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.