Friday, December 21, 2018

The Sins of Our Fathers

Let's suppose this picture represents several generations of humanity. Let's also suppose the colors represent the bad habits present in those generations. When looked at from above, we see mostly brown, but when we zoom in, we can see some shades of color. That slash of magenta, which began at the top of the tree, represents generations of finger pointing. Then there's that blue stripe representing hoarding. In some generations, the blue goes away because of a family revival, someone came to their senses or made a vow of poverty or something like that. But the blue pops up again further down the line in plenty of kings, dictators, czars and presidents. 

There's also the lime-green of theft, chartreuse-slander, olive-gossip. There's red-murder, which follows many family lines for generations until some are wiped out by war or a father became a monk or determined to change. 

Of course let's not forget black-liars, purple-over-eaters, and orange-rape. I'm just assigning colors to anti-social behavior here. Alter them as you like, but the trends remain the same. Every line is colored, and all those colors are shades of the same brown first introduced by Adam and Eve at the beginning of time. True, some generations have more of one color than another. The English kings seems to have more murder and lying in their line than a line of artists. A generation of doctors may have more posing and posturing than a line of engineers. In some generations, the parents decide to put an end to their cheating or alcohol abuse or screaming at their children, so that particular color goes away and may even stay out of the family line for awhile. 

I could illustrate my own sins through this picture. Some of my colors were in the lines before me, and some have lain dormant for generations and my personality has now brought them out again. Some, I am not even aware of because I disguise them behind the belief that I'm just trying to help or do a good job or something seemingly innocent like that. However, none of my colors reveal something new about humanity. I haven't invented any unique shades of brown here. No one ever does. 

I don't mean that with each new invention, mankind doesn't find new ways to misbehave. Like when the automobile was invented, criminals could then escape the crime scene faster! Or when guns were invented, murder was made more accessible. Yes, with every technological advancement, mankind makes up new ways to do bad things. But the motivations for doing these things doesn't change: greed, envy, lust, gluttony, pride, vanity, hate, etc. Those motivations are what's behind all the anti-social behavior. But it is even more complex than that. 

Within the greed is a desire for power or security or contentment. Within the pride is a desire to be declared good enough. Within the hate is a desire for justice or truth. Within the vanity is the desire to be known and loved. All the colors, all the unsociable behaviors are the top crust of an unmet need, an insecurity, so to speak. It is those unmet needs that are the brown coursing through history.  

While I may be tempted to say that my family's colors are more vivid or atrocious than the average man's, this doesn't mean that if my family line weren't so colorful that I would then be less brown. It just means that I might not have had a particular shade of blue or green, but those needs would still manifested themselves in another shade, perhaps one not so noticeable, perhaps one so subtle that I wouldn't have noticed its presence and hence not been aware of my need for God. 

For example: let's say Anna grew up with parents who never told her they loved her. She grew up insecure and fearful and grasping for love. She performed and perhaps gave sex freely in search of love. At some point in Anna's life, she realized that her parents never gave her love and that was why she felt empty. Let's say she had the wisdom to stop seeking that attention from her parents and instead sought and discovered that God alone was able to love her unconditionally. Healing then began in Anna.

Let's also say that another gal, Betty, grew up in what we'd like to call a more healthy home. Her parents frequently told her that they loved her and that she was valuable and beautiful. And she believed it. Then she grew up and moved out. She noticed that the world was full of women more beautiful than herself and in fact that her beauty was fading. Her parents were no longer there to tell her her worth and she started to doubt it. To build herself up, she pursued fashion and righteous living. She frequently compared herself to her friends to make herself feel better. It took Betty much longer to realize that her feelings of unloveliness could only be met by God. But finally, at the ripe old age of 70, she sought and found God's deeply satisfying love. 

Both Anna and Betty were operating on the need to be loved, but the need manifested itself as promiscuity in Anna and vanity in Betty. Anna may blame her parents for her propensity towards promiscuity and she might be right in saying so, but even if her parents had been kind like Betty's, Anna's need to be loved would've appeared in another sinful, though perhaps less anti-social, behavior.

Anna became aware of her neediness much faster than Betty as is often the case among the "morally poor." Perhaps that is why Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). Those whose antisocial behavior alerts them to their needs sooner than those of us who are unaware of our unfulfilled needs are in fact blessed. The many colors in their hearts serve as a catalyst for finding God. 

The cure is not trying to scrub out the more vivid colors on top, but addressing the sickly-brown within. 

And here my analogy loses its potency because colors are good and beautiful, and I am using them to illustrate something corrupt and unwanted. A better illustration might be some sort of corrosive acid dumped into the soil around a tree. That acid poisons the soil and prevents the growth of healthy branches and fruit. 

Regardless of what analogy you use, the cure is the same.

The only way I can no longer feel threatened by others more competent than myself or desperately depend on people to tell me I'm good enough is by having the ultimate authority declare that I am good enough.

The only way I won't hold a grudge when others snub me or patronize me or exclude me is by trusting that the ultimate authority is justly handling all these cases against me.

The only way I can no longer fear of making a decision or messing up my future is by having the confidence that no matter what choice I make, I'll still be loved and God will always make good of it.

The only way I can stop worrying about my needs is by knowing that someone trustworthy is taking care of them.

The only way I can know what is best is by walking alongside the only one who knows what is best. 

All our needs and insecurities are met in a relationship with the giver of all good things. Find him. There is no completion without him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Answering the Lies

Do you hear them? They cut through the air. Do you see them? They fly so fast. They land with a dull thud on your wooden form. The part that has yet to be turned human. The pain draws your attention again and again away from the warmth of the living fire inside you and onto that stiff, cold puppet, that manipulated toy that used to be you. And those darts find their mark day after day. The lies. They have struck and you shudder. 

But you are not without an answer.

 So to the one drawn again and again to nasty habits: to that oh-so-delicious occupation of minimizing other's difficulties and magnifying your own, to weighing your acquaintances on your scale of holiness, to believing your wisdom is beyond others . . . to those who do this, and then realize it and look around and see where you are, the mud again, the muck, the pig sty. "You pathetic failure!" the lies say. "You'll never break these old habits."

     Answer with truth.

Look up from this mud and past the pig farms and serfs' cottages. Look over the rooftops of the tradesmen and beyond the stately edifices of the lords' estates. See the palace beyond with its white spires and waving flags. Remember, you are a child of that king there. Get out of this pig sty and keep walking that way. He has not disowned you because you've fallen into the mud again. Say the truth to those lies, "I am a child of God!" Galations 3:26

 To the one who is trying so hard to be good, to say the right thing at the right moment so that you won't hurt others like they've hurt you. To the one who had parents who shamed them and is now determined not to repeat history; however, she is finding it oh-so-hard. To the one trying to forgive her husband his costly error, an error that she herself can't imagine ever doing. To the one wrapped up in worry about what she should choose or how she should spend her time. Hear the lie in your striving. "If you don't get it right, you won't be loved."

     Answer with truth.
Step out from under that yoke. Look at that load, that mountain of bricks that you are trying to pull. Do you really think you are strong enough? Have you forgotten your fellow yoke partner? You are pulling that load with the son of God. In fact, he pulls it all. You don't have to. See! Your work quota will be met. Speak the truth to those lies, "I have already been made right and am loved even when I make mistakes!" Jeremiah 31:3

 To the one who sees others in more prestigious jobs, with more intelligence and more beauty, who seem more clever, who have nicer things and more trendy clothes, who are younger with fewer pimples, who can dine in nicer restaurants and buy new furniture, who know so much about how the world works. To the one playing second fiddle, two steps behind, feeling inadequate at her job, who owns shabby things and has a simple mind, muddled and confused. Who believes, "I have nothing and am no good!"

     Answer with truth.
Look here at the steps you are taking. See this pace at which you run. This is the speed I have set for you and not faster. Pay no attention to those passing you on the left and right. You aren't running their race but yours. God has given you this work here. He has prepared it beforehand for you. It is his work, and no work or worker of his is shabby or pathetic or worthless. Say it now, "I am his workmanship and the work I am doing is good!" Ephesians 2:10

➤ To the one who wishes to be heard, craves to be known. Who never felt like her parents understood her and so is now seeking someone, anyone to say, "I get it." Who opens her heart again and again to those who cannot understand and cannot answer her how she would like. Who hears it whispered in her ear after ever failed relationship, "No one understands you. You're not worth knowing."

     Answer with truth.
Will you fault the other humans for not seeing into your heart? Will you cast them out of your life because they are not omniscient? They, like you, are a bumbling blind man tripping and walking into walls in this dark cave. Do not push them away because they do not know the color of your eyes in this darkness nor the secret yearnings of your heart. Only one knows you like that. Say his name aloud. "God sees and cares more than any human ever could." Psalm 139

➤ To the one who has been wronged, accused of doing the very thing she sees the accuser doing. To the Christian who wants to yell at the other church-going ladies, "How can you say such critical, condemning things!?" To the one observing others accusing each other of ill motives. To the one tread on, stolen from, lied about, or misunderstood. Who wants to interject and tell them how they are all wrong, or to shout to the heavens, "No one is fixing this problem here! I have to do it!"

