I'd not seen him before. No one at Poplar would know him. He didn't look up. He just kept staring into the bag of groceries I'd just given him. He just kept looking down.
"My life didn't used to be like this... where did it go wrong..." he said. "There's something else....I've done something awful... I'm so ashamed..." A story of wrong choices, wrong friends, a drinking spree getting out of control, arrest, DNA swabs, cells & a rape charge has me sighing at the brokeness of what I was hearing.
The story told - he looks up into my face looking for rejection. I say nothing...
"My life didn't used to be like this... where did it go wrong..." I say nothing...
He half composes himself - "I'm in court next week... I'm scared..." I put my hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure you know if you are guilty" His shoulders shake as deep sobs interrupt the moment.
I look into his eye's "What do you want me to pray?"
Through his sobs he barely whispers "that justice will be done..."
Up. Thinking about the kingdom. And my role in it.
Up. Suiting up. Settling accounts on my knees & needs.
Up. Suiting up. Riding out. Committing treachery against all my fears & lack. Committing treason against all my doubts & idols.
Up. Suited up. Riding out. Wrestling down doublemindeness & divided loyalty &
discipline. Committing myself to a cause much
bigger than I. One influencing both acts of
hiddeness & acts of chivelry across the broad
landscape & tight into the smallest corners within & without in my corner of the world. Up. Thinking about the King of this kingdom. And my place both in Him & at His side. Up. Thinking. Suiting up. Riding out.
We wish & work to walk with God & others & make a real difference in our corner of the world. But this walk is on a steep narrow road inwardly & a wide rugged road outwardly - Wide & full of potholes & perils:
Perils from evils & idols. Perils from distractions & temptations. And punches from other travelers who strike, shun, or attack perceived weaknesses in the name of God.
Getting up & carrying on takes courage. Getting up, carrying on, & gaining ground takes courage. To keep moving despite the bombs & bullets from both enemy & friendly fire takes courage.
Staying open & humbly vulnerable takes courage. Forgiveness takes courage. Exercising wisdom & compassion with the imperfections of others & ourselves takes courage.
Forging ahead on the faith mission God has given takes courage. Forging ahead deciding to leverage every trial for good, takes courage. Getting up, facing God, & surrendering all, knowing that you will still make mistakes, but must still carry on... takes courage.
To regularly & intentionally encourage & instill this courage in one another, we must. It is our charge & our call to en-courage one another.
Before there was the 'all this' You called me to & set me into & keep in missional motion... Before there was the 'this & that', & all the ministrations & ministries which fill the bulk & span of my day's day...
Before there was an office, & a building, & a budget, & a pushing into the city with a mandate, & a pushing into men's hearts with a swab or a sword. Before all of this, there was You & I. And when all 'this' passes away, there will still be You & I. So here now, in the middle of the 'all this' that You started & keep going by grace; here I sit low to do nothing more than to seek & see You. Because for me it has never really been all about the 'what', but the 'Who with'. So... pardon my stare here in the wee hours of pre-day's start. And pardon my repetitive glances, down in the thick of this day's middles. And pardon my sins, too. To the One of whom I am cultivating an addiction, pardon the stalking tendencies I intend to display as I disentangle myself from the affairs of this life so that I may have a well tangled affair with You... and You alone.
The way we are created for greatness, but can equally handle smallness, if that sometimes be the road to it. The way we are allowed to take up the Life of Christ & let that deep shift transform, addict, & grab us body & soul.
I got to thinking about us - The way we are empowered to taste the Passover; judgment flying over we hidden souls behind blood stained doors. And the way we're subsequently empowered to passover transgressions from others with that same un-shakeable & irresistible power of mercy & forgiveness. The way we're empowered to lay down our life for others as if it were an honor to be asked, instead of an imposition to be endured.
Got to thinking about us…Been thinking about how we are wired for greatness - The greatness it takes to take no account of suffered wrong, & to love strong enough for two when the love of one grows cold. For loving when hated. For embracing when rejected – Rejecting rejection when it comes at us like arrows. For interceding when denied- For standing against the tide… We're created for greatness.
