So, last week I was horrified to see a woman repent on national television. She wept uncontrollably as she confessed to seeing the error of her former ways and vowed to change for the sake of those who were confronting her.
re⋅pent [ri-pent] –verb (used without object)
1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. (often fol. by of): He repented after his thoughtless act.
2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.
As a Jesus-lover, I’m usually all for repentance. I’m not put off by emotional displays and I’m accustomed to seeing all kinds of strange events brought into my living room via the tube. So what was so horrifying to me about this woman’s outburst?
She was repenting of neglecting her hair, nails and wardrobe in order to raise her children, care for elderly parents and build a business with her husband who was also her best friend. Seriously.
Now, I’m all for makeovers and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking the time to care for one’s self but that wasn’t the tone of the show. What I was watching was a “come to Jesus” moment except that it wasn’t Jesus, it was “come to the spirit of the age that says we must all put ourselves first and value self-care and appearances above sacrifice and heart.”
I see this spirit affect the men and women who attend my weight loss groups at the Y. During our first session, people introduce themselves and inevitably, I learn I have a room full of caregivers: mothers, grandmothers raising grandchildren, teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, social workers and volunteers. The people who fill the room are those who keep our community running and who make other people better people. But they are filled with shame, with self-reproach and with sorrow.
Because they have committed the crime of being over-weight and of neglecting their appearance to care for others.
Again, I’m all for being a healthy weight. I’ve pursued that goal my entire life and I work to help others reach that goal. The problem is that we’ve created a culture that values appearance above heart, above sacrifice, above love.
I watched in astonishment as the woman on TV repeatedly confessed her crimes to the camera. “I don’t remember when I last had my hair done.” “I don’t think about what I look like throughout the day.” “I haven’t really spent money on myself in years because I’ve been caring for other people.” Each of these confessions was accompanied by tears and the encouragement of the program hosts that they would show her the “way back” to restoring her appearance to something that wouldn’t cause shame and embarrassment to her family.
Really? Is this where we want to take our culture? I’m not interested in a return to Puritanical fashions and sermons about the dangers that women will fall prey to vanity by wearing lipstick but come on! If Mother Theresa were still alive, I can see them courting her for this show.
“We love her and all that she’s done for the poor but we’re here to show her that a little mascara will really make her eyes “pop” and with the right accessories for that habit that is sooooo last century, more people will be willing to hear what she has to say about people in need.”
I sat with a group of women friends last week-end to celebrate the upcoming marriage of one friend (who happens to be in her seventies) and to minister to one who is battling cancer. When I think of these women, I don’t think about what they look like. I think about the love they have shown to God, to others, to me, the sacrifices they’ve made for their loved ones, and the hearts they have that are always looking for ways to give. Together we laughed, we cried, we ate, we talked, we laughed some more. We reflected back to one another the love we emanated. We were the mirrors into which we looked that day.
We laughed because we knew that while our bodies are aging, suffering,and dying what Celine Dion sings is true “Our hearts will go on.”
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
As a society, we’re really celebrating all the wrong things. We value what is passing, what is dying, what will one day succomb to the earth.
I do agree with our culture that many of us are seriously in need of makeovers and heartfelt repentance. We have neglected ourselves in this area for too long. I just think we’re focusing on making over the wrong parts.
What we need are makeovers of the heart.
Are there more devastating words?
I cringe when I hear those words whether they are spoken by a child weeping over rain soaked artwork or a friend decrying a failed marriage.
“It’s ruined” is the first stone thrown through the perfect window of Eden, sending shards of glass sailing through time to penetrate each of our lives – puncturing vital organs, severing hope from realized dreams, slicing through veins that spill the blood of our life’s work into thirsty graves.
You’ve ruined the moment.
The holiday is ruined.
My dress is ruined.
Our plans are ruined.
The rain ruined his laptop.
Their dreams lay in ruins.
He ruined her reputation.
His career is ruined.
The business is ruined.
The decision ruined her life.
There is no greater condemnation.
There is no coming back from ruined. Ruined is a dead end street. Ruined is a purple stain on a bolt of white silk. Ruined is D-Day, Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima. Ruined is the harvest that remains when the locusts move on. Ruined is a life sentence. Ruined is the sound of an IED. Ruined is a suicide bomber. Ruined is taps.
Ever since Eden, we have lived our lives among ruins. Like survivors of a nuclear holocaust, we scratch out an existence from the remnants and refuse of ruin. Even when we bask in the sun enjoying a rich harvest, we watch for the gathering clouds of ruin on the horizon.