     Answer with truth.
Who is the doctor and who is the patient? Do you know how to perform heart surgery? Do you even know the doctor's diagnosis for the other patients? Do not go running down the hospital halls wielding a plastic scalpel or pushing your fellow brothers or sisters up against the walls. There is but one doctor who can cure, and his work is slow and invisible. He knows every pain their weak hearts have caused, and he has ordered nature to ripple in effect with their ill choices. Fear not. He shall balance the scales of justice. But as for you, he has burned your record of errors in the eternal fire. So then, go humbly under his healing knife as you remember, "God is the doctor and he is working on me too."1 Peter 2:23

 To the one who feels unable to handle her children's squabbles or her friends' mood swings or her parents' idiosyncrasies. Who feels like she's drowning in tasks without enough hours in the day to complete everything. Who is afraid because her son must have four teeth pulled because of cavities or whose grandpa has been showing signs of dementia. Who doesn't know what to do or how to do it. Who is believing, "I have to figure this out or else things will go terribly wrong!"

     Answer with truth.
Have you forgotten who is directing this play? Do you think that the author will not resolve the story? Are you the painter or the architect or the sculptor? Who holds the world in the palm of his hands and tells the waves and wind when to rage? Who orchestrates the deeds of millions all across the planet? Who knows your troubles and how they will end? Who gives tasks and takes them away? If the answer is in your mind, let it be in your heart also. "The Lord is my strength! He will take care of me." Psalm 28:7 

What use is it to say we believe in Jesus if we don't believe what he says about us and himself. Answer the lies with truth, and those flaming darts will fall uselessly to the ground.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Psalm 69: A Complaint of a Sick Mom

For the director of music. To the tune of “Somebody Get Me A Doctor.” Of Abigail.

Save me, O God,
    for the sickness has come up to my head.
2 I sink into fuzzy headaches,
    where there is no breathing out of my nose.
    I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf my nasal passages.
3 I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.
    My eyes throb, looking for my God.
Viruses assault me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
   many symptoms are my enemies without relief,
    them that seek to debilitate me.
   I am forced to rest
    when I have mouths to feed.

You, God, know my trials;
    my and my baby’s illnesses are not hidden from you.

Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    may those who hope in the flu shot
    not be disgraced because of me;
    God of Israel,
    may those who seek good health
    not fall within my sneezes’ range.
For I endure sleepless nights for my baby’s sake,
    and big dark circles cover my eyes.
I am short with my own family,
    I am like a grumpy gorilla to my own children;
for zeal for keeping house has abandoned me,
    and the weight of this work falls on no one.

10 When I rest and recuperate,
    I must endure getting nothing done;
11 when I wear yoga pants all day
    I envision people making sport of me.
12 Those who are in good health mock me,
    with their cheerful greetings in the morning.

13 But I pray to you, Lord,
    in the time of your favor;
    in your great love, O God,
    answer me with your sure healing.
14 Rescue me from the sneezes and watery eyes,
    do not let me sink into despair;
    deliver me from this exhaustion,
    from the deep waters of sleeplessness.
15 Do not let the baby’s cries engulf me
    or the dirty diapers overflow from the trashcan
    or the dishes overflow the sink.

16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
    answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
    deliver me from my symptoms.
19 You know how I am tired, sore and listless;
    all my weaknesses are before you.
20 This cold has broken my heart
    and has left me helpless;
    I looked for sympathy from the children, but there was none,
    for comforters, but Phil too fell ill.
21 Yet, the kids still complained about their dinners
    and gave me whining for my efforts.
22 May the dishes set before them become as Sriracha;
    may it become a retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see the T.V.,
    and their voices not be piercing to my ears ever.

24 Pour out your wrath on germs, O Lord;
    let your fierce anger obliterate them.
25 May their moist environment be dried up;
    let the sun shine its ultraviolet rays into their homes.
26 For they persecute those you burden with too many tasks
    and capitalize upon the strains of motherhood.
27 Charge them with crabbiness upon crabbiness;
    do not let them share in your kingdom.
28 May they be blotted out of existence forever
    and not be listed with the righteous.

29 But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
    may your salvation, God, protect me.
30 I will praise God’s name in song
    and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an organized home,
    more than a balanced meal plan with fruits and veggies.
32 The harried mothers will see and be glad—
    you who seek God, may your hearts live!
33 The Lord hears the infirmed
    and does not despise the desperate mother.
34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and all that move in them,
35 for God will save our homes
    and get us caught up in all things that matter.
    Then visitors will be welcome there and feel at home;
36 the children of his servants will find comfort,
    and those who love his name will rest there.