Monday, September 27, 2010

Eyes That Twinkle

I am a hypocrite that is full of shame. I feel that I am a child of God that has tasted so little from the fountain of God's grace that my lips are cracked and my soul is bereft of life. I have related to God not as my father and friend, but as my enemy whom I'm forced to serve as a "Christian." My life is shaped by this void of faith.

I say these words this morning, not because I am without hope, it's just that in this darkness I'm beginning to see glimpses of a life that I never thought was possible: A life of openness and honesty before God and man.

I need God so badly. I am ever needy of his presence. My idols have not only consumed me, they have grown too large for me to handle, wrecking my interior life and threatening the very relationships I hold dear.

Do I have the strength that is needed to face these idols? No. Do I have the faith that is needed to ask for help? Yes. I cry out to God for help, for he is my only source of hope. He is my hope. He is my love. He is my everything.

Do I have the ability to sift, weigh and evaluate what needs to stay and what needs to change in my life? No. I cry out to God for help, for he is my only source of wisdom.

I have become what I most dreaded as a child: an adult. A monster, consumed by my own "needs" and desires. A person who is obsessed with my validation, respect, love, and comfort. I am a consumer. I am not a life-sustainer and I am unworthy of my calling as a minister.

I will never be worthy. I am at bottom a wretch. I am hopelessly addicted to self. My life is so awash in idolatry that even my best intentions have self written all over them.

My life is forfeit. I have given my life to everything but a true love relationship with my father. If I were to die today, I would mourn the state of me.

But there is something kindling in my soul. There is something that has been with me a long time. As CS Lewis says, a desire as if for a far off country. A desire for God.

I have a great history with this God (though I forget in times like these). He has been moving in me for quite some time. He's enabled this hypocrit to be a speaker of grace and truth. He has enabled me to hope when all seems lost. He is ever equiping me for something more: the loss of me.

Is this shame driven introspection that doesn't reflect the truth of my life? I really don't know. And I'm coming to realize that I don't care. For someone, namely my heavenly father, is working something in me that is bigger than me, perhaps even bigger than my greatest desires. I am being drawn near the fount, and I can hear its bubbling waters even as I write.

There is a place for me. A home for my restless soul. There is hope for hypocrits, selfish pigs, the spiritually lazy and lukewarm. There is hope for the sinner.

I wish I could say that I'm done with my idolatry. That I realize that God is my only hope of salvation, and I exercise great will to live for him. But I can't and I won't. Even now I seek to order my day. Even now I seek to sound good, to impress, to be profound. I am a wretch who writes. An idolater who is caught red-handed, removing his idols only to rush them to another room, arranging another shrine.

But this child is finding a home on his father's lap. "Let the little children come to me, for their's is the kingdom of heaven." As I show my father my little idols, he is amused at my obsession of loving them less and loving him more. For my spiritual discipline is merely self-help. It is only as he picks them up, looks at them, turns them over and round and round, am I reminded of the fervent creativeness of my father.

He admires their handiwork, notes their flaws, and shares with me what needs to go, and what I am permitted to work on. (This is no clean metaphor for God and idols. For my God is at war with idolatry.) Anything that wrests my heart from his must go. But there is something I find, sitting on my father's lap, that makes the toys of this world lose all their power.

On his lap, I am safe from their power. On his lap I can see them for what they are: crude attempts to find joy apart from God or attempts to find beauty apart from him. But as he touches them, they begin to look beautiful. They become the gifts of grace they were meant to be.

Oh to relax into this understanding of my God: A God who is furious at those who say, "Let the children play with their toys, God does not have time for children." For there is a divine rescuer who bursts through these indignant and self-righteous crowds to find me playing in the dirt with my toys. My eyes lift up, "Could this be real? Could God really want me?"

This child feels the warm and strong arms wrap around me as and a gentle voice ask, "What are you playing? Come sit on my lap and we'll play together."

God doesn't expect us to figure out what our idols are and rest them from our hearts. He asks us to come and play. To return and rest. To enjoy him. To recognize him not as some sentimental Santa Claus (as some of you may be thinking as I muse on and on) but to really taste and see that he is good. How do we do this? We don't. The crowds must be parted, the father must stoop, the powerful arms must reach out and lift us to our place, our home on his lap.

For what am I made for? I'm made for God and for his pleasure. My pleasure is bound to his pleasure. His pleasure is in me, moving me, lifting me, whispering to me, kissing me, tickling me, making me laugh, and helping me when I cry.

Does he hear this sinners cry for help? Does he see that my idolatry has enslaved me and keeps me from him? He more than hears, he moves swiftly to my side he kneels down beside me and with a twinkle in his eyes (from amusement or sadness I cannot tell) lifts me up on his knees. When he's done bouncing me he asks, "Now what was troubling you my child?"

"My idols," I say.

"Have you been reading Counterfeit Gods?" he asks.


"What have you been doing?"

"Re-arranging them, because I don't want any God but you."

"Hmm, why didn't you ask for my help?"

"I guess I sort of thought, you were busy, what with the whole world and all it's problems."

"I'm never to busy for my children!" he laughs and with that he throws me up on his shoulders and he tucks my toys away into his satchel, and we go for a walk to see his friends.

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