Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mists of Love and Shame

Perhaps the reason it is so difficult for us to trust Jesus in the moments when He feels most near is because we have convinced ourselves that this is not what good Christians do. Good Christians do not just trust Jesus without a second thought. Good Christians do not go running to Him when life is difficult or when their hearts are troubled. This whole idea of trusting Jesus, it's just a phase we go through on our way to good Christianity. 

A good Christian, a truly good Christian, has no need of Jesus at all.

Phrased so boldly, it's easy to disagree with that sentiment. How ridiculous! Our Christian lives are centered around this Christ; it's why we're called Christians. But from a practical perspective, most of our lives are spent trying to outgrow our need for Him. Trying to build our own strength. Trying to find our own love. Trying to perfect our own grace. So that maybe, just maybe, we one day stand before Him and hear Him say, Well done, good and faithful servant. You did well and didn't trouble Me to help you all the time.

This is the goal. This is what most of us are working toward. It's why when we imagine ourselves standing in the presence of God one day, looking Jesus eye-to-eye, face-to-face, our breath catches in our throats and our hearts start to race. I used to think this was anxiety, or at best, anticipation, but it's not. It's shame. We carry with us the shame that one day, we will stand face-to-face with God and know that He sees right through us.

We will stand at the gates of heaven, completely unable to enter on our own. No matter what we accomplish in this life, no matter how good we get at going it alone, no matter what we manage to do in our own strength, we are wholly incapable of carrying ourselves into the next life. We cannot enter heaven under our own power. We cannot stand on our own two feet. 

We're all about to fall.

And doesn't that just drive you crazy? Admit it; it does. If you're anything like me, these kinds of thoughts make you both incredibly excited and ridiculously nervous all at the same time. You want it to be true that you're going to need Jesus, that He's going to do this thing so you don't have to, that you're going to be able to lay down your burden and share the yoke and find rest. At the same time, there's still this part of you that thinks you can do it on your own. Out of all the people of the world, across all time and space, you're the one who's going to throw this system out of whack. You're the one who's going to do it. If anybody can do it, it's you. And you may even feel a sense of pride at that thought. You can do it. Of course you can do it. Why couldn't you do it?

But you can't do it. Because if you could, there'd be no reason for the Cross. None. If it were possible for even one of us to do this on our own, there'd be no Jesus to even challenge our pride. No Jesus to confront our confidence. 

We don't do this with any of our other relationships. There's nobody in your life that you love so much that you don't need them. The people that you love the most, you ask for help. You count on them to be there for you because that's what love does. You don't walk through life's most difficult moments, then tell the stories later and say, "I would have liked for you to be there with me, but I love you too much to do that to you." Of course not. That's ridiculous.

And there's no one that loves you so much that they don't want to be a part of your life. Try to wrap your head around that one! Imagine that every month, you got a letter from someone who claimed to love you. They told you how much they love you and how they can't wait for you to come visit them. But they didn't read your last letter. In fact, they haven't read any of your letters. They don't want to know what's going on in your life because they love you so much that knowing what your life is really like would ruin that love. So they prefer to just live in the anticipation of you and trust that one day, you'll get to them, standing on your own two feet and for God's sakes, looking somewhat decent. Don't just knock on their door in tattered clothing and mussed hair; clean yourself up first. After all, they love you so much. 

This is not what love looks like in our lives. We are not willing to accept these ideas as love. And yet, this is the very idea we project onto Jesus. This is what we think His love looks like, or what we hope it does. Or whatever. We hide behind these false loves, behind these mists of affection and shame. And we declare that the highest love is to have no need, accept no grace from the other. That's not love.

That is so not love.

God didn't create you to run on your own. If He had, the very breath that fills your lungs would not be His breath; it'd be stale air. Earth air. Plain ol' atmosphere. But you're filled with holy breath for a reason. You're called beloved for a reason. You're pursued for a reason. And there's a Cross for a reason. 

And none of those reasons is so that you could do this on your own. None of these reasons is so that you eventually get to the place where you don't need God. 

Every one of them, rather, is so that you come to the place where you love Him. Really love Him. And understand how very, very much He loves you. 

Let Him help. 

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