Saturday, May 20, 2017

the making of a wound

Let us throw off everything that hinders 
and the sin that so easily entangles. 
Hebrews 12:1

There's a small scar running across the top of my left foot that slightly annoys me every time I catch a glimpse of it.   

A couple of months ago, we were walking down the sidewalk to one of our favorite restaurants.  A long strand of dried blade grass had blown into the path and I didn't see it until it was already tangled around my foot.  I stepped on it with my right foot to free myself and when I did, the blade of grass sliced across the top of my left foot like the blade of a knife.  It wasn't a deep cut, but it bled profusely.  I ended up fashioning a makeshift bandage out of an extra napkin.  The whole scene was ridiculous. 

One minute, I'm strolling along along a familiar sidewalk in the middle of the day and the next, I'm tangled up in some unforeseen, seemingly innocuous blade of grass - and then I'm wounded and bleeding.

Yea, life's a lot like that sometimes.

And so is sin.  

Looking at the scar now, the incident has become more of a parable, recounting the lessons I've learned - or more-often failed to learn - from the most difficult, self-inflicted wounds.  Although admittedly, the shallow scar across my foot pales in comparison to the deeper ones left on my heart.

It's a parable of this path and the obstacles we're often blind towards - many times because we're walking in a sense of faux security.  After all, who expects to be tangled up and assaulted by a rogue piece of blade-grass while walking along a suburban sidewalk on a sunny afternoon?

We're instructed to walk sober-minded and alert, but more often than not I'm more along the lines of tipsy and distracted.  And our enemy, the one that prowls like a roaring lion, is watching and waiting, "seeking whom he may devour".  One misstep and we're entangled, in blade-grass or the lion's den.  Sometimes both.

 And it's the untangling that leaves us mangled.  

That is the making of a wound - that in time, if we do not agitate it, fades to a scar.  And our scars can either remind us of our failings, or they can remind us of our freedom, so that we can walk again - more wisely.  Until we can learn to run.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Hebrews 12:2

Monday, May 8, 2017

Yet even now

"I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you 
and leads you along the paths you should follow.

If only you had listened to my commands!  
Then you would have had peace flowing like a gently river 
and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea." 

I think about this portion of scripture a lot, particularly during times of chaos or turmoil in my life.  That whole "if only" phrase in the verse resonated with me for years whenever I found myself wandering... which was often.  And sometimes is still.  I've lamented the "if only" more times than I can count, regretting that I had not followed any commands other than my own whims, led purely by my own feelings.  

Years passed and with them, layers of surrender.  There were spiritual markers and personal growth and maybe with those things, some sense that I had finally turned some ambiguous corner in life where I felt confident that I could walk consistently in freedom... so much so that I had it tattooed on my wrist late last summer.  I wouldn't have labeled it as pride or haughtiness, but maybe - in hindsight - that's what it was.  That somewhere along the way, I'd shifted from Christ-reliance to self-reliance.  And you know, "Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).

It turns out, I'm a really stubborn woman.  It also turns out that the subheading of chapter 48 of Isaiah is titled "Stubborn Israel".  God knew that His chosen nation were stubborn and rebellious people.  He knew that generations would turn from Him.  He knew this about them long before He chose them; and He knows this about us long before He chose us, too.  In times of comfort and peace, they too would make that familiar shift from God-reliance back to self-reliance and invariably find themselves in captivity. 

Their story is my story.  Over and over again. 

But here is what God had to say to them (to us... to me) through the prophet Isaiah:

Yet even now, be free from your captivity! 

Leave Babylon and the Babylonians.  
Sing out this new message!  
Shout it to the ends of the earth! 

 The Lord has redeemed..."

Isaiah 48:18-20

God was always faithful to call them out, always seeking to reconcile them to Himself.  Whyyyyy?  Because that was His covenant: that He would set them free.  

Yet even now, be free.  

This phrase "yet even now" is the one that gets me now.  The "if only" reminds us of the things we should've done, the paths we should've chosen, the choices we could've made.  But "yet even now" embodies the hope, that even though we've failed, we can still be free.  "Yet even though" in your stubbornness, you've turned away and charted your own course straight into a trap and into captivity, be free.  

And I think maybe that's why I have this inscribed on my wrist...  Initially it felt like a declaration of sorts, and then soon after, it felt as if had become an invitation to be tested.  But now, it has become a reminder of this command:  "Yet even now, yes - even despite your wandering and your disobedience, be free".  

Yet even now, return to Me... 

"Yet even now," declares the LORD, 
"Return to Me with all your heart, 
And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 
Don't tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead." 
"Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, 
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 
He is eager to relent and not punish." 
Joel 2:12-13