Saturday, December 20, 2014

Once Upon a Time...

This is no fairytale.  Except it kind-of-sort-of does involve dragons and warfare and rescue, so maybe in a subtle way, it actually IS.

Once upon a time, I was proud.  

- that I subscribed to the most accurate confessions

- that I knew and recited the definitive creeds of Christendom

- that I had chosen a superior denomination

- that I had chosen a superior church within that superior denomination

- that I read the most astute theologians, both modern and ancient

- that my faith wasn't blind, but well-reasoned and intellectual

- that my church sang the *best* hymns - after all, we used the BLUE Trinity hymnal rather than the compromised RED version

That final admission nauseates me.  But it's true.  Secretly, in my heart of hearts, I believed we were "better than" based on this absurd criteria.  When I attended other churches, my first-line response was one of judgement…every single time.  No grace.  No love.  I didn't care about their hearts…and apparently, I didn't care about MINE either.

Tightly-pursed lips in vain conceal
What supercilious brow 
And heav'n-raised promontory
Willingly flaunt.

I wrote that little ditty about someone else, but I might as well have been describing myself sitting in any "other" church.  

And all of this came AFTER leaving the pride-filled life of a legalist!  I had abandoned the burden of a performance based life.  I no longer carried the weight of DO's and DON'Ts as my primary measuring stick.  And yet…I once again found myself in the same place.  Different issues.  Same heart.

I didn't *know* I was proud.  I thought I was *thankful*.  Thankful to have learned and grown and understood enough to get out of that place of oppression and deceit.  But I was still under a yoke…a yoke of SHOULD's and OUGHT's.  A yoke of comparison.  A yoke, not of earning salvation, but of proving myself worthy of maintaining that gift…a perpetual pursuit on that hamster wheel of sanctification, chasing the ever-elusive "good enough."

Every pursuit…every yoke other than Christ's will eventually exhaust us and bring us to our knees. 

God is more resolute than we are and he has ways of delivering us from the burdens we place ourselves under.  Those ways may not always shout MERCY and RESCUE, but that's exactly what they are.  He certainly knew what I needed…and he brought me low.  Sure…my humiliation came at my own hand and as a result of my own choices...yet it was clearly the design of God to humble me.  To root out the foolish pride that I didn't even recognize.  So much of what I loved and clung to - things that masqueraded as good and right and spiritual - didn't matter a whit, but I couldn't SEE that as long as I was standing on my own two feet with the eyes of the elder brother.

Helpless, weak, needy, blind, faint, broken without remedy...THIS is what I needed to be, feel, experience.  He knew that and, in his mercy, he brought it to pass.  All of my idols lay shattered around me.  I labored to reassemble them, only to see them topple again…and again…and again, until I was too weary to even try.    

It was then - as he has promised - that he gave me rest.  He removed the heavy yoke I had submitted to.  He sent rescuers to carry me, to help me stand, and to walk beside me.  

Somehow I doubt that this is my last experience of this kind.  I expect that in another year or two or twelve, I'll look back and recognize the new ways that pride has taken root and the surgical precision that my wise Father has used to extract it.  But every "procedure" increases my reliance on him and my confidence that he knows exactly what he is doing and that he is, once again, manifesting his commitment to rescue me from sin and self. 

He is committed to remaking me - transforming me from glory to glory - until my face shines with the radiance of his reflection.   This is why he came.  And I rejoice in his coming! This redemption is what makes Christmas glorious for all of us.  Thanks be to God.

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