that all gifts call us to a new level.

SHARE ON:

Post PermaLink

Perspectives