Friday, April 15, 2005
Once For All, Each Second
1. Forgiven. Really!
God blesses those who need him. Unlike people, who tend to give themselves
to those who are already strong. This is a new concept for me; my family
tended to tease needy people and leave everyone else alone.
I was poking around in Blogland the other day and found some Blogs whose
writers were talking about rituals and icons, especially icons of the cross
and making the sign of the cross. Head, stomach, right shoulder, left
shoulder. Others commented on how this made them think about the cross, the
real cross, Jesus' cross, in a different way.
It took a ritual to make them think this? Where have they been? I sat back
in my chair, astounded. Forgiveness is so central to following Jesus that
I'm amazed anyone who's been saved for very long still doesn't understand.
Then I remembered my family, and other people's families, and work
situations and our whole world, and I realized that forgiveness is such a
strange concept that it's a wonder any of us gets it.
I was very fortunate. Need overwhelmed me at a time when there were people
who could introduce me to God in a way that could convince me of
forgiveness. Even so, it was hard for God to get through to me. Habit dies
The Holy Spirit burns fiercely bright. When he moves into a soul, many
things receive light that could be better left in darkness. That's why I
put them in the corners. Dimming or directing light isn't his job, however,
nor is his purpose what we often think it is. We've been taught by example
that people only shine light into the hidden places so they can get an
advantage over us. Rub our faces into the dirt. That's not Jesus' way; yes,
he's fierce about illuminating sin, but it's so he can get rid of it.
Once you walk under the cross, you're forgiven. I know that great
theologians have discussed this issue for 2000 years or so, but I'm both
pragmatic and simple. If Jesus' forgiveness isn't once for all then the
whole thing falls apart.
2. Beyond the Cross
So, the gate is behind you. Jesus has washed you clean and you're in God's
new land. Around you is a large encampment where many people still go
through ritual abasement and obsessive-compulsive hand-wringing, hoping to
make themselves clean. They never look up and back, never see the shadow of
the cross that has already done, completely, what they can never do for
themselves. All the activity does is keep them from going farther.
It's a big, strange land. And it gets stranger the farther you go into it.
Bigger, too, as is described in "The Chronicles of Narnia." Anchored by
guilt, we'll never move in.
Boundaries are mainly internal. Mine were enforced by the Junkyard Dog, and
this has turned out to be a more complex situation than I though. As usual.
Now that the Junkyard Dog has been banished, or controlled or something, I
face the strange edge, naked. The result has been the opposite of what you
might expect: I live in a very small place nowadays, afraid to move.
There's no more automatic control over what I do, so the potential for
making mistakes is much higher. I used to know my world. I don't any more.
You might think that God would be disgusted with me for cowering, hiding my
face, and trying to let the rest of my life just sort of pass me by while I
wait. You might think he'd apply his boot to my tail. That's the human way,
the way of the unforgiven.
God's way is entirely different. He keeps pouring his blessing on me. He
holds his hands around me as I go through the minimum necessary to get
through life. And he waits. He waits for that tide of blessing to seep into
my soul like an energizing glue. It helps me move, and it holds me
together, one day at a time. I hold his hand, I feel the contact, and I
take tiny steps. I guess.
I'm clearly not the person he wants me to be. If I were a human boss, I'd
fire me. Unsuitable, never will be, get out of here and quit taking up our
human resources time. God doesn't seem to know that he's supposed to bless
only the strong, help only those who can help themselves. He demonstrates
each day that he will bless those who know they need him, and will keep on
What does he do when the need is no longer there? When the problem is
solved? The Holy Spirit turns a bit and shines his light into another dark
corner. Again, not to reduce me to abject sin, but to show me what we can
change next. The objective is to remove all that old dead weight so that I
can walk again. And maybe even dance.
We. That's quite a concept. God is in this with me, not just giving orders
but giving his hand, his Spirit, his Son, so that I can live.
2005 April 15