I carry the past that each day I chose
One step to another . . . now everyone knows.
It isn’t the past I would have wanted to claim
But it is my past . . . it is mine just the same.
I wonder sometimes about all of this
Can there be no exchanging what was for what is?
Will there be no will be because of what’s done?
Will yesterday’s darkness eclipse today’s sun?
Is forgiveness a mystery, a want too far-flung?
Is healing a melody not to be sung?
Is change just a hold-out, dangled just past the grasp?
Is grace to be rationed . . . with some of us passed?
No mystery, no silence, withholding or ration
But clearly and justly and full of compassion
Forgiveness and grace for changing and healing
Are given to us through our Savior’s revealing.
Through faith in His love, through trust in His grace,
Our past just becomes our starting-out place.
He is there when we stumble, He is there when we stand
If we rise through the strength of His out-stretched hand.
— Thom Hunter
It stands to reason to me that if we, as Christians, can embrace the idea that bad things happen to good people . . . then we would be able to wrap our arms around the idea that good people — even Christians — do a fair amount of those bad things. And then we could wrap our good Christian arms around those that did it and those that hid it at the same time we comfort those that got pummeled by it. “It” being sin. Surely our arms are bigger than we let on. Surely, there is mercy and forgiveness and grace abounding. Surely we can restore the sinner with the same hope we rescue the sinned-against. Surely God’s love — which is to be in us — is enough to cover all.
We’re so concerned with preserving goodness that we blind ourselves to the ever-threatening badness, fooling ourselves into thinking we can purge it, despite God’s clear warning it will always be with us. We need to deal with it, not delude ourselves into thinking that our purity affords us some protection He didn’t even offer His own Son. We think if we deal harshly with those who have succumbed to temptation that we might find ourselves somehow supernaturally separated from it and unable to fall. Look out below.
We’re so determined to flee that we opt for banishment instead of reconstruction. Go weep and wail and gnash your teeth; we’re praising in here. We build walls where we should build alliances against the evil that is stripping others bare right before our eyes. Sometimes we bow down in solitude when we should stand in solidarity. We nurse our own little nicks from contact with sin rather than addressing the gaping wounds of those who are being slashed to pieces from within.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. — Isaiah 53:6
Did you get that? All. Each. If you know someone who thinks somehow he is not one of the sheep; has not gone astray; has not turned to his own way . . . pray for him. His sins weigh as heavily as yours, but his blinders are a deeper tint.
We pray “give me Your eyes . . . give me Your heart . . . give me Your hands.” Why? So we can see . . . and feel . . . and do, like He would do. We don’t pray “blind me and bind me and callous my heart.” Yet we sometimes pray “hide me in the cleft of the rock,” but for all the wrong reasons. Not for security and salvation . . . but for refuge from the challenging restlessness of the world in which He placed us.
This is no place for cowards.
This is a place for courage.
Courage to carry out courageous commandments.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, that you love one another. — John 13:34-35.
That you . . . judge . . . one another? That you . . . condemn . . . one another? That you . . . shame . . . one another? That you . . . blame . . . one another? That you . . . reject . . . one another? That you . . . remove . . . one another? That you . . . ignore . . . one another?
We’re not here forever: we’re there forever. Glory. But, while we temporarily reside in gory, with glory in our future, can we not be a bit less cautious? A little less cringing before the mess? Our knees are meant to help us surrender, but it is to Him we surrender so we can rise in His righteousness, not so we can hide beneath His robes.
This is the world, chock-full with God’s creation, from yellow butterflies floating in glorious freeness to hardened murderers pacing concrete cells, from babies cooing to drunkards cursing, from couples pledging forever fidelity to adulterers pursuing destructive infidelity, from children sitting on a sunset beach with a snow cone to children crowded into a dark room longing for a cracker, from a grandmother knitting booties while rocking next to a table filled with pictures of her legacy, to a grandfather striving to picture all the ones who come behind him but choose not to know him.
This is the world, bright and dingy, clear and cloudy, green and gray, life-giving and death-dealing, abundant and barren, pure and stained, refreshing and repelling, blissful and blighted, rejoicing and recoiling, accepting and rejecting. It turns toward us with outstretched hands; it turns against us with a slap. It heals; it hurts. There is so much give and take that we often know not what we have or for how long.
This is no place for cowards.
We are much too often the brute beast instead of the bleating sheep. And yet . . . He is with us always.
I remember taking a walk along a railroad trestle with my sexual abuser when I was about eight. It was on one of the most beautiful days I remember. We stood on the trestle overlooking a perfectly clear and babbling stream that danced upon smooth rocks far below. And I found myself trusting the one who was trying to destroy me for his personal and temporary satisfaction. The sadness of the damage done was overwhelmed by the beauty of the scene in which it had all taken place and the comfort of camouflaged caring.
There were times in the future that I would wish he had tossed me from the trestle to the rocks below like an empty soft drink bottle. Would it have been better to have forever left the brokenness on the rocks below than to have carried it along on the tracks of life?
God has plans. This is no place for cowards.
I am so blessed by those who struggle in determination, realizing there is no guarantee they will overcome the temptation attached to this side of eternity. Still, they hope and pray and trust and obey . . . and if they fall, they rise again to hope and pray and trust and obey. I am encouraged by those who climb free from the suffocating mess and turn and cheer the ones behind them. I am energized by the relative few who reach into a mess they do not understand and offer a hand to those whose hands are dripping from the muck and mire . . . and pull and grasp and refuse to let go, even when the slime makes the grip almost impossible. They do not give up; they do not flee; they love . . . and pull.
There is such a thing as glory. We can see hints of it and they are given to us not to make us content here, but to make us intent to enter that glory someday beside those who might never have glimpsed it but through us. Hand-in-hand with the ones who would have given up and given in and gone down into the gore were it not for the sacrifice of our selves on the banks of their destruction.
This is no place for cowards.
I have exchanged the anger I once had for the spiritually-blind and churchianity-bound self-proclaimed saints for pity. What an unattractive flock. Yet, I am aware that if one of them strays — even into that pure-white blindness of their own self-sustaining spirituality — Christ will go out of His way to bring them in and keep them safe. Some of them need to be saved from themselves.
Yes . . . I hurt others because of my decades of enslavement to same-sex attraction. I was selfish . . . or at the least the self I thought I was was selfish. Sometimes we feed a person inside who was never invited but has become like home-folk. That sinful guy becomes very loyal, even in his unlimited demanding. He has his own view of the world, and it’s based on desire. He is determined to get what he wants.
To quote the Borg from Star Trek:
“Resistance is futile.”
Or, to quote God:
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. – I John 5:3-5
Feed the bleating beast’s insatiable demands? Futility. Obey God’s commands which “are not burdensome?” Victory. Love. Overcoming.
Christ came and died and rose again not to insulate us from the sins of others, but to free us from the burden of our own, that being death, which He conquered in our place. And, in His great love for us, He gives us the desire to work as we can to defeat the sins we still bear. That great love should cause us to willingly bear with others the weight of the sins they have yet to conquer.
But what of judgment? Does it not stand to reason we should suffer and be punished and die a thousand deaths for the darkness we have dabbled in and dealt to others? Don’t we need to add a little spice to the consequences? Drive it all home? JUDGE?
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son. — John 5:22
Judgment has already taken place. Jesus bore it; my sins and yours adding to the weight. Yes, I will account for all my sins when I stand . . . finally and forever . . . before the King. The King who entrusted all judgment to the Son.
This is the world. The world that Satan wants to rule; the world that Jesus wants to love. The world that Satan came to kill; the world that Jesus came to save.
Jesus was no coward.