Friday, March 14, 2008

Truth in Tension

- Those we love the most, we hurt the most
- Forgiveness, which can never be earned, should always be given
- Resisting offense when we're wronged, but fighting for the injustice suffered by others

All of these things, and many more, run counter to what we believe should be. And yet all of these things were commanded by Scripture to do.

I think one of the hardest things in the Christian life is wrestling with the paradoxes between what our human nature calls for, and what our God calls us to. We are content with the mundane, and He beckons us to the glorious. We think that ordinary is sufficient, He calls us to the exceptional. We've settled for our natural instinct, He calls us to supernatural practices.

Truth in tension. Trying to understand how that which makes no sense can be perfectly sensible. It's never easy. But its worth the fight.


An Unaffordable Love

A good friend of the family taught me that relationships were like bank accounts; you may deposits and you make withdrawals. The key is to not make a greater withdrawal than the accumulation of the deposits you make. That's when problems emerge. The example she gave resonates with me still today - if she asked her daughter to do something and got a snappy response in return she knew that she was overdrawn. In one way or another, the balance had been altered.

We tend to approach our relationship with God in the same way. We think that if we make enough deposits that we're entitled to withdrawals. This is the "well, at least I'm not as bad as that guy" mindset. However, when we think about the deposit that's made been on our account - the selfless sacrifice of a Father who gave his Son on our behalf and a Son who willingly left His rightful place in heaven to pay that sacrifice - we realize that no amount of deposits can restore the balance. We are deeply in His debt. His love can't be purchased and if it could, its price none of us would be able to afford.

The even more amazing part of this equation is that on an account that I can never pay off, the things that I do out of love for Him, the acts of faith, are "credited" to me as righteousness. No payment satisfies the bill and yet we are given credit. What an amazing grace indeed.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Blessed Through the Asking

In college, I learned that when someone told me there problems, there was a tendency to say "I'll pray for you" and then promptly forget that commitment. I started saying "I'll try to remember to pray for you." It was a little more honest, and a little less comforting. It wasn't the first time in my life (nor do I think it will be the last) that I thought telling the truth was more important than protecting someone's feelings.

The strange thing was, I found that as I made this caveated commitment, I was more apt to recall the person's request when I went to my quiet time. Maybe it was because I took the time to form an honest response, but for whatever reason, I was more likely to remember to pray for the person in need when I didn't flippantly agree to. It drove me to pray more which contained wonderful lessons in and of itself.

One of the lessons that I learned was that prayer is a wondrous and mysterious act and its impact is hard to quantify. Despite this lack of clarity as to the end result, I've found that regardless of the answer there is always benefit in the asking. In asking we acknowledge our lack of control and God's completeness of it. We signify our reliance on the will of the One who created all to manage the details of that creation. Prayer is an act of humility because regardless of the outcome, the simple utterance demonstrates that we believe God is God, and we're not.

In this lesson, I've learned that the answers to prayers often exceed my capacity to understand them, but always, I'm blessed through the asking.


Fighting for the Strong Man

Growing up, I was the only ten year old I knew who got tension headaches. As I got older, I would tell people "I'm a world class worrier" and I was. If there was anything to be concerned about, I could probably find it. I think part of it was caused by my tendency to do a lot of listening. If you talk to any group of people long enough, you're bound to discover that somewhere, someone has something not right in their lives. I'm the type of person who takes on the burden of others, so despite all evidence for the irrationality of doing so, I worried.

Later in life, I realized how contrary this was to much of Scripture, and I would like to believe that I've gotten better about worrying. I still tend to be sensitive to the trials of others but I've also learned that praying for someone is the best and sometimes only thing I can do. While I learned the truth of this in practice, it was only recently that I recognized the theory that supported it. After all, worrying about one of God's children presumed that somehow He no longer had things under control. My worry was a demonstration of a lack of trust; it was, in short, sin.

Along with this realization, however, came something else. Recently its been impressed upon my heart that I'm more apt to defend myself than I am to fight for God. When my feelings are hurt, when an injustice has been committed against me, I'm quick to demand an accounting. However, just like worrying demonstrated by lack of faith, so does my desire to fight for what I believe is rightly mine. If I truly believed that God had my best in view, I wouldn't feel the need to struggle for my own place. Instead, I would trust that He would carry this fight for me.

The mental picture that brought this home to me was imagining myself walking down the street with a man whose very strength was evident by his presence. If suddenly our physical well-being was threatened, it would be silly for me to try to engage in the fight. The best thing for everyone concerned would be for me to get out of the way, and let him take care of that which offends us. Similarly, when my place in life is threatened, fighting on God's behalf is just as ridiculous. When I try to take up the battle, all I do is get in the way.

I would no more take up the strong man's fight, then I would try to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Realizing that my strength is totally insufficient and that there is One who has fought the battle and won, makes the temptation to try a little easier to resist.

(Sidebar - As I began this blog, I note that my last post was Jan. 30. I knew that I hadn't written in a while, but I had no idea it had been over a month. The prolonged absence was not caused by a dearth of things to write about, but having too little time to do it in. In the next several days, I hope to take some small steps to rectifying the depletion.)

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Better Things Ahead: March 2008

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