… Like a Hurricane

Recently, I made a mistake.

A big one.

Those are enough details for now, but it left me thinking about love and forgiveness.

Now, my wife is not perfect, but repeatedly I’ve been blown away, overwhelmed, by her ability to forgive and love me in spite of my faults. She is a fierce lover, and when she is loyal, she is loyal. 

It’s a withering love. And it’s difficult to stand.

In the midst of this, I realized that there is something inside of me that absolutely wants to flee this kind of love. I have a hunch I’m not the only one. I have a theory that this condition is more human than I’d like to admit.

What is it inside of us that makes us flee this kind of acceptance?

It’s obviously similar to the love that Christ has for us/me. To look into the face of a love that is totally accepting and forgiving is excruciating sometimes. We want to hide and run because of all the bad that we have done, but there is something there that says we must stand in it and take it, like a fierce rainstorm.

That’s what love is. That’s what love can be… A hurricane. 

Love him, or hate him, Saint Paul must have learned to stand in that hurricane. Here was a man who had people—innocent people—killed, and then later sought those people out in community, as one of them. Moreover, before that he had to stand in the face of Jesus and accept that love.

He could stand in the face of that storm. He was no longer a man with blood on his hands, with the lives of men, women, and children (!) on his conscience. He was simply a man who was now “In Christ”, and was inviting others to experience this same storm.

I know I’m not naturally wired for it. It makes me want to hide, to go numb, to retreat.

I guess I’m TRYING to learn to withstand it, but it is difficult.

Musically speaking, not that it is anything like this:

But maybe, it’s a bit like this:

peace

Tough Questions, Tough Answers

What has the power to break you?

What could sink you, or grind up your life?

For some of us, the answer (or answers) to those questions are easy: we point to addictions, to alcohol or drugs or sex or food.

But for others, it’s tempting to draw a blank; to shrug our shoulders and believe that all of the threats are “out there”, maybe in the form of job changes, or terrorist threats, or car accidents, or disease.

Although external threats can certainly be serious, I’m not so sure.

Lately, I’ve been blessed to be hanging around some people who have seen their lives almost destroyed by brokenness. They know the destructive power of sin, and are unafraid (and mostly uninterested) in beating around the bush, or wearing masks to pretend that everything is okay.

On the other hand, it pains me sometimes to see the masks that we wear in our communities of faith, and the lack of awareness (or lack of willingness) to acknowledge the threat that sin has for our lives.

We fail to see selfishness, arrogance, fear, pride or self-centeredness as real issues.

However, surely if we took a few minutes to think about how our lives would play out if they were governed by these qualities we could see what they would do to us:

How well would our marriages survive if we were governed by selfishness?

How well could we parent our children if they grew up in a house that was run by fear and pride?

How long would our friends stay around if they sensed that we are only in relationships for what we want?

I know it’s a heavy question, but how much sin are you willing to tolerate in your life? Not from a “holier-than-thou-I-don’t-drink-or-do-anything-“bad” perspective but from an acknowledgement simply that “sin”—in the form of selfishness, self-centeredness, pride, fear, and arrogance—is not interested in making your life better. From the acknowledge that sin wants to kill you. 

The question that follows is simply: what are you going to do about it?

Why not take off the mask and acknowledge your struggle?

(Because the thing is, once you take off the mask, you find that underneath it you’re only human, and what’s more is that you discover there’s a whole bunch of other human beings around you who are struggling in just the same way.)

Let’s be human together.

The Bible Project, Pt 4: Fall (or, “Well that didn’t last long…”)

God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.” (Genesis 1:31)

The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves. (Genesis 3:6-7)

So there’s this tiny problem…

(Okay, well not really tiny…)

After God creates humanity, the garden is a “supremely good” place, and I can only believe that this is the way God wanted it to be: a place of growth, purpose, and relationship.

Unfortunately, that sublime perfection just doesn’t last long. At all.

There are lots and lots of questions about Genesis 3:

  • Is Adam and Eve’s sin one of pride (“you will be like God”), or is it one of distrust (God places them in the center of the garden, and they lose faith in God’s ability to provide for them in every way)?
  • Who put the snake there in the first place? Is the snake the devil? (The text actually never says that explicitly.)
  • Is Eve more culpable than Adam? Is Adam more culpable than Eve?

There are plenty more books written on questions like these, but I want to focus on the essentials…

… Because something is broken now. 

