July 11, 2008 § 2 Comments
It happened in a nanosecond – before any reaction was remotely possible, other than to gasp. In the space of a moment, Tuesday morning, I thoughtlessly moved my razor under my shaving-cream covered lip – only to mow through the tiny beard (a ‘soul patch’ as I have learned it to be called) I had cultivated for nearly three weeks. For me it is one of the few places that hair grows on my face.
You had to see it – well, the truth is that you could barely see it. But I was proud and that was all that mattered, right? I digress…
My real point is that what was actually there, suddenly, and with the swipe of my Gillette Mach3 Razor (I know, I know, there is a more recent version – cut me some slack – I just got into the new millennium with blue jeans!) – with a single swipe my beard was all but erased from my face. All that remained was the last rites – the ‘clean-up.’
In many years of faith and ministry I have learned that so many Christ-followers live in the dread that any given moment could be the one in which God uses a single swipe to eliminate His delight in them, from them. All kinds of factors play in – Churches that preach a moralized, guilt-inducing, version of the Gospel (which Paul reminds us to be no Gospel at all) – Past wounds that haunt and serve as daily reminders that regardless of how good a moment can be, pain is around the corner – Good relationships gone sour – you name it. And somehow – even naturally – these translate into dread, the dread that God might possibly do with us what has been done to us – that He might simply, on a whim decide that He has grown tired of loving us.
It isn’t easy to detect because we know the answers, and frankly, sometimes the answers become their own kinds of obstacles. We know that God’s love isn’t contingent on our ability to love Him back. We know that He is the Pursuer. We know that His love is eternal, His grace a gift and His forgiveness a purchased reality. Those are the answers. And they are good answers.
But then there is the practice – the playing out of what we know in our minds, in every day life. Like when we screw up, or when we fall, or do what we thought we would never do or do again. It isn’t in the classroom or the laboratory, but in the heart, in real life that the Gospel proves itself and demands that we believe what we profess.
Hey the Gospel promises freedom, not misery. Our broken world certainly brings its share of heartaches, and this isn’t to be denied – such is life in an unfinished world among unfinished1’s such as we are – but don’t confuse your status with your struggles. Paul says it best in Galatians 5:1 – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Sometimes all we can do – rather than drown in self-pity and unrelenting terror – is to start growing the beard back – to get up and speak the Gospel to ourselves as though hearing it for the first time, believing that the music you hear is coming from the One who has never lost sight or love in delighting over you with singing.