August 31, 2007

A Psalm of Repentence?

Posted in Personal, The Church at 2:15 pm by Caleb Winn

(I am in pain, and out of my pain I turn to others for comfort. My expectations are so high, my demands for love so absurd, that they will always fail me, for I ask what only God can give. And so I lash out in my pain, and break the hearts of those who do their best to care for me. If man hath no greater love than to lay down his life for a friend, then surely man hath no greater hate than to demand the lives and love of others, only to spurn their heart, once given! And when my sin finally causes me to be alone, I turn to God in prayer, asking not that He change me, but that He make the pain go away.) 

But when I am hurt, the gospel should not be a mere band-aid that provides temporary comfort; it should be the blood that pours out of me, as love from the wounds of Christ. The gospel must not be a superficial salve. It must be the core of my very being, and the lifeblood of my soul. 

(But it’s not. No matter what I say, I love nobody so much as I love myself. I care little for the blood of Christ, when I feel the sting of pain in my own life. And I care so much for myself that I blow everything out of proportion, screaming and crying as if a small scratch is a mortal wound. All I want is a salve, a band-aid, a respite from my self-created misery. When I am hurt, I get bitter, and I get mean. I am not worthy of the Gospel, as I cry out for God to be my nursemaid, to come and take away my foolish, selfish pain.)

But God does not merely condescend to join us in a place of pain. He condescends to bring us up out of our self-centeredness and misery. He condescends to us, so that through him we may transcend our selfishness and self-pity. We shake our fists at God, holding out our bleeding fingers in agony, and He grabs hold of our hands and draws us up to Him.

(But how could He grab hold of my hand?! Even as I write these words, I remember my sin, and it grieves me. How can I praise God? I am unworthy to even speak His name, for these are the lips that have cursed those I love. These lips have broken hearts; how can they claim the heart of God? I understand now why Isaiah said, “woe is me!” for when He saw God’s glory He wanted to praise Him, and could not. Nor can I.)

But God had mercy on Isaiah, and cleansed his lips with fiery coal, purifying him by fire to be a messenger of grace. The Gospel does not make sense. God does not demand that we come to Him as those who are worthy. When I am most broken, He is most powerful. And He uses my brokenness to bring healing. “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have broken rejoice!”

(But I do not want my bones to be broken, or my lips burned! God, give me chastity and charity, but not yet! Let me hold onto my comfort. Let me grasp tightly to my sin. Let the peace of God be kept at bay, while I retain lordship over my life. And let the kingdom of my soul remain in ruin while Christ the King waits outside the walls of my heart, for I am afraid of the fire! And surely a man such as me can never change.) 

But the greatest Christians are not the most moral people. Abraham, David, and Paul were absolute villians. But God has mercy on me, a sinner, and brings not only forgiveness but also restoration. He takes broken instruments of sin and makes them into signifiers of grace and redemption. He takes great sinners and makes them into His saints. Through the pain of conviction and the difficult, humbling process of repentence, he burns our hearts with fiery coal until we, too, can cry, Holy! Holy! Holy!

(But… I have no excuse. God forgive me for demanding a band-aid, and for caring about nothing but my own pain. God forgive me for lashing out at others, beating dear friends with my bloody fist.  God forgive me, and heal the pain that I have inflicted on those I claim to love. God forgive me, and draw my focus to you. God forgive me, and help me to forget myself. God forgive me, and help me to trust in your grace. Though I am not worthy, have mercy on me, a sinner!)

I am not a good person. Right now I feel like I may be the worst person in the world. I do not write this as one who has it all figured out. I am not saying any of this because I am good, but because I am wretched, and so overwhelmed that I would rather die that face the shame of my sin.

But I serve a great God. When I create idols in my heart, He breaks them. When I turn to false gods for comfort, He takes them away. He disciplines those He loves, and His grace drives out sin, slowly, painfully, and completely. For the gospel is not merely forgiveness, but redemption. The blood of Christ not only washes away the stain, but also the sin. God does not merely declare me “Not Guilty,” though I surely am guilty. He restores my soul, and through His sanctifying work transforms me into the image of His Son.

It is a long, slow, and painful process. I’m frustrated to see pereived gains evaporate in the space of a few days, and to see sins that I thought had been long dormant rear their ugly heads. But I know that God is faithful. (Please, God, be faithful!) And short-term retreats are not the whole story. For neither life, nor death, nor my own stupidity can separate me from the love of God.

Break my heart, oh God, that your love and mercy may flow through my veins, and pour out of me as a blessing to others.

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