Are there more exhilarating words than “This can be saved after all.”?
Look, the stain is completely removed.
We’re renewing our marriage vows.
His plan turned the business around.
The medication is working.
Mom, I want to come home and start over.
She seems like her old self again.
His decision saved the day.
The city is coming back.
Isaiah 61:4:“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
Isaiah 58:12: “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
The greatest story ever told:
Once upon a time, all was lost, everything was ruined.
Then, God revealed His plan: Code Name “Jesus”.
The Ruiner tried to destroy the plan, thought he had brought even this Son of God to ruin, but there was a power greater than ruination.
It is restored.
They are redeemed.
He is risen.
And they all lived ever after.
Did you know that a careful search of scripture will reveal to you that NO WHERE does God command us to LIKE him.
I really want to be liked. If I were God, I would care if people liked me. I’d try to get them to like me and if I were in the business of commanding things, I’m pretty sure I’d command people to like me.
Once upon a time I was leading an evangelistic Bible study and each week I could feel myself become more and more stressed out. When I finally prayed about it, God told me what was wrong with me. The conversation went something like this.
“You’re uptight, Lori, because you want these women to like me.”
“Well, yeah, Lord. I thought that was the point.”
“It isn’t. I don’t need them to like me. I need them to see the truth about me, to seek me, to trust me, to turn to me, to worship me, to love me but I don’t need them to like me.”
“Wow. I’ve been trying to get them to like You.”
“Yes, I know. I need you to stop that. I don’t need a PR person; I need a witness to the truth of who I am.”
Through that time of prayer, I realized that all of my tension came from the fact that I really did want these women to like God and, well, you know God, He can do and say some really unlikeable things. So I would show up to lead the group each week and essentially I was hoping that God would show up too and “behave”. Perform miracles, answer prayers, say what they needed to hear, you know.
But week after week, we’d stumble onto parts of scripture that are tough or the women would be confronted with the need to change or to give things up that were important or someone would invite Jesus into their world and instead of making things easier it would make their lives a whole lot messier for a time.
Like telling a boyfriend they were no longer going to have sex outside of marriage.
Or confessing to a spouse that they’d been lying about their spending habits.
Or telling a boss they would no longer participate in covering up fraudulent behavior.
Or giving up a drinking problem.
Once I stopped worrying about whether or not the women LIKED God, it became easier to introduce them to Him. I felt relieved. I no longer felt the need to explain Him or to defend Him. I just told them what I knew about Him and together, we learned more about Him through the Bible.
And eventually, most of the women did see the truth about Him, did seek Him, did trust Him, did turn to Him, did worship Him, did grow to love Him.
I think that I wanted them to like Him so much because I thought that if they liked Him, some of that liking would rub off onto me.
Instead, I learned that being liked isn’t really what’s important. In fact, it can get in the way of having a real relationship. Real relationships are satisfying. They last through all the messy, unlikeable seasons of life. Real relationships survive the times when we are unlikeable and we ALL have those times.
Margaret Thatcher said “If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” That’s true. Allowing one’s self to be driven by the desire to be liked leads to all kinds of compromise and we can’t afford to compromise the truth of Jesus Christ.
God’s not running for reelection. He’s very secure in His position and He doesn’t check to see how He’s doing in the polls. He is who He is.
I like that about Him.
God is not like me but I am learning to be like Him whether anyone else likes it or not.
Do you know the Black Dog?
The same man who famously said “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Or “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” This same man wrestled with bouts of depression, deep inner darkness that threatened to consume him, Black Dog days.
There’s nothing glorious about depression. It arrives, unbidden, and remains to occupy one’s soul like a distant, unpleasant houseguest, selfishly consuming one’s store of resources for days on end.
So where is God when the darkness descends, when the Black Dog arrives, howling at the moon?
King David wrestled with the darkness of the soul. He who Scripture describes as a “man after God’s own heart” wrote “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Ps 10:1 and “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is you God?’” Ps 42:3 and again “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” Psalm 42:5.
David’s sorrows and bouts of sadness weave through the Psalms like a scarlet cord he drops from his window to remind God to rescue Him when He will. And He does.
Psalm 13 begins with these words “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” but the same Psalm ends with these words “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
There were others in Scripture and throughout church history who have wrestled with the darkness of the soul. Periods of depression are not a sign that you do not know God nor are they a sign that you do not have faith. I’m not sure what they are but they are not that.
