Be Holy, Part 3
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Hi, friends, it's been a long time, it seems. God has been stirring some thing deep in my soul for the past few months that I have struggled to put into words. I was talking to a friend about it yesterday. It feels like I've checked out of the world socially for a bit but it hasn't been intentional. It's just been one of those times in my journey where God is asking me to press into Him in a deeper way. It has been challenging, hard even, wonderful and just all-consuming.
I just can't get away from this theme of holiness, so just bear with me if you will. Our world is changing, and it's changing fast. It feels like a whirlwind of movement and even forceful at times for some of us. Some people are convinced we're all "going to hell in a hand basket" while others are sure that if we just smile at everyone, it will all be okay. These are both such extremes and where do we find ourselves as Christians? As ministers of the Gospel? As parents? How should we respond when we feel ourselves being pulled both ways but neither seems right?
I like to sit along the side and watch people. People say a lot of things. They post A LOT more things, usually things they wouldn't have the nerve to ever say to anyone's face. Social media seems to give once backward closet-Christians some sort of "holy" boldness to fire at will and cast the devil's blame all over their friends and loved ones. There are plenty of people out there with rules about rules and they're so tightly wound they actually act like talking to a sinner (such a novel idea for a Christian) is going to somehow infect them with said sin and ruin their perfect record.
Then there's the other side.
Lately I've noticed yet another surge of rebellion rising up among Christians that gives them some sort of permission to lower their once higher standard to some form of watered down system of beliefs that excuses all human nature as being not just excusable but actually honorable and God-led. I think we've even entered into some resurgence of "cussing Christians" in the church leadership world. To all those who've recently joined this public movement (or the other one where you spent years as a teetotaling preacher but then decided at some age in life it was cool to start drinking and smoking cigars and pipes), I assure you we've already been down that road and you missed the cool train, back in the 90's. Sidenote: smoking fancy tobacco does not make you more theological or scholarly. I'll let you in on a secret, most of us say a curse word at some point in our week, especially if we stub our little toe, and I don't think God is disappointed in it but your public display of "cussing pastor" doesn't fit you and it comes across as some effort to shock the church world with your Christian awesomeness. It's not really working and the non-believers in your life are totally confused.
So, I guess all that was a little bit harsh, but this is the tension we find ourselves in. It actually makes me weary and sad more than anything. Our world is one of polar extremes right now and one side can't be seen tolerating the other. What a strange reality this is from the one Jesus paints for us in the Kingdom. I'm so sad and disappointed at the long-journeying Christians in my life that I've watched carry the banner for so long and now I see them laying all of that down at some less-than altar of religion, or something. And let's just call it what it is. It's either religion or it's politics, or something else because it isn't Jesus. And, really, it's not helping, it's just confusing people.
So where do we go? What do we do? Do we just line up with one side or the other? That would just be so disappointing and lame if that's the answer. The simplicity yet intricate mysteries of God's holiness and goodness have been drawing me in. There are so many wrongs and rights to weigh and so much excess and I just feel myself wanting to wash it all away. I don't want to spend my days measuring sins and allowances. I want to spend my days withHim, like a child in their father's lap. That's how I feel when I allow His presence to consume my days. I feel myself reprioritizing and simplifying my desires. My desires no longer involve treats or substances. My relaxation and peace is not found in an activity or a habit but only in Him. And, the more I'm with Him, the more time I want to spend with Him.
There's a scene in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe when Edmund meets the White Witch. He's cold, alone and lost in the snowy woods of a strange place. He's in a vulnerable place between not believing and starting to believe, made even more vulnerable by his current relational and pride issues. He's looking for his sister and instead meets an enchantress. She offers him cover in her warm coat, gives him a hot beverage to warm his bones and slyly gifts him with his favorite treat, Turkish Delight (I've had it and it's delicious. I can't really blame him for being baited by this gift). She gives him a task-- a task so seemingly innocent but one that begins to immediately turn his heart. It seems innocent enough and seems like something that would benefit his siblings but, even better, promote him to greater levels. His selfishness and insecurity of being the little brother start to fall victim to her trap. He becomes drunk on her momentary fix of warm drinks and sweeties and promises of promotion. She leaves him to the cold again, but he's so lost in her dark magic that he doesn't even consider this carelessness. See, the enemy might woo you with his false realities but he will always leave you vulnerable again. Later, when everyone discovers Narnia together they meet new friends who take them in and tell them of beautiful mysteries. Edmund at this point is so consumed with his obsession of the White Witch and her empty promises she has waiting for him that he's completely unable to take in the wonder of this new world and what new levels of greatness his life could now know. Even after the stories telling of prophesies that remarkably relate to him and his siblings becoming royalty in this new world that they've never even heard of before now, he doesn't even notice because all he can think about is the enchantress and her well-orchestrated distractions. He leaves the cozy warm fire of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's house where his bother and sisters sit and tell stories about the great Aslan and he's back out in the cold again. Again alone, vulnerable. Because, the enemy might woo you with his false realities but he will always leave you vulnerable again. His way will leave you always wanting more, never getting enough and always feeling confused and incomplete. His way will always have you striving and striving, maybe getting a taste of promotion but never really the fulfillment of all you could be. His ways are counterfeit prophesies of a life he can't really produce for you because he is not the Giver of Life. When Edmund finally meets Aslan, first with head hanging low in shame because of all he's done, all he's failed to do, all the chaos he's caused, he finally realizes the difference- the difference in this God and the one he had settled for. He and Aslan have a private conversation about forgiveness, I'm sure, and grace. Later when the Witch comes back, pointing fingers and labeling the traitor it says, "But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he'd been through and after the talk he'd had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn't seem to matter what the Witch said."
That's what happens, doesn't it? When we get in His presence? All else pales in comparison and nothing else seems to even be able to take priority or distract. Not even our failures and doubts. So many people right now are searching. They're putting a lot of hope in other people, other systems. They're filling their time by seeking answers to questions that we will never have the answer to (and probably for good reason). Studying the word of God and seeking meaning and understanding is wonderful but vulnerable searching without His presence being welcomed into the study can create a lot of confusion and false doctrine. Studying His word, absent of Him, with our own agenda in mind can lead down dark paths. In His presence we find understanding and purpose. In His presence the truths about the things that really matter to Him will take form for us. Our priorities start looking like His priorities. Our dependency on other things, substances or achievements is forgotten and we find real peace just being near Him. When we spend time near Him we will start to look like Him, act like Him. We won't have to have it all figured out because our proximity to His presence will show through our lives and ultimately our decisions and choices. Love isthe greatest commandment but counterfeit love, created by people's good intentions and niceties, void of God won't win the day. It will just make someone feel good. Making someone feel good is kind but it won't get them through the dark times in their life or help them know a true Savior more.
In these times of searching and grasping, we have to fall at His feet and stay in His presence. When we're writing all we're writing and speaking all we're speaking, making our proclamations of our truths to the social media world, are we doing that after having spent time with Him, seeking His face? When we walk into the room of our places of ministry or our social platforms are we drawing the attention of others because we have a loud mouth and seemingly edgy statements to make or are we catching their attention because the glow of His presence is still on us? I want to be like Moses, coming down from the mountain, radiant with the residue of His presence on my face. When people ask me questions, I want it to be about how they can find the peace I seem to have in my life or the joy I seem to radiate even through hard times, not about what my stance is on a particular issue or controversy.
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
(fromThe Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis)