Wrecking Everything to Love Us

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This is one of those scribbles that starts off in the toilet then proceeds into heaven. “I hope,” he says, scratching his beard.

There is a bathroom a certain man frequents. When this man first enters the dark and private chamber the lights do hesitate, and then do come on–even while the baffled first-timer gropes along the wall for the usual trigger. Having found none, he thinks to himself, “Ah, automatic lights. What would Jules Verne think?” And he proceeds to enjoy the meaning of lighted, lavatorial convenience.

Later this same man is fooled only a few more times in the ritual, and he no longer gropes along the wall for the on-switch–-there is no such switch, only a sensor–and he relieves his mind of that duty and skips this formerly ingrained step.

Later still he anticipates with confidence what will occur moments after he enters the darkness and, in jubilation, he snaps his fingers in concert with the burst of light. He feels a little bit like God.

That man is me.

I remembered, of course, that I wasn’t God. It actually served as a little goad to good-thinking. God, like the tale spinner he is, speaks and the world he imagines breathes, blinks, and gets flat tires. He is all-powerful and his words are alive. “Light,” he says and there it is.

My pretended pretense does, however, make me think of all the genuine pretense I engage in. How I pretend sovereignty in many rather insane ways. For instance, I grumble about my health. I react with disgust when my selfishness is rebuffed. I complain when modern conveniences are a little bit slower than they should have been. I believe insane political ramblings about what I’m entitled to. I sit in a culture rich beyond the imagination of almost every person who has ever lived (and is living) and I complain about circumstances, the “economy,” and my rights.

When I am like this I am a humanist.

That is, I see man as the center of the universe and, if he is included, God is included in the same way he is a popular name to drop at the end of the imbecilic, political speech. Here is a familiar, non-threatening, accommodating grandpa whom no one takes seriously anymore.

But I don’t think that’s true, so why do I act like it’s true? We can wrap up a product of the restroom in a gold-plated treasure-chest but it doesn’t do much to change the product in question. It is what it is.

Belief is more than intellectual consent.

If I believe the Gospel (which is a particular batch of good news), I do not just affirm it in my mind. Enemies can do that. Believers believe with more. We live by faith.

Abraham took Hagar. We all stumble in many ways.

I am thankful that God lovingly reveals the idols we often unwittingly allow to dominate our hearts while he is wrecking everything to love us. So die, damned humanism of my heart.

What does faith in Yahweh look like?

I believe that faith in Yahweh is full of thankfulness, and not jealous of claimed “rights.”

I believe that faith in Yahweh is astonished at mercy, not eager for personal justice.

I believe that faith in Yahweh is abounding in grace, not miserly and hoarding.

I believe that faith in Yahweh is patient in affliction, not outraged at the loss of what was a gift to begin with (like health, wealth, position).

I believe that faith in Yahweh is humble, not preoccupied with status.

I believe that faith in Yahweh sees suffering and does not cry out to God “This is unfair,” but instead cries out, “Oh God, you have been merciful to me, can I be merciful here?”

I believe that faith in Yahweh is astonished that anyone receives mercy, increasingly so as the reality of our offense becomes clearer as we grow closer to Jesus.

I believe faith in Yahweh issues in love (in that order), not that somehow “loving everybody” gets you standing with Yahweh.

This is something very simple we pray in our home because we need a lot of mercy, want to be thankful people, and we want grace real bad. And we want to look to Christ, and have life.

“Oh God of Abraham, please give us humble hearts.
Oh God of Isaac, please give us thankful hearts.
Oh God of Jacob, please give us faith. Let us see Jesus.”

Understanding that these are gifts, and not entitlements, ought to go a long way in answering the prayer for humility.


15 Comments

  1. Loren Eaton

    I believe that faith in Yahweh sees suffering and does not cry out to God “This is unfair,” but instead cries out, “Oh God, you have been merciful to me, can I be merciful here?”

    This be hard to do.

  2. Stacy Grubb

    Sam, this is wonderful. It’s sad how regularly I need to be reminded of these things. I’m in a perpetual, “This is unfair,” rut, even though I know better. I know a lot of things that I’m not faithing in.

    Stacy

  3. Peter B

    This is going on my bathroom wall.

    Seriously, though, thank you for such a terse-yet-full expression of what life in Christ should be.

  4. redhead.kate

    “…patient in affliction, not outraged at the loss of what was a gift to begin with.”

    Earlier this year, I visited a fellow blogger for the first time. As her husband drove me back to the airport, I was (quite frankly) complaining about my constant role as peacemaker at work and with my family. How I felt so constrained by the heavy weight of responisbility that settles so firmly on my shoulders. He let me go on for a while before he quietly asked, “doesn’t the Bible say “blessed are the peacemakers”?” Oh, um…yes it does. He definitely got the last word!

    So I am learning the patient in affliction part. And I have a feeling that I will continue to do so until I truly get it.

  5. Sir Wilbur

    I spoke many of these same thoughts recently while conversing with a man who lost his 33 yr old wife this summer. Then, I am sure I complained about someone pulling out in front of me minute later on the way home. Somehow, I think the BIG tests of life are easier. Perhaps not easier to endure, but easier to think rightly about. It’s the little things that we trip over daily that, in my frail mind, constitute the real difficulty.

  6. Aaron Roughton

    Sir Wilbur, I find what you said to be true for me also. I think (in my case) it has to do with my perceived ability to control a situation. If all hope is gone of my influence making any difference, I find it much easier to place things in God’s hands and “think rightly” as you said. But if I believe there’s any chance at all of the situation lying within the bounds of my frail kingdom, that place where I “pretend sovereignty in many insane ways”, I fight for control with all I have. I will waive my hands and try to get the lights to come on frantically until I can no longer raise my arms. Maybe then will I abide.

    Sir Smith, thanks for this post. I have always found abiding to be difficult until you learn to just abide. Then you have supernatural help abiding. But if you don’t abide, it’s impossible to abide. See why I’m an engineer and not a writer? By the way, you said it is what it is. Nice.

  7. Laura

    I don’t know how many times I’ve read this post in the past few days. By reminding me of the power (and necessity) of gratitude, you’ve given me a fresh, truthful way of looking at a very discouraging situation in my life right now. So thank you!

  8. S.D. Smith

    I am very grateful (hooray) for the nice comments. I also need to be reminded every day (especially today and yesterday!) about how much in need of mercy I am.

    I find things like this a bit of a burden, arguing against me after I re-read it. But God is full of mercy. I am thankful for that.

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