I do know that when the Black Dog arrives, he isolates me from others. Like a prisoner of war cast into solitary confinement, I do not enjoy the sweet fellowship of others even when I am in their midst.
So I turn to the written page – just as David did with his Psalms, just as Churchill did with is painting and his writing, just as others have done – I write out my darkness, I spell out my fears, I compose my sorrow into prose much like prisoners in isolation scratch notes onto the walls or tap out code to those in the neighboring cell – the sound of my keyboard like the desperate tapping of one seeking company even in the darkness of her confinement, the scratching of my pen like those who mark the days using the ends of charred sticks upon the wall.
I believe that when Christians face trials of all kinds there is a purpose – not the least of which is to carry a message back from the darkness that we have been there and prevailed through God’s mercy and grace. So that we can echo the words of Corrie Ten Boom who survived a Nazi concentration camp that “There is no pit so deep that the Presence of God is not there with us.”
The Black Dog may win the day but in the long haul, the eternal one, he does not prevail against the Hound of Heaven.
No one in our generation or the ones we’ve raised is going to buy snake oil, swamp land or magic beans.
We have Consumer Reports, government studies and Search engines.
We don’t fall for magic. In fact, we line up for shows featuring magicians who expose their tricks because we’re so smart we always know it’s a scam. We invented smoke and mirrors. We are all Penn and tellers.
Our generation was born with a back stage pass. We invented special effects, computer graphics, the green screen, myth busting and reality TV. We wink because we know the models are airbrushed, botoxed and surgically enhanced.
We are skeptics, cynics, agnostics, investigative reporters and we would even put Little Red Riding Hood in an interrogation room – no one’s THAT good – she probably approached the wolf – planned the whole caper – check out Grandma’s insurance policy – we’ve got you now, Missy and whatever you’re carrying in that basket of goodies!
Yeah, we’re so smart. We don’t fall for nothin’.
We’re wise to Puff the Magic Dragon, we know why Lucy’s in the sky with diamonds and we’re not following any yellow brick road because the our government has confiscated the poppy fields for medicinal purposes with our approval.
Don’t bother to yank back the curtain on Oz ‘cause we weren’t coming to see him in the first place. We’ve always known that we had the answers deep within us.
None of our fairy tales have happy endings and if you can’t deal with that, well, that’s all right. We love you, man. What’s true for us might not be true for you. Peace, out.
And in the church, we’re even smarter.
We’ve got the book that holds the secrets, reveals the ending, spells out the future and explains the past. We’ve got prophesies, praise songs and demographic research to bolster our five-year plans for winning the downtown area for Christ. We’re no fools.
We read the Bible in a year, do devotionals in a minute and we’re reinventing church with coffee bars, PayPal and high graphic websites. Our leaders know how to Facebook, blog, twitter and text so we never have to worry that we’re out of touch.
We’re so smart.
We know how to send, spend and trend without falling for the schemes of the evil one. We don’t buy Bibles off the back of a truck. And when we send someone over they know the lingo, the culture, the worldview and the current political vibe. They go prepared to fill bellies and feed souls while respecting the locals and immersing themselves in the water and the people and the Spirit without getting lost themselves. Like the church’s version of Jack Bauer on 24, our people know how to go undercover, deep undercover and penetrate enemy lines all while staying loyal to the home team.
We’re so smart.
You know who else was smart? Joshua and the gang. When the Israelites came out of their forty year wilderness wander, the generation that grew up there knew what was what.
They’d seen the pillar and the fire of God. They’d had manna from heaven and water from rocks. They had the law and they lived with prophets. They’d seen the ground open up and swallow those who rebelled and they buried their disobedient parents before they were allowed to fight their way into the Promised Land. This was a generation that knew a few things.
But in Joshua chapter nine, God records that a bunch of backwoods locals from the hills pull the wool right over the eyes of the leaders of Israel. It wasn’t even a brilliant plan.
What was the downfall of the leaders who were so smart? Joshua 9:14: “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but they did not inquire of the Lord.”
So they are hoodwinked by the Gibeonites. Why? Because they did not inquire of the Lord.
They were so smart.
So it reminded me to remember that our enemy is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He was a deceiver from the very beginning. He is the father of lies.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4: 7-8b
Smart is good.
Better to be wise.
Best to stay close to the Shepherd and learn what it means to inquire of Him – every time.
