Saturday, November 13, 2004
She doesn't like herself. Whenever she makes a small mistake, she lands on herself like a ton of bricks. She has been a follower of Jesus for several years and yet was surprised one night when I said God doesn't judge us because Jesus makes us righteous in God's sight. Clearly, she knew this. At least the surface: saved and will one day live with God. The implications for daily life, however, had gotten past her.
Our society worships machines. The bigger and more brutal they are, the better. Muscular, massive locomotives, huge construction trucks, cars with more horsepower than they'll ever need. Even fine art has gone this way, with noisy loud works that contain no delicacy, no subtlety, no potential for graceful dialog. Everything is designed to get in your face and make a
statement. It's becoming more strident, too, as the general noise level rises and each particular sales job tries harder to be noticed.
Thursday I took advantage of the Veteran's Day holiday and went for a ride in the mountains. Near the end of the ride I passed two women who were hiking up from Will Rogers, and just beyond them I saw a chaparral flowering currant bush just off the trail. I called to the women to come and take a look. They'd walked right past this most unlikely of chaparral plants. Hot pink, a brief and beautiful show amid all the dun and dark green. This flower is the first to announce the coming of spring, which in southern California starts a week or so after the first rainstorm.
Beauty is delicate and easy to miss, easy to overlook in the noisy process of life. Internal judgment is supposed to make us tough enough to survive, but it only deadened me to beauty.
God promises to each person who trusts Him a new life. Because everything else God made is beautiful, I assume the life He designs for me will also be beautiful. Our world being fallen, there will be lots of noise and ugliness around us but the reality is beauty. The world will tell us that ugliness is the reality, that beauty is a temporary state. Look around you, man! See what God has made! To say that the world is only ugly because of what men have done is the oversimplified view of the machine-worshiper.
Making sand sculpture is an interesting mix of techniques. The first part of the process is very physical and forceful, with a sledgehammer's subtlety. It becomes more delicate when the carving begins. As the sculpture nears completion my touch must be ever softer, with the final
clean-up being a sort of feathered caress to remove the last rough spots. That soft touch allows the idea embodied in the sand to shine without distractions of misdirected cuts or lines.
If you have a house to knock over, a sledgehammer is a good tool. If you want to sculpt a soul you need something different. Our society provides nothing but hammers; if you don't survive, you weren't tough enough. We learn judgment early.
We deserve judgment. We sin by nature, and God abhors sin in a way I can't understand. Sometimes I get a hint of the pain sin causes in Him when I see its results in people's lives. God made us, and would have been within His rights to toss in the dynamite and wash His hands of the whole sordid deal but instead He made a provision for us. He gave us his Son. All of the judgment that was rightfully ours landed on Jesus. When God looks at us He sees only His perfectly righteous Son, and now we are free from judgment.
Free. Free to partake of the Holy Spirit, Who will work in us to remove the effects of years of judgment. Free to grow in ways delicate and impossible to people who don't have God holding them.
It's no wonder most people believe you can't build an arch out of sand. They're used to throwing bricks. If you put the bricks aside and try a gentle touch, it's quite surprising what can be made, from art to friendship.
You'd think that such a glorious truth would spread throughout the world. That it hasn't is attributable to people such as I used to be. My sister reminded me of this, of how I used my newly learned absolute truth of Christianity to judge others after I came to the Lord. Judgment first and let love pick up the pieces, if there are any.
God's way is entirely different. He started with that one definitive historic act, giving us the Gift of a doorway leading to life. If we choose to enter, He then starts teaching us what His love is and how it works. As His love touches me I learn to recognize its truth, and I learn also what love is not. Bringing a person to the feast is an act of love. Yelling at her when she chooses the wrong fork or doesn't eat what I approve is not an act of love. Let her use her fingers to eat the greasy stuff. Just make sure she remains interested in the food because eventually that will lead to real life, and then look out. God's food is like rocket fuel.
I have years of habit resisting the advances of the Holy Spirit, and His attempts to love me. It's hard to learn trust. That I am learning to live beyond judgment is due entirely to God's patience and active love. He made the first move.
I hope we all learn it before we die under the enemy's bricks. Please take some time to discuss this with God.
2004 November 13 (revised)