Before we get into things today, let’s take a second to review where we left off. Remember that our mapped definition of faith based on Hebrews 11:1 looks like this:
Faith→ Confidence in things hoped for→ Assurances of things not seen.
But Oliver’s impossible definition looks like this:
Faith → Confidence in what [Oliver] hopes for → comes from controlling what he can see/outcomes [Oliver’s standard of assurance]
It’s a faulty definition that finds Oliver stuck in the clause of “controlling what he can see”---the opposite of faith---in an attempt to keep his hope alive. It’s a tenuous hope dependent upon his insanity cycle, which looks like this:
Hope → Works → Discouragement → Hope → Works → Discouragement
Oliver has made it to the end of his cycle, but, more importantly, to the end of himself. And while distressing, it is exactly what he needs.
Gabe suspecting “deep down that if Hattie’s club was gone, that probably meant she was, too” but not letting that “stop him from ‘keeping the faith,’” and continue to sing is exactly the example of faith Oliver needed to see where he went wrong. Oliver suggests that Gabe’s true faith “insane,” but, in reality, it’s no different than what Oliver has done because it’s the “only way he knew how to keep Hattie alive” much like Oliver’s “insanity cycle” was the only way he knew how to keep his hope for Shane alive.
But where Oliver has hit a dead end of discouragement as he suspects that Shane isn’t coming back, Gabe still has hope despite the possibility that Hattie is gone. Gabe still has the capacity and tools to move forward, where Oliver is stuck.
You see the enemy would have Oliver continuing to repeat this destructive “Insanity Cycle” he created for himself, which, as Norman correctly points out ultimately results in, “waiting for [his] mom to come back, waiting for [his] wife to come back,” and pointing out that he is now “waiting for Shane to come back.” By remaining prisoner to this cycle, Oliver misses opportunities to progress not only in his personal growth, but also in his relationships. But more than that, it causes Oliver to remain a prisoner to his past---the exact thing which landed him in this situation to begin with.
I think it’s neat that Norman just supports him, but doesn’t give him advice or tell him what to do. In many ways I like to think that Norman’s truth, delivered in love, was actually God trying once more to get Oliver’s attention. Finally at the end of himself, Oliver had to look elsewhere and outside himself for answers and guidance. Although he didn’t ask for it, Oliver’s heart was ready to hear it, because it isn’t long before he decides “what to do.” And it’s this bold move that finally begins to break the cycle, and with it the bondage of the past.
It’s important to realize that although Oliver is taking a new approach, he’s still trying to perpetuate the same cycle in some sense. Trying to keep hope alive he tries to go after Shane, whom he perhaps expect to see, allowing him to achieve the confidence tied to her physical presence. At the same time he’s starting to break the cycle---it’s a big deal that Oliver finally “goes after her.” Transition is definitely a process.
I think it’s interesting, too, that at the first point of opposition, Oliver gives up and tries to leave, even though the video picks up when Steve calls him back. He almost gave up and went home. But something in Oliver activates when he sees Steve, what he doesn’t realize is that something else is activating, too.
By changing his approach, and making his way to D.C., Oliver puts the enemy on defense. The enemy has to do something now that Oliver is pursuing his blessing again, even if Oliver might still be doing it with the same cyclical mentality. Oliver is direct, and engages Steve in the same terms Steve used on Shane’s porch. It’s personal for Oliver, but he frames his argument in professional terms. Neither the enemy, nor Steve, were going to bully Oliver if directly engaged. He also redeemed that night on the porch three months prior by continuing to press Steve, who buckled under Oliver’s pressure.
When Shane appeared, however, things changed. Now that the enemy’s first wave of opposition---Steve---failed, he had to find another way to derail Oliver and Shane’s interaction. Remember that this entire discussion began as a battle for their future together--- keeping them apart was the goal. And for Oliver, as faulty as it was, his confidence was dependent upon being in Shane’s presence, so at this point Oliver has actually gained something by being reunited with her, confidence that made him stronger in some regards. The enemy just couldn't have this, so he changed his strategy and set Shane and Oliver against each other.
Now, despite having Shane in his immediate presence, his confidence is unsettled. He is no longer sure of Shane’s intentions, a reality he signals by taking his pen back and referring to her as “Ms. McInerney,” walking away.
And then something interesting happens, using the suggestion given to him by Papa O’Toole---who didn’t teach Oliver how to “fight,” but here manages to have given him a tool to do so---Oliver turns around and begins to fight for Shane, something Oliver didn’t do three months before. Not only does he present a compelling argument, a “wake up call” not unlike Norman did for him, Oliver speaks truth in love that did as much to convey the content of his heart to Shane in that moment as he could. In that moment, Oliver also powerfully broke with his past, having finally fought for a woman who “truly mattered in his life,” perhaps his greatest achievement of this trip.
Finally breaking the cycle, Oliver managed to confront the enemy and fight for his blessing, giving Shane all the facts to make the decision that was best for her, while learning that fighting for Shane and giving her a choice weren’t mutually exclusive.
He had done everything he could to fight for Shane, and it was now her choice whether she returned. Despite not bringing Shane home, Oliver continued on a path of personal progress. Breaking with the past was a powerful step forward that put him in position for his future. But before he could receive that blessing, he some unfinished business to attend to.
Oliver’s decision to reunite Hattie and Gabe, despite not being reunited with Shane, was also sign of growth for him. He pushed past his loneliness, separating the personal and professional, to fulfill his duty as a postal worker, and to confirm the faith that Gabe had all along about reuniting with Hattie. And while no one would say it, I think it’s pretty obvious that Norman, Rita, Joe and Ramon have gone to great lengths to try and support Oliver during this time, but he wasn’t very present for them. All that changes that night at the Mailbox Grille. He asks Papa O’Toole how he’s doing, and Oliver tells his dad he loves him. Then Oliver sticks around to hear the joyous response of Norman and Rita to their engagement.
But, perhaps most importantly, we start to see Oliver actually working through his feelings by taking one of his signature contemplative walks around downtown for what we can only assume is all night. Doing all he could to bring Shane home, and reunite Gabe and Hattie, Oliver’s mind finally possessed the opportunity to process everything he had been experiencing, preparing him to accept the blessing that was already heading his way.
But before we get to the blessing, we need to take a look at how things played out for Shane---come back for that next week!
Gearing Up For Round 2,
The Enemy At The Gate: The Setup | Insanity Cycle | Breaking The Cycle | Letters From War | The Choice | A Promise Made | A Promise Fulfilled | Unlocked