When my son was home for Christmas break, I watched a couple of his action/adventure movies and had to keep asking, “Is that guy on the good side or the bad side?” My son’s answer was often, “It’s complicated. Just keep watching.”
Usually everything got sorted out at the end of the movie but not always.
It’s the same on TV. Many lead characters on shows I love are seriously flawed. Like House, with his nasty disposition and pesky drug addiction. Or Gibbs, on NCIS, who is so wounded by losing his first wife that he’s gone through three others trying to replace her. Or Don Eppes on Numb3rs who is so out of touch with himself he can’t commit to any woman, so he’s restless and searching despite his other accomplishments.
Or the show about the group of men and women who are elected to serve the people but are always discovered to be harboring corrupt personal agendas or hiding immoral lives behind false fronts. No wait, that’s the Evening news and those are political leaders. My bad.
Anyway. The good news about this cultural development is that it is closer to the Biblical model of presenting the story of people’s lives than say, Marcus Welby or Father Knows Best. God always included the faults and flaws of his followers alongside their acts of faith and heroism in Scripture.
For example, we know that Father Israel tricked his brother out of his birthright. We know that Noah had a bit too much of the fruit of the vine one night after the boat landed. We know that Sampson was often ruled by little Sampson. We know Peter panicked when Jesus needed him most. And we know that King David resorted to murder to cover up a spring fling with an alluring neighbor lady.
60 Minutes would have had a field day.
But then, Morley Safer has nothing on God. God is the original investigative reporter.
So, as I said. The good news about this modern development is that it is akin to how God presents the stories of people’s lives; the bad news is the way many of us are reacting to these flawed characters.
Modern man enjoys stories about flawed heroes and ambiguous outcomes because we recognize the deep flaws in our own characters and so we want to see ourselves portrayed sympathetically. We’re moving away from story endings where the “good guy” wins and the “bad guy” gets his due because we’re not so sure which one we are and we’d like to think there’s a little wiggle room for the villain in the end.
It’s our cultural way of saying we recognize that we are all capable of doing wrong – or choosing wrong- or actually being wrong-hearted but rather than hope for change or salvation – we’re going to embrace our dark side, find a way to appreciate it and decide we wouldn’t be ourselves without it. We run to Darth Vader and call him “Papa” rather than go through the effort of resisting and overcoming the virus we inherited from the poisonous fruit of our ancestors.
There is another way.
God tells the stories of flawed heroes in the Bible to illustrate two truths.
The first is that “no one is righteous, no not one.” When our first parents fell from grace, we all felt the bruise on our souls. The best of us cannot save ourselves.
The second truth is that there IS salvation to be had. We aren’t supposed to embrace our dark side, we’re supposed to bring it to Christ and receive His cure. The heroes of the Bible became heroes through the power of the same spirit that is available to us now!
Our culture has truly developed a dangerous “sympathy for the devil” and it runs like a scarlet cord through the stories that we watch and that we tell. Christians shouldn’t be running from this, however, we should be diving in to engage the culture with our own stories.
“Yes!” We should cry out. We are all flawed, even our good guys need to be saved. But here are stories of faulted men and women who found a different way than the ying/yang of cherishing their faulted selves. Here are the stories of those who discovered that Jesus embraced them with their flaws, saved them despite their dark sides but then empowered them to change.
God is calling all His story tellers to hit the road with their stories. Now is the time to be telling them in all their glorious detail. Add to the culture your own tales of faulted heroes and heroines with fatal flaws who found a Way, a perfect Hero who paid the price for us all and made the ending of the final story anything but ambiguous.
In an age when the culture is steeped in the lie that humanity’s best chance is to acknowledge our dark sides and embrace them, the cry of the revolutionary storyteller is “THERE IS HOPE IN THE DARKNESS. THERE IS HOPE!”
So, I spent yesterday reading through Moses’ interactions with God from Exodus through Deuteronomy (I did a lot of skimming). Moses spent time meeting with God “face-to-face”, the Bible says, “as a man speaks with his friend.” Wow. I mean, seriously, wow.
And what I love about the relationship between Moses and God is how real it all gets. You can’t read through the book of Numbers and miss what a whining, complaining, grumbling bunch of people Moses was leading through the wilderness (and before you think I’m picking on them, my husband and I can’t drive thirty minutes without a quarrel so I’m pretty certain they’re representative of the entire human race on a forty-year wander with only McManna burgers and McManna fries to eat.)
