"We know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two" ... Farmers Insurance
The outcome of becoming vulnerable to another person includes an element of risk. There are no balance sheets to measure quantitative results. Like a thick and clear plastic shower curtain, we only see and are seen. No control panels for adjusting dials of perception; it is what it is.
Faith challenges us toward transparency with the father and ourselves. As we strip down the clothing of self absorption, we are left with getting into the real hurts and joys of life. As I get closer to people, I see flaws. It does not matter the age or locale, people are people and that bundles all sorts of emotions. Likewise, as I strip down the image of what I think I look like from the outside, I gaze at my own reflection. Fuzzy with steam, i am left with me.
This month is about sin. It is also about the washing of our souls through the breaking of water and wine. It is about new wineskins and the power of His word to transform us from the inside out in order to reach the lost and broken.
I have intimately been in love with the church all my life. On tip toes, I peered through glass windows longing to be drawn into His presence. Faith was simplistic - I believed wholeheartedly in the power of his name. The small number of people I knew with genuine faith seemed to me to hold imaginary magic keys into the kingdom of heaven. It was a slow penetrating belief that settled into my heart. It began a subtle yearning for the church.
The adult version was much the same. It was an honest and intent pursuit toward the kingdom of God. It lulled me like a lullaby in a hand made wooden cradle. It was an explosive expression of His love through loud worship, inspirational speakers and an honest pursuit into truth through the scriptures. It was prayer, fasting and leadership on a grand scale. The foggy mist enveloped me with a quiet and arrogant confidence in a community I loved.
What seemed once clear and evident is now vague and obscure.
Maybe it is age or experience but it is difficult not to grow cynical. I do, indeed, seem to be living in a divided world. In the midst of change, you would think I would be more skeptical but I'm not. In the shadow of political and cultural upheaval, I should be more arduous in my opinions but I'm not. When the church seems to be pushing people away, I want to draw closer. There is a faint muddy water deep within me; it is a realization of the subtle sin that has been present all my life. It is intertwined between my judgement of the church, my own sin and the invitation into Freedom through the cross. It makes a simple acceptance of his love a gasping for a fresh breathe of air; it is an urgent and desperate floating to the top, up through the whitecaps toward His outstretched arms of love.
First the mud
I came across a rain-soaked hat today. It had been raining on and off throughout the night. The hat did not appear to be muddy, just wet. It was a quality double-knit material and as I began to hand wash it under a faucet of tepid water, mud oozed out. I washed it again. Squeezing out the water, dirt continued to flow so I washed it again and again and again until finally, putting the brim back into position, i set it outside to dry.
The sin in our lives can be flagrant or hidden. As we too, are washed under lukewarm liquid, the mud oozes out with consistency. The scriptures are filled with men and women who either knew their own flaws intimately or those who were oblivious to them.
In Matthew 19, there is a verbal interchange between "a rich young man" and Jesus. The disciples appear to have overheard the conversation and follow-up with their own questions for Jesus.
Just then, a man came up to Jesus and inquired, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life? (16) Why do you ask me about what is good? Jesus replied, there is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." Which ones? the man asked. Jesus answered, Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself." All these I have kept said the young man. "What do I still lack?"
What do I still lack?
Jesus continued with an invitation for the young man to surrender something so great and so deep within his heart, that the man went away in sorrow. Jesus turned to his disciples with sharp-hitting words: (25) When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
This is where you and I enter. It is through the mud and muck of perception into a simple exchange of love between the church and it's bride. Yes, surrender all. We are washed again and again and again: for those of us under the illusion that we have done everything right, it will be a long and steady fall. For those of us who are well aware of our pervasive sin and self-absorption, the invitation will be an easy grasp and finally, for those of us who have never seen His grace in the midst of life, it will be a cloudy, steamy curtain until the last grasp of air awakens our soul. It is an invitation to be washed through the power of the holy spirit, the father and son through the cross.
and then the route
As adults, we long for the wooden cradle version of Christmas. It is the evolution of hope through the old testament into the new and the unfolding of a story through the birth of a savior in simple surroundings. It is there we find ourselves in the miracle of his birth. It is the start of a wonderful and miraculous story.
For some, that beginning is brought to an abrupt end through the assault of consumerism as the meaning of Christmas is diluted through our own lens. For some, however, the miracle of Christmas is found in the violent and bloody truth of a ministry that lasted 33 years and the breaking of illusions though the man who took all the stories (yours and mine) upon the weight of his shoulders. The miracle of Christmas is found in the frailty of an invitation.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. 1 Tim 1:15
The scriptures point the way to wisdom and freedom. These past months have brought me to my knees as the evolution of my story unfolds against the backdrop of His. There is so much sadness all around. We need the cross. We need the baby. We need Christmas.
Three wise men, escaping the political terror of their time looked up into the stars, believing in their hearts through faith that a messiah was on his way. With three gifts, they searched. As we, with the the three gifts of the father, son and holy spirt also search; we look both upward and inward and accept that grasp of air - new air.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Rev 21:4
Washing: Christmas is about the washing of your soul. Look up and get up
for the invitation is yours to accept. It is a free gift of mercy and
grace found in the simple cries of a baby.
It is where the story begins.
Will you hear the fragrant scent of Christmas?
May you hear the whisper of your name and your story into the welcoming arms of His.
Love and peace to you today and always.
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.