Recognition

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Oswald Chambers wrote some time ago, “The recognition of sin does not destroy the basis of friendship; it establishes a mutual regard for the fact that the basis of life is tragic. Always beware an estimate of life which does not recognize the fact that there is sin”.

We shouldn’t be surprised by sin. I am not saying that we avoid revealing its consequences, or of admitting that sin hurts. But the fact of its existence surprises most Christians, and that’s silly.  There is something repulsive about a narrative that is blind to the fact of what is. Exaggerated or naive positivism is a lie. Choosing to ignore what is does not immunize us from its consequential nature.

If we’re aware of our own sinfulness, we can extend grace toward others who sin against us. Once we accept reality, our eyes are opened fully to sheer wonder and terrifying beauty. Then we can turn back and, with bright eyes, extend a hand to the other.

Cultivation

In Genesis 1:28 we’re asked to go and cultivate a garden, “…Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…”. It implies a wealth of further meaning. It suggests service, patience, attention, and a perspective for the future. Love is all of that and we can clearly see the love of that One who is full of patience and grace, and whose vision far outstrips our own. That One could demand satisfaction right now, in full. We would be in such poor state to do that. We cannot love God with perfection. And he does not demand that of us. Instead, he inters into time and place, approaching,  calling out, and into an attending relationship with us, teaching, filling us up, showing us who we really are and who he really is.

Contrast the process of love–long suffering, cultivation, care, sacrifice, dedication and faithfulness–with the perspective and dogma of sin: sin doesn’t have a long-term plan. It wants something, right now. Sin doesn’t have a goal beyond the self. It doesn’t want to cultivate, to care for, it doesn’t want to hope for the fruit of that relationship. It demands the fruit without faithfulness. But there is no fruit without love.

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Mindful Living

We are people of purpose and being mindful and aware are traits we really should display. We have design–our bodies, lives and faith are full of meaning. We are swimmers emerging from a pool; covered from head to toe in purpose.

But this intentional, mindful, careful way of living is apt to become a mere way to control and influence situations and people toward desired or expected outcomes. It is like someone trying very hard to enjoy themselves at a party and have a good time. I can remember growing up around people who were concerned every moment with living correctly. It appeared at first to be a very sound and serious approach to doing good things. Doing good things is not a fearful concern for avoiding anything at all resembling a mistake. We are called from sin to life.

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Where we run off course is thinking that every situation, every action and motive can be separated from the whole and can be run through some sort of spiritual filter to give it meaning for us to feel safe and confident. If Christians are living secure in their knowledge that their actions are blessed by moral laws, free from making mistakes, they have no need to be mindful or intentional! They have no need of grace.

We are not careful or intentional in crossing a field of tall grass by carefully planning each step and keeping our eyes on our feet–in essence ensuring against any misstep or mistake. In this way we walk off course and in circles. Rather, we keep our eyes on the truth and the One who through grace grants us the spirit to be mindful.

Stop planning and manipulating and begin to live.

Subversion by Grace

fullsizeoutput_12When we begin at once we leave slim margins for anything which does not lend itself to the task or purpose immediately at hand. It dispenses with the superfluous, the inadequate through sheer necessity of action.

At every step analysis takes place to determine the effectiveness of the last. How well it worked, whether or not it was worth the expenditure, and how well the next step will be able to build upon the last. These are all the mechanics of analysis. However, there comes a point during each step where analysis becomes itself a hindrance to the next step through its inhibition of action.

The truth for which I have difficulty taking responsibility is there will never be a complete picture. Complete pictures don’t exist. There has never, is not, and will never be a fully adequate analysis that takes everything into account or realizes the whole situation. In my effort to solve problems and pursue sound steps and make really good decisions I become confused with gathering all the data. Without good data one cannot come to a good decision, no? Sometimes, yes, but that kind of data cannot be found. Even if it were, my human error must color every piece I touch. I will necessarily disfigure everything I consider. The true error is thinking that data is to be worshipped.

And this is where fact meets an existential truth that explodes what it encounters. Despite even our best efforts, our most carefully laid plans and even our costliest precautions, we can still make blundering mistakes. For all our competency we may still be ghastly failures. And it may be due to nothing at all but our inability to see the picture how it truly is.

And that’s usually what I fail to appreciate until it becomes true. It’s one I find difficult to incorporate into my frame of mind, my action, my life’s ever edited blueprint. I don’t like it.

Yet I must eventually arrive or be arrested by something different: The picture was never meant for us to see. If we knew every aspect of any given situation we would then become God. Only he carries the capability, the will, the life to see the full picture, to hold the facts and know their worth and understand them wholly. This is true not only of those austere and distant questions of war and peace, cultures and civilizations. It is true for every human shortcoming, conflict, confusion and unknown, from the smallest misunderstanding to the most awful grief.

But if this is an indisputable fact of life, why then is it so difficult to understand? Why is it impossible to accept? The human response is one of control. I must control those unseen shadows of the picture that my human analysis cannot take into grasp. It is necessary if I am to have peace and be sure of what I attempt. Human error manifests itself continually as the attempted control of situations and the unseen. Intrigue, plots, manipulation, gossip; can all be seen as the out playing of this striving. The occult, the establishment of religion, the hyper-state, the unscrupulous pursuit of scientific data and the elevation of fact over truth; are the larger, sociological pursuits of the same. In earlier millennia we turned to magic and religion to wrest control. We’ve since moved on and dressed the same magic with modest attire of rationality and science. It is the occult of the verifiable, quantifiable, and we worship it as our God and Maker. But every attempt at control is just as inadequate as the former and the next.

It’s here in my fear and doubt I conduct the same idolatry. how could I possibly trust God with my future? That would be foolish and irresponsible. No, it is far better, quicker for sure, to step in where God doesn’t understand, where God doesn’t care, where his ideas fullsizeoutput_e
for my future don’t mesh with mine. He has bigger problems to contend with and only I am as invested and dedicated to my future happiness and goals as is necessary to achieve them. It goes beyond just not needing God. It goes to where God is cumbersome and a burden, and not a friend. That is a terrible place to find myself.

Then enter truth in its unwelcome, inconvenient, and opposing nature–contradicting, confounding, even absurd in its answer to my protests toward God. It nonetheless brings the surgeons’ scalpel to every idea, proposition, and thought that enters and leaves the mind. God’s truth, as it penetrates the inner chambers of the mind, the very womb of thought, is not like a contrary argument or a divergent position which wins. It is wholly other. It doesn’t oppose ideas; it disarms them. It does not attack; it defuses. It triumphs in distinction and prominence not through power or domination but through humble, quiet subversion by grace and presence. It confounds fact with truth; the confounding of the verifiable with the unverifiable of the otherworldly.

Reality and Epiphany

IMG_1824So often we experience a lived reality and perceive what is true from a distance. We do not know intimately what we know (or think) to be true. Yet sometimes reality (what we live) and truth (what is really real) coincide like two spheres and there we have epiphany–where we can actually experience truth in pure form.

These don’t last but we can recall and remember, as we’re told to do time and time again.  And we can bank on His grace to help us through the times when reality closes in sharply and all we can see is what is happening.

The Spirit moves. And it’s scary and comforting and peaceful. We may well wake up in the night in sheer anguish, And that’s ok, because we can remember.