So, there are moments when God tells Moses to stand back while He destroys all the people (Exodus 32:10). He assures Moses He can create a whole new people using just Moses’ DNA. (Moses intercedes for the people and then marches down the mountain to have a word with his wayward flock.)
And then there are moments when Moses loses it like in Numbers 11 when he says to God “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin.”
“Kill me now. I’ve had it with these people.” This is the prayer of a holy man who speaks with God face-to-face.
I’ve prayed that prayer.
After four decades of following Jesus, I’m trying to go deeper. I’ve seen some amazing things following God – like miracles, answers to prayer, minds changed and lives transformed. I’ve also known bitter disappointment, long silences from heaven, prayers that fell back to earth like shot gunned quail and lingering questions about giant issues like hell and bigger issues like how I’m supposed to spend my days.
What I sense about going deeper with God is this idea of being real with Him in prayer.
When I was baptized, they played the hymn “Just as I am”, a hymn that says I come to God through Jesus Christ, with nothing to my own credit. I come just as I am and am received because of Jesus.
But, somewhere along the way, I started trying to clean up my own act before I appeared before Him in prayer. I started masking my real feelings and questions with flattering phrases and religious words I thought would provide the formula to getting the answers I wanted. My prayers often bordered on idolatry as I struggled to break the “Open Sesame” code that would pry open God’s fists that seemed to be clenched around my desired blessing.
I’m discovering that “Just as I am” still applies. Even after knowing Him for four decades. Even after reading the Bible cover to cover again and again. Even after a degree in Biblical Studies. Even after all I know and all I’ve done, I still appear before Him with nothing to my own credit. I come “just as I am” in the name of Jesus.
Sometimes, “just as I am” means lost. Sometimes it means confused. Sometimes it means happy and content. Other times it means angry, doubting or “just kill me now, I’ve had it with these people.” It’s freeing to come “just as I am”, to stop hiding from God and working so hard to get something from Him.
I want to want God first. Usually, I come to Him wanting something else but I want to aim higher now. I want to want God first. So, I’m learning from Moses because he was real with God. He spoke with God face-to-face, as one would speak with a friend.
I suspect the reason for this is that when Moses met with God, he knew in that meeting that God was the real Promised Land.
There was a time when my family did not belong to the local YMCA. My water bug daughter longed to have access to the pool there and frequently remarked that she would do anything to be allowed to swim every day.
Then, we joined the Y and we were granted access to the much longed for pool and Hannah did, indeed, swim at every chance she got. In fact, she was such a devoted swimmer there were predictions that before long she would be a lifeguard, a swim instructor, or Director of the Y.
That was five years ago. We’re still members of the Y but I think it’s been three years since Hannah has so much as gotten her toe wet in their pool.
This Sunday, we sang one of my favorite praise songs “Take Me in to the Holy of Holies, take me in by the blood of the Lamb, Take me in to the Holy of Holies, Take the coal, cleanse my lips, Here I am.”
When God instructed the Ancient Israelites to build the Tabernacle and (later the temple), the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place was the most inner room and access to it was severely restricted. This perfect cube, separated from the rest of the place of worship by a heavy veil was the room where God dwelled when He was among His people. The veil represented the barrier that existed between a Holy God and sinful humans.
No one was allowed access to the Holy of Holies except the High Priest and then, only on one day a year – the day of atonement – after much ritual cleansing and bringing with him the blood that he would offer on behalf of his own sin’s and the sins of his people.
As a Gentile woman – of non-Jewish heritage – I would never have gotten anywhere close to this type of access to God. If you use a reverse zoom lens in history and begin at the Holy of Holies and then zoom out – I’m at the cooking tent with the barbarian tribe way off to the left trying to carve a god out of a tree limb left over from the evening’s campfire.
His coming divided time and at the moment He died, the veil that prevented access to the Most Holy Place was rent in two.
And a twenty-first century Gentile woman was accepted into the holy priesthood and granted access to the Most High God in the place where He resides.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
As I sang Sunday, I asked myself how often I take advantage of this ultimate privilege. I don’t mean how often do I talk about meeting with God, write about meeting with God, read about meeting with God or think about meeting with God. I mean, how often do I actually spend time in His presence?
I have been granted absolute access to God, to His most inner sanctum, to the place of transformation, direction, healing, petition and face-to-face worship. With this kind of access, you’d think people would ask me, as the Jews asked Moses, to veil my face to shield them from the reflected glow of God’s Shekinah glory. You’d think.
