Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Puffy Paint and Fanny Packs

As she casually spoke, her words jostled my gut. Whoa…back up. Am I hearing this correctly? With minimal prodding I realize something is awry. Her answers are evasive.

Why do we ignore the glaring truth in front of us and blaze forward into unholy places? Oh, we cover it up nicely. We justify it with spiritual words that sound intelligent and religious. But, my friends, much of our religion is empty – so desperately empty. I shudder and I am ill at the thought of our own hopeless depravity.

How can I focus on the task at hand? My penmanship fails me and I toss another poorly addressed envelope aside. My mind is racing and searching for some justification I can accept. Finally I turn to my husband. “Tell me I should not be upset.” He pauses.

“I can’t,” he finally replies. I groan.

And left to wrestle with these familiar emotions, I return to this single thought: that the shame of it all is the reproach we bring upon His Name. O all the ugliness and greed that charm our minds to consider what we should never give regard: it causes men and women to loathe the very One we verbally stand for, and our lives so dimly reflect.

I see this very thing in me: a struggle between what is right and what is palatable; a tug-of-war I consistently lose. Let’s just stop disguising it and call greed what it is. Let’s give our selfishness the title it has certainly earned for all the many ways it is able to succeed. But let’s not dress it up and be-dazzle it with justifications. It’s like adding puffy paint to a fanny pack. Justification is entirely unhelpful – our motives are still ugly.

Yet, He came to love us, sinners that we are. Lord, impart this grace into my heart; to love those who make my soul feel sick with grief and anger. Do I not fear your holy love for those I let my heart disdain? I must realize that these dark places would be far more familiar to me were it not for You, who save me from my own self. Perhaps some are, and I simply do not recognize where I am.

Learn to love, I must. The practice of forgiveness and grace is so unnatural - but entirely necessary.

The line between recognition and judgment is often erased in the name of love. When I see the church frequent shadowy corners it burdens my spirit in so many ways. I am convinced it breaks His heart to witness. I am not speaking condemnation when I state the obvious wrong, but I invite His displeasure when my heart breathes furious mutterings against those He deeply loves. Like a mother, aching as she listens to her children bicker and bite and cheerfully tattle on one another - such a draining and mournful experience. I imagine it is a taste of His emotion as He sees our proud looks and hears our arrogant thoughts. We are no better. We are terminal with the same disease - this sickness we are fascinated by, called sin.

O the great shame of it all is the sorry mockery we make of Him for the entire world to see. He is not bound by our own representation, however. He proves Himself by His own creation, by His Word and by His Spirit. I fix my eyes on Him and there too, I place my hope. While men and systems will disappoint and fail, He is able to work all things for our good and for His glory. I stand amazed.

My heart beat slows to a steadier pace...no longer so passionately fueled with emotion. And I pick my pen up once more and determine this moment to love. A moment away I will need to strengthen my resolve again, but for this moment grace wins in me.