“Rise, let us be going…” (Matthew 26:46a)
I came upon the word katabasis the other day. After some searching online, I found its inverse: anabasis. Both Greek in origin, the latter refers to an expedition from the coast down to the interior. Katabasis is the opposite but it carries another heavier connotation of a descent into the underworld. The katabasis also refers to a military retreat. Read Xenophon’s account, titled the same, if you feel so inclined. There are several layers to the two inverted ideas, several of which apply directly to our walk before the Lord.
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after Him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
The idea of encompassing fuller and fuller realms of life is an enticing one. But as it says above, God will allow you to go through periods where all you know is what you did before that knowledge was accosted by newfound circumstances and things to which you were theretofore unprepared. For instance, say you serve the Lord in a certain way, and yet one day, through a series of untoward events, the very thing you enjoyed between you and He was brought into scrutiny for an audit so to speak–and it doesn’t bring you the same joy it used to. How would you respond to that? It’s one thing to walk with the Lord and another thing to have Him carry you. Because as confusing as life can become, this is what we’ll need to make it through. Either from the shore, inland. Or from anywhere at all, into hell. God is with you, never forget this. He’s carrying you through.
“Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.” (Psalm 139:7-8)
I still have nightmares about different miserable aspects of my old life. I find it odd, before I go any further, how it would seem the nightmares occur as I’m about ready to wake. There, at a time when I’m bound to not only remember the details of the dream and its atmosphere, but also feeling it like it just happened–because it did.
“And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:30-31)
There are ways we see God that are right. And ways He will clarify as time goes on. One thing I’m hesitant to do, however, is take on any thought structure around who I know God to be that is not based in gentleness and peace and joy–and love. I find at times a hard-edged and legalistic mask that presents itself as a facsimile. It’s these types of tropes that God would like to burn through. It may take a night or two in hell (remember, He’s there with you) before you can come back. It’s odd that the katabasis holds both an advancement into hell as well as retreat in its definition. And that anabasis is the opposite–whatever that means. I like the ambiguity in this pair of words purely for the fact that out of all the black and white and good and evil and paradoxically dichotomous states inherent to life, Jesus stands above it all.
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.” (Luke 18:19)
In closing, the only thing I have to add by way of odd allusion is with reference to the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island. The Moai statues around the shore were dug out of a quarry in the interior (called Rano Raraku) and drug to the edge and carved where they stand? Not sure about that. I suppose in closing that wherever you find yourself, whether ashore from a long voyage and ready to descend into hell (seriously, life can go from hard to worse) or retreating from difficulties that threatened to overwhelm you or coming back from victory–or petrified where you stand. Know that God is carrying you. Know this, before you go any further.