Been thinking about how we've been given enough love for us & ours & for everybody else too.How we can take it, when required. And dish it out when righteously necessary. How we can go it, when the second mile is calling from out of some trying situation. Been thinking about how we can bend when flexibility is the better choice,& stand erect in the winds of foolish change.
Been thinkin' bout how we’ve been wired to hold the secrets of others & spread them spilling out like a whisper before the Lord alone in prayer. Bout how we can have that love of God spilling over, plenty for come what may protection against bitterness & criticalness offenses & grudges.Protecting one another instead of lashing out. Been thinking about how we are wired for twisting anger to peace with a calm response & gentle edifying words. For practicing ruthless mercy. For offering two garments & taking two slaps with the bigger picture in mind. For taking the high road when the low road seeks to evangelize us to its side.
Been thinking about us… About the way we are destined to bring shift change to our corner of the world with radical generosity & a revolution of goodness which runs headlong against the spirit of me, myself & I as well as the spirit of us & them. Yeah, we're called to greatness. Empowered to walk in it. Encouraged to yield to it, to accept the truth of it. And with that acceptance, to "forever north crying freedom, run on unshackled"
Jesus did not come preaching grace - He came preaching the Kingdom. Grace was an aspect of that message. An immensely important aspect. A foundational aspect. One that, if downplayed, currupts the whole of any other aspect being preached. (A mistake many zealots make).
But still, grace is just one amoung several aspects of the message of the Kingdom. Don't become so intoxicated by grace that it blinds, numbs, & severs you from the other aspects of the message of the Kingdom: Lordship. Discipleship. Sacrificial love. Cross-carrying. Living holy. Living missional...etc etc. Grace is absolutely essential, but it does not stand alone. Nor was it meant to.
Grace breaks me. I have no defense against it. It climbs over any of my walls unimpeded. So stunning is grace to me that when it says "Jump" I can only think to reply, "How high?"
But fear tactics, spiritual bullying, & intimidation, which many street corner or angry prophets undertake as tools to communicate an exaggerated, imbalanced or graceless truth, this instigates the opposite response.
Nevertheless, the same grace of God that offers unconditional love will indeed also offer unadulterated truth about the condition of our hearts & lives. Which is why when I go before God in prayer, it is with no assumptions about how far I've come or where I currently stand... except firm in His unconditional love. All the rest is up for grabs. Two prayers I pray: Show me Your heart, oh God. Show me my heart, oh God. And, at the time, whatever He wishes me to see about both is 'yes & amen'.
When Jesus lovingly declares a community of saints as largely poor, miserable, naked, & blind, no amount of faith confessions & self-declaring victory slogans, nor stanzas of "Jesus loves me" can change that painful truth - Only repentance. No amount of tallying up & listing off of current good works can be offered as a suitable response - Only repentance. And there can be no repentance if there is unwillingness to consider that that which Jesus spoke could, in fact, be true. As true as the truth of His unconditional love.
But know this, when He speaks such a hard truth, the yielding to it takes you way further upward than the trip you must first make downward.
I'm not courting God like a ravished lover - No. Mine is a much messier quest. I'm courting Him like a cocaine addict - counting worthless & selling off anything that stands between having what I seek....
Scouring the deep recesses of all my comfort zones for any remnant of change that may have slipped between the cushions... every penny counts & everything that is mine is handed over that I might apprehend Him, know Him, walk in the pleasure of His presence, & in His resurrection life... Even if it means fellowshipping with suffering. Here, anchored in the sweat & snot & tears & shakes of a morning 'episode' .. my longing overtakes my logic & reason. I curse my brokenness, swear through a vow, & hand over all my gods & goods for another sight of His face, his heart, His soul... Him. I'm not courting God like a ravished lover - This morning mine is a much, much messier quest - I court Him like a cocaine addict.
Living & dying daily to know God intimately - And in radical obedience & kamikazi servanthood, to carry out His life's work. ________
Having all these words be more than just words as I soul-press, excuses-crucify, life-surrender & present my body to embody the message of my friend Jesus.