So, as I was singing, I realized there is something more aggravating, more frustrating, more insulting, indeed sadder and more haunting than the words “Access Denied” –
Most people don’t know that about me because I’m also a procrastinator so I don’t get around to following through on quitting but I quit on things all the time.
I’ve quit on my marriage. My husband of twenty-one years knows how many times I’ve given up.
I’ve quit on homeschooling. Over the past twenty years, my kids have heard me many times mention that the following week they would be registered for public school.
I quit on karate about twelve times a week before I earned my black belt. Most people don’t know about that because I was usually mumbling about giving up as I was face down on a mat or in a muddy football field.
I quit on writing at least once a week but no one notices.
That’s why I find the verses in the Bible about perseverance to be the most annoying. Perseverance, what a boring virtue! A clue to the irritating nature of perseverance is that it’s generally mentioned in tandem with its twin sister – patience and it’s developed by enduring suffering. Really, need I say more?
James writes about perseverance in chapter 5: 7-11: “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
OK, how irritating is that? Farmers, Job, prophets, suffering, waiting – all boring, all hard to do. Where’s the gratification? Where’s the glory? Where’s my best life now?
Galatians 6:9 is another frustrating passage: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Again, with the farming, the waiting, the not giving up. There’s nothing exciting about watching things grow. Try it some time. Planting is fun, harvest is a Mardi Gras but the actual growing – this is not the gripping stuff of bestselling novels or summer big screen blockbusters!
Knights of the Round Table were often known for their virtues. Sir Lancelot, the brave. Sir Dinadan, the bold. Sir Bedivere, the True. No one is lining up to be known as Sir George, the Perseverant.
So, how does a quitter with an aversion to long-suffering stay married twenty-one years, homeschool for the long run, earn a black belt, or continue to show up at the keyboard every day? Daily meetings with God at the well that never runs dry.
He listens to my complaints. He endures my irritation and my impatience. He nods when I offer my resignation. Then, He speaks. I listen. He pours Himself into my empty cup – Living Water for my thirsty soul.
OK, I decide. I’ll give it one more day – but I’ll probably quit tomorrow.
God smiles. He knows all about perseverance. Believe me, He’s the Master.
Do you know what I mean? Other people seem to dress with ease. They have the right apparel for summer at the first bud of a tree and they seamlessly slip into cardigans as the first orange leaf falls to the ground.
Their clothes match. They fit properly. These are people who must wear stain remover as body lotion and look like they splurged on the “dashboard steam press” option for their car. Don’t even get me started on their shoes.
I’m not an adventurous dresser and have no desire to call attention to myself but it’s probably unnatural for one’s closet to have only three color selections – navy blue, khaki and black – unless one has taken holy orders. It’s bad enough living fashion impaired but now my daughter has taken to watching this show on The Learning Channel called “What Not to Wear” so I have a whole new fear that my friends are secretly filming me from behind and planning an intervention complete with a 360 mirror.
Did you know that “What Not to Wear” was inspired by the Apostle Paul and originally aired in Colossae – an ancient commercial center on the Mediterranean Sea in what is now Turkey? Paul was way ahead of his time.
In the third chapter of his letter to the Colossians, Paul spells out “the rules” for the well-dressed Christian. Step one with Paul is the same one Stacey and Clinton have for their victims – I mean, volunteers. Get rid of the clothes that are not appropriate.
Paul says to rid ourselves of things like anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lies. Also, always out of season for believers are sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed and idolatry. These are some of Paul’s “fashion don’ts” for those who say they follow Christ. They can’t be recycled, redeemed or stuffed into the back of our closets. The only answer is to rid ourselves of them completely.
What IS in fashion for the Christ-follower every season? Paul says “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other, and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Yes, that’s right, love is the new black.
I think it’s amusing that the producers of “What Not to Wear” also stole another idea from the Bible. They award their participants all the money they need to buy a new wardrobe.
Many of us wear what is out of fashion because it’s cheap and easy to acquire. Quality clothing is usually so high-priced as to be out of our reach. So it is with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love.
Oh, sometimes we find knock-offs. On our own, we manufacture cheap facsimiles or stumble onto copies that fall off a truck and that may fool some of the public some of the time but, well, you know.
The good news is that God is also willing to foot the bill for our new duds. He knew we would never afford proper attire on our own so He paid for it all for us. Through Him, we can afford Designer fashions for the soul.
Why so many of us insist on still wearing rags, I’ll never know.