Something that God created.

What will He do? What would you do?

It’s easy for me to think that if I was a brilliant creator and had crafted a perfect place with and for my highest creations (humanity) that I would be, well, pretty darn angry if they either (a) tried to elevate themselves over me, or (b) mistrusted my ability to provide for them.

I’d be tempted to teach them a lesson. Or to just scrap the whole project.

But I am not this Creator.

Immediately after the man and woman realize that they are naked, and improvise the first fashion show, we are told that they “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God in the middle of the garden’s trees.” I can’t imagine the fear and hesitation that they were experiencing, but then God does something completely unexpected (as He often does): He asks a question. 

No temper tantrum. No lightning bolts. No annihilation.

A question. 

And not just any question.

“The LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

In other words, this God comes looking for people. Even the ones who “screw everything up.” 

In a bit of an interrogation/interview that follows, God hears the story and, while He pronounces that there will be consequences for this mistake, He still doesn’t “let them have it.” The garden—in fact everything in creation—is certainly now sideways, and in a way they can never go back, but then this God again surprises us.

“The man named his wife Eve because she is the mother of everyone who lives. The LORD God made the man and his wife leather clothes and dressed them” (3:20-21).

Outside of God playing in the mud and breathing into it to bring Adam to life, this may be the most astonishingly intimate portrait of God in the creation story, and it says an awful lot about who this God is. An awful lot. Nakedness in the Ancient Near East was shameful, and emphasized human vulnerability and frailty. In light of this, God “covers” the shame and vulnerability of humanity with clothes that He Himself makes.

That says a lot.

In a way He seems to be saying, “There is something in the world now—a sickness and a brokenness—that can’t be wished away, It is going to affect everything humanity touches or experiences, but there are two things that you need to know:

  1. I’m going to take care of this, and
  2. It’s time to get to work.

Postscript:

Before we leave this story, I want to point out something obvious. If you are a spiritual person who is even a little bit serious about the Jesus and Bible, it makes a lot of difference what your starting point is. To put it succinctly: there is a version of the Christian story that says it all essentially “starts” (or “ends”, depending on your perspective) with Genesis 3:1-7. It says, “We (humanity) ruined everything; see how wicked we are?”

However, if you start (or end) with Genesis 3:8-21, the story is slightly different: “We ruined everything, and God is going to restore it.” 

… And that’s just what’s going to start next.

To see the Part 3 of The Bible Project, click here.

Seth Godin and a Gospel Life

Seth Godin is understandably one of the most popular and compelling writers and thinkers today. He’s been pretty influential in my circles, and I’ve definitely internalized some of his thoughts. I’ve seen him speak a couple times, and read 2 or 3 of his books.

All in all, it’s good stuff.

However, I’ve had on- and off-again tensions with some of the concepts, especially as they are confronted by, well, the gospel.

(Let me just say that I am “owning” that this is probably just my own baggage; I’m merely throwing these thoughts out there because they’ve been on my mind lately.)

Most recently, I’ve had to come to terms with how the desire to be “extraordinary” and a “linchpin” (some of Seth’s key concepts) intersect in my soul to do some not-very-good things…

You see, for someone who struggles with pride and arrogance, hearing the call to make your world all about doing “something amazing”, or “living your strengths”, etc., etc., can be a little like trying to control a modest outdoor fire in your backyard by pouring kerosene on it.

Even understanding that the point of “being extraordinary” is to serve people, or an organization or mission, feels remote.

For a narcissist (struggling or otherwise), the world ALWAYS revolves around them. They are ALWAYS seeking to be extraordinary, to be noticed, to be the smartest/cutest/strongest/most talented person in the room. It’s a normal (though pathological) state of mind.

For me, I need to balance “linchpin” thinking with the constant realization that I am sick. Recognition and accolades (that often come with being extraordinary) feed my false self, this scared, insecure child that needs to be reminded how special he is.

To counteract linchpin thinking, I need, to stare into the void, to quiet the obsessive and compulsive thoughts of my false self, and to return to the smaller, quieter voice of God that says, “You are enough.”

To learn humility.

To learn to serve.

To learn to focus on others.

To learn that being a linchpin is NOT all there is to life.

(Even though sometimes it’s fun.)

I still love Seth; and I will continue to read his books and wrestle with this stuff, but I just thought I’d put these out there.

+e