Iced in

February 23, 2008 § 8 Comments

Twice in the past two weeks we have been iced in.  Now for all our friends in South Florida I am not referring to when the icemaker in the ‘fridge gets jammed.  No, being iced in happens when so much sleet and frozen rain fall from the sky that we are hampered from normal activities.  When this occurs, the yard appears as a lake of glass and the trees like those strange glass collectibles that craftspeople make in mall kiosks.  The roads are treacherously clear-coated with frozen water.  Roofs are completely covered with sheets of ice.  Vehicles are insulated thickly as though a candle was dripped over them throughout the night – only the drops are frozen water rather than hardened wax.  And of course, school is out.  This is being ‘iced in’!

The other day I broke off a ‘tube’ of ice that had covered a particularly long blade of grass, assuming the whole blade would break off with the ice, but to my surprise it didn’t.  Instead, once broken off and removed, it slid off the uncovered the blade which remained soft, and as though winter had never come – it turns out that the ice was its protection.

It reminded me of how nursery farmers in South Florida would water down their plants when concerned that one of those rare freezes or frosts would come and threaten.  I never quite understood until the other day – that the ice becomes a protective insulating cover for the vegetation.

My guess is that our layers of protection come – not so much because our hearts are cold, but because they have been (or are) broken – and we are terrified that they will be again.  So our enemy becomes vulnerability and we cover with harsh exteriors, sarcastic tones, and snobbish airs – that kind of thing.  We become our own nursery farmers but rather than preserve, we destroy.

The problem is that we aren’t blades of grass.  We are people and safety only comes as those raw dynamics within us are protected, not by a facade of strength and emotional indifference, but by truth – the reliance on Jesus that enables us to know, admit and accept who we really are, and that we are loved, delighted in and accepted all the same, by His Grace.  God’s Grace is His protective covering over our frail and wounded hearts in a broken world.

The apostle Paul did a peculiar thing in several of his writings – he told his story over and over again – reminding us (and I think, himself) that he had been a persecutor and murderer of Christ-followers, and that he was the ‘chief of sinners.’  I think he did this to keep before him that, in Jesus he never was ‘fixed,’ but forgiven, which is far better.  And the constant reminders protected him from ‘icing’ himself in behind a false veneer that would eventually eat him alive from the inside out – as it does us.

Let’s face it – our instinct is to think in terms of externals – but we know that externals, when they don’t truly reflect who we really are, are only covers for internal hemorrhaging.  The Gospel alone adequately melts and heals hearts because it alone exposes us (it doesn’t pretend our problems and insecurities aren’t there), and then heals us – in Grace and not in perfection (as forgiven people we can live with our imperfect selves).   This is not based on some empty platitude, but on and in the person and work of Jesus.

This is Good News. 


§ 8 Responses to Iced in

  • Robert Kuntz says:

    If you spend any time at all among believers, you are bound to run into a the phenomenon of “competing testimonies.” Someone will tell the story of how he came to Christ, and who he was before. Then the next person will tell her story, an important part of which is to emphasize how much worse her sins were than those in the prior account. “You smoked pot? Well I SOLD pot.” The next one says, “You sold pot? Well I sold myself to buy cocaine.” And so on.

    The “poor” folks who have been believers since they were five or six are left with nothing to do but brew the next pot of coffee.

    I know the phenomenon well because I’m prone to it myself. An arrogant, believer-mocking pagan until I was 36 or so, my story stands up pretty well on such occasions. Yup, it is sadly true that we – I – can even manage to be prideful about our own sins.

    But Paul, we are reminded, has us all beat. (John Newton, writer of “Amazing Grace” is certainly right up there.) I think Paul repeatedly told his story to the early church, and to us, in part as a way of slaying any objection anyone might raise that this sin or that sinner were just too horrible to be redeemed. I’m struck by this fact: God could have chosen anyone to “be Paul,” to evangelize the world of his day and ours. God could have found someone folks then and now might have found more suitable to such a role. But how much greater is the glory for God, and how much clearer is the power of the Cross, that the “Great Evangelist” was “the greatest of sinners”?

  • unfinished1 says:

    Great words, Robert – you certainly don’t get the ’sense’ that Paul is competing – but, if with anyone, with Jesus – and he freely admits that in that contest, he loses every time.

    It seems that Paul was appropriately concerned that the same feverish pitch among Christ-followers to hunt him down after his conversion, would cause people to want to exalt him as soon as they realized him as being an apostle.

    Both extremes are enemies of Grace (the extreme of hopeless condemnation and the extreme of human exaltation).

  • Olivia Hammar says:

    I can’t believe you sold yourself to buy cocaine. That is disgusting. You are beyond redemption. Just kidding!

    I have a love/hate relationship with this entry. I love the never fixed, just forgiven reference. If I could have that tatooed on the inside of my eyelids, I think I would lead a much more peaceful life. But it is the vulnerablity issue that I struggle with. How do you allow yourself to be vulnerable in this hostile world we live in? Particularly in Christian circles. Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable to Pharisees?

  • unfinished1 says:

    Olivia – just so you tattoo them backwards from the front… is that right?

    I think the vulnerability comes – not by force and not so much in the steamy details of our lives – but in the honest, open assessment that we aren’t finished – and in fact, are quite a mess.

    Remember – Paul’s details were already known – there wasn’t any mystery to what he had been all about – but what he was preventing was people vaulting him artificially as though these things had never happened – that for him was a potentially disastrous thing for him to buy into – atonement by applause rather than the blood of Christ.

  • Flash Gordon says:

    Healing really sounds good to me. Does this really happen ?
    Like the line in Darjeeling Unlimited when the brothers are praying in the temple;

    “Do you think it’s working? Do you feel something”?
    “I hope so.”
    “It’s got to.”

  • unfinished1 says:

    Flash – Yes – it absolutely does – for me, the healing moment in Darjeeling… was the funeral of the boy in India where they faced the point of their most painful memory – and rather than see it as a horrible moment, it was a beautiful one – and therefore a liberating one. This is really what the Gospel gives us and where it brings healing – it gives us the ability to be confronted by our deepest sorrows, fears and wounds – and find that they don’t destroy us – they liberate us because Jesus has entered into them – In other words, the things we most fear and most deeply grieve are born of the dread that when we have to face them, they will render us alone and unloved – but in the Gospel we find instead that they are the places in our lives where Christ has most identified with us – the points of His deep affection.

    This isn’t to minimize or trivialize our pain and wounds – it is to say that deeper than even the scars is the terror of what someone would think of us ‘if they only knew’ – the Gospel announces that God does know, that Jesus has come, and that we are allowed to ‘speak our wounds’ to the God who has entered into them. It isn’t a trite promise of blissful denial – it is reality – and this is where the healing begins (in a nutshell, this is where Jacob’s healing began – Genesis 32)

  • Flash Gordon says:

    I get that.
    The flashback scene in the middle of the funeral showed fear and reaction clearly.
    I think there are a lot of things I am fearful of like this. And it comes out in my life how I treat people.

  • Mike Houghton says:

    Hey Mike. Just wanted to say hello, and let you know that you’ve got another reader (Tom McHaffie gave me the tip). Also, I quoted your thoughts on being “forgiven” versus “fixed” this past Sunday.

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