Tuesday, April 24, 2012

running home

I mentioned a while back that I was memorizing Hebrews 12, and, well, like the tortoise, I'm making my way slowly through the text during the first part of my quiet time, but this morning my spirit came to a screeching halt on verses 16-17:
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.  Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
I've memorized these verses simply because they are part of Hebrews 12 and in between other verses I really love, but I've alternated between simply getting past them and wondering why they seem so out of place.  So read it in context:
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done. 
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?
Although those couple verses always made my spirit a little squirmy on the inside, my thought process has generally gone something like this...  So I get to the part about not being sexually immoral because, well, I'm pretty much a nun, so I'm okay.  And I don't recall Esau being particularly pointed out for his sexual immorality, so how do those two go together again?  And last time I checked, Blue Coast Burrito took cash, not a signing away of my inheritance for payment.  So what's up with those two verses in the middle of all the other awesomeness of Hebrews 12.

And this morning the Spirit hits me, like an anvil.  BAM!

It isn't a burrito or a bowl of stew I should be concerned about (yeah, mock me, that was a major revelation), but I trade my inheritance every time I stubbornly give in to something I want when I know it is wrong.  And that something could be as large and obvious as a sexual sin, but it could be as small and hidden as a stubborn and persistent pattern of thinking.

In my head lately I have been so whiny that I've wanted to slap myself or run away and hide form my own thoughts.  So I resort to sinful, distracting patterns of thinking encompassing pretty much everything from pride to selfishness to self-pity and lust.  Ever notice how you can stubbornly give into temptation under the pretense of being mad at God because he hasn't given you superpowers?  Maybe you haven't noticed that excuse if you're holier than I am.  But I am pretty much the master at self-delusion, and I have found lately that I use sinful patterns of thinking to escape the reality that it is just plain hard to follow God.  As the writer of Hebrews says, without holiness, no one will see God, so it is imperative that I be holy.  Because God knows (fancy that!) that when trade my inheritance for even something as small and hidden as my sinful thought patterns, I am actually opening the gateway to a larger sin, like sexual immorality or self-centeredness.

After reading this passage, my spirit feels like it is in this mad scramble back up the muddy slope because I see where I'm headed, and all I can think is, "no, no, no, no, no, no, I have to get back."

But I can't.  Enter Christ.  Praise the Lord.

Because I am sure I will throw myself down this muddy slope again and again because I'm pretty slow to learn lessons.  But we haven't come to the God of the Old Testament, with unfulfilled promises of a savior and impossible commands to be holy.  We have come to Mount Zion.  Read that part again, and picture yourself walking up to the gates.  Right now.  Do it.

Doesn't it give you glorious chills?  We approach Mount Zion, the city of the living God, We get closer and see the angels in joyful assembly, and - wait - could it be, the church of the firstborn?  There are actual people here!  Woohoo!  And then you see him, our God, the judge, and there is so much to fear and be ashamed of, but then wait - there are some righteous men made perfect, maybe, just maybe I can be made perfect too.  And then there is Jesus.  And you just want to die because he's so beautiful.  Because you see his blood and what it has done for you.

How can I refuse that?  If I'm truly honest with who I am and how the world is, how can I possibly refuse that love?  But this morning I realized if I spend my life trading my inheritance for things as silly as my sinful and distracting thought patterns, then I am refusing that love and blind to truth.

So I find myself at the bottom of a muddy slope, covered in filth, chilling with the pigs at the feeding trough before finally coming to my senses.  Only I don't have a physical place I can run to like the prodigal son, which makes going home a little more tricky.  Because today, for me, running home looks like embracing the drudgery of routine without letting myself slip into sinful habits.  Running home means facing a life without my best friend and all the plans we made together and then not giving into the temptations created by that reality.  Running home looks very much like dragging a cross up a hill behind my savior.

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