Tag Archives: Sin

Kicked out: home, pt II.

When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere; just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there–how he forgot where he was going and then he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time, he thought he was an angel and dreamt of being perfect. And Then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect. We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.  –Donald Draper, Madmen

If you asked me to sum up the human experience, I don’t think I could say more with many words than I will say with just one: Longing. There’s a certain shiftiness those things for which we hope and desire–they either evade us or aren’t quite what we thought they would be when we get them. In the end, they aren’t enough. We previously discussed the idea of Longing in terms of a desire to go Home.  I’d like to pick the topic back up today using the idea of Shalom.

Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning: a state of peace, completeness and welfare–fully restored and whole. It’s a state of being, not a place. In many ways, it’s the opposite of Longing. A man cannot be at peace and still ache–cannot be whole and still empty.  I think Shalom may be the thing for which we seek–it’s the Home we have never known, and yet we somehow know of it. Our longings point us there: both the incompleteness of our joy and the pain of our sorrow.

Ever notice how even the very best things in this world somehow fail to keep their promises? C.S. Lewis put it this way:

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.

We are left wanting more or other, but left still wanting–still longing…

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The life and death problem, as explained by your trash

And why an angry God loves you more.

Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end… but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature … and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears: would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?
–Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

‘Ooh!’ said Susan, ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.’

‘Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’
C.S. Lewis, The Narnia Tales

Last week I spent a day ar a recycling facility in New York City. As it turns out, we can learn a lot from our trash.

Did you know that after your trash is sorted, a ton of “Pure White” paper is worth $450, but that any tint of color or discolor drops the selling price to $350 per ton? It’s value drops from there until it is, well…garbage.

***

Christianity asserts that the God of Creation loves us more than we would ever dare hope. It’s a worldview that suggests we were created in God’s image to share in a perfect relationship with Him and to enjoy all the good things He created for us. It provides a plausible explanation of who we are and why we’re here, a rational basis to believe in eternityheavenTruthsignificance and hope, and a tangible prototype of service and love in the life and death of Jesus Christ. In many ways, it’s the answer to what I think we would hope was true if we didn’t know. That is, if God didn’t reveal Himself, we might have invented (this part of) Him.

It’s critical that we dwell on God’s love for us–understand it and bask in it–but it’s also possible to focus so much on God’s love that we end up with an incomplete picture of God Himself. We tend to pick Biblical ideas about God we like…and leave others out. A God who answers prayers, yes; but one who judges…not so much. We like the idea of a loving God but not a jealous one. We’d prefer to take the cuddlier version and leave out the one with teeth–forgetting His perfect Holiness, Justice and Wrath. We would never invent that God.

Ironically, when we strip away God’s Anger, we end up with a less loving god, not the more loving god we set out to create. And perhaps most importantly, we lose an understanding of what sets the Christian worldview apart from all others—the way it addresses sin in the world and in our lives…

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In stillness lies victory

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

Have you ever experienced the kind of moral failure that kept you up at night wondering how it came to this?

I believe it is quite possible to try with all your might to follow the Path you believe is right (maybe the path that will lead you home?), and yet to find after a time that you have no idea where you are and even less of an idea of where the path went.

What I mean is: a man can endeavor to live by principles he believes are unfailingly right and wake up one day seeing clearly that he is caught in behavior or patterns of behavior that are blatantly in conflict with those principles. I think when the man looks back, he will often see a small wrong turn–maybe caused by a flick of the head that distracted him enough that his feet veered ever so slightly on an angle. Geometricians know full well that any angle is enough. A one degree shift now may still leave you on the the path, but in eternity it will have moved you infinitely away from it. One degree is all it takes, one turn of the head.

***
I recently counseled a friend who confessed an epic failure to me; the kind that can cause guilt that will rot the bones if left un-addressed. And the rotting had already begun. He was doubting his faith and did not believe that God could love him–or still love him, anyways. Perhaps his failure was too great.

We started by talking about grace and the great love of God–the importance of making that a reality in his life again. But during the course of our conversation, we also discussed getting back to some basic disciplines–fighting the war on all the little fronts. In a form, the idea is that constant vigilance is the only hope we have of staying on the path. Little victories will lead to ultimate success. But “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and (moral?) poverty will come on you like a bandit and (character?) scarcity like an armed man” (Prov 24:33-34). Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep…

Yeah right.

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