Thursday, July 3, 2014

here I am

It's July in Nashville. I'm outside in sweats with a cup of hot tea. And I'm freezing. Somehow I can't wrap my mind around those three sentences ever possibly coexisting to form a truth about my life, and yet it seems to be true despite my inability to comprehend it.

I also can't seem to wrap my mind around these verses from Romans 5:
For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved through his life. Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
I memorized the first nine verses of Romans 5 like a pro, and then slammed my head up against the verses above. It's been two weeks and I still can't spit all the words out without sounding like a bad Yoda imitation. Two weeks on two verses? That's pathetic, even for me.

I was recently at the Stallings's farm in Georgia for a few days to visit Emmett's grandmother, pick blueberries, and see some family. I love picking blueberries, patiently hunting for the biggest, fattest berries, passing over inferior berries in a quest for a bucketful of absolutely perfect berries. That's somewhat of a challenge when quite a few of them don't make it past my mouth. If I'm not careful, when I find several together, one of those perfectly round, fat berries just might just roll right down my fingers and off my hand into the grass instead of into my bucket.  And then there's the sadness of picking one that is ever so slightly still pink - oh the awful sourness! Quinn dared me to eat one still green, and the mouth-puckering power of that little dude nearly glued my lips together.

I finished East of Eden by John Steinbeck while at the farm. Steinbeck is a master storyteller, weaving the lives of these amazing characters through a 600 page exploration of the Cain and Abel story. I'll spare you the analytical essay, but the central question of the story hinges on the word timshel, a loose translation of the original Hebrew word God uses in Genesis 4:7 to tell Cain what to do with the sin crouching at his door. Is God telling Cain that he must master the sin or is he promising him that he will be able to master the sin? The nuances here are important because there is little hope for the man who struggles with sin if God is using the imperative case here with Cain. Although people have spent their whole careers on that one word, I found it more interesting how each characters' behavior was dramatically impacted by whether he thought he was loved by his father. Where the father's love was not felt, jealousy and hatred and sin were not far behind. In fact, the ability to master sin seemed to hinge not on the presence of the father's love, but on the perception of the father's love by the son.

Ouch. Talk about a mirror to the soul. My holiness is in direct proportion to my perception of God's love for me. I've been swallowed up by a wide range of sin lately, overwhelmed and feeling generally unloved. Steinbeck's characters made me realize though that I wasn't felling unloved because I was mired in sin. I get myself all mired in sin because I'm feeling unloved. My misperception of God's love is not the effect of my sin, but the cause of it.

Memorizing Romans 5 has been like picking this beautiful cluster of berries only to have them roll out of my hands into the grass. I know there is something amazing there, but I can't seem to lay hold of the truth. It feels so obvious. If God sent his son to die for us while we were still sinners, then once we've been reconciled, he's going to save us through Christ's life too. I mean, duh. He knew what he was getting into. If he went far enough to die for me while I was still a schmuck, he's probably not going to leave the job half finished and give up on me now. And it's not just that he's not going to give up on me - read the passage again - it's how much more will we be saved. The saving isn't an afterthought or happy coincidence to the reconciliation in Christ, it's the whole point of the reconciliation  - so that we can be transformed.

So why can't I wrap my mind around it? Because my sin, God's love, Christ's death, my reconciliation and transformation - these things can't possibly seem to coexist in a coherent truth. It's like being cold outside in July in Nashville. Not possible. And yet here I am.

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