Thursday, April 14, 2011

"The Bog of Etermal Stench"

"...the LORD takes pleasure in his people..." - Psalm 149

These days I'm seeing more evidence for what I believe to be most Christians' chief disbelief: that God loves them. We all know how rotten we are, or at least we get hints from the stinky piles of sin that dwell within.

It reminds me of a compost pile in Cambridge, England that my brother and a friend lovingly termed the "the bog of eternal stench." Let me tell you, England makes for some feirce compost, it's not your run-of-the mill quaint American "Ew,that's stinky!" type. Hey, we have something quaint on them!

My brother and I, being the fearless explorers and men's boys we are, or were, would turn the compost over with sticks and create aromas straight from the depths of Hades. I can see it now, steaming. It really steamed, I'm not kidding. Imagine the worst gas you've ever smelt, multiplied and mercilessly crammed up your nose by tireless pixies with sticks and sponges soaked in the stuff. It's enough to bring tears to my eyes even now. Have mercy, Oh Almighty Bog of Eternal Stench, have mercy!

When we are stirred by the Gospel, something similar occurs. We become struck by the audacity and pungent nature of God's love. It's too much for us to comprehend. So we keep it at arms length, fearful for what it might do to us.

I can't help thinking that most Christians do this. It is very, very, very difficult to believe that the only individual who knows our deepest and darkest, loves us. Frankly it's an offense to nature, just like the Bog of Eternal Despair.

But the God who created nature, has the right to bend the rules. And we see it over and over again in his word. He not only loves his creatures, dances and delights over them but, as the verse above says, he finds pleasure in them.

Do I believe that God finds pleasure in me? The first thing that comes to mind is how I'm, even now, bent on pursuing my own ways. Surely this rules me out from his pleasure. It doesn't. God still takes pleasure in me.

Am I giving in to cheap grace. My life is full of taking grace for granted, so probably. But in the case of meditating on God's pleasure, nothing can touch his delight in us. For his delight rests solidly in the work of Christ. When he sees my filth, or stirs the pile with his stick, he also sees Christ's obedience on my behalf.

So what does this do for me? The ego absorption of the question beside, it enables me to believe in a radical, warrior God, who furiously pursues his chosen. So is it my duty to navel gaze and wonder if I'm chosen. No, it is my duty to revel in his love.

When the horrific odors of your soul have you at the choking point, imagining a smaller earthly god's rejection, remember that we serve Jesus which literally means "saves." We are loved. We are approved. We are danced over, delighted in and give God pleasure simply by taking another one of his gifts: the next breath.

If we learn to breathe in humble recognition of where our breath comes from, we'll learn to love and I'm betting we'll learn to Live. Of course I'm going to rule this out if we happen to be in Cambridge, England with two young boys, who are rooting around in a funny looking pile. In that case I'd advise you not to breathe, ever. Some things were never meant to be smelled.

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