Death, Faith, Grace, Life, Suffering, suicide

Falling

Falling

Did you ever have one of those days in which the sum of your deficiencies adds into one huge indictment against your worth?  Or perhaps even a whole phase in which the negative side of your personal ledger seemed so disproportionately stacked against the positive that ruin/shame/disgrace must be the logical conclusion?

I’ve definitely had those days – and even longer phases – but I have always survived them.  I know a girl who had one of those days – maybe even weeks, months, or years – and she did not.

Anna* was a lovely, quirky, wry girl.  She had grown up in our church and remained connected for most of her twenty-seven years.  Sometime after high school, she took on the job of managing our church nursery – I’m told that she was giddy with excitement every time she heard of a pregnancy, and she’d begin the countdown until the next baby was due to arrive into her care.  She was a beloved part of our church family.  She was our kids’ first real babysitter, too, and the boys would look forward to her visits and the fun books she’d select from her Mum’s daycare to bring and share with them.  Although ‘quiet’, Anna was not devoid of character; in fact, she had a large group of friends, plenty of flair, and an awesome secret identity as a roller-derby queen.

April 12th, 2013 was a cold, dark day.  The wind howled and the rain lashed the streets.  I was in a melancholy mood, because that day one of my dearest friends was leaving Vancouver and moving all the way across to the East Coast.

But nothing – not the foul weather, not my own sadness, not the malaise we sometimes feel on those somber, wet days in early spring – could have measured the depth of Anna’s grief; because that day she took her own life.

I have had few real shocks in my existence.  But that night, as we got ready for bed, West’s iPad indicated an incoming email and out of habit he flicked it on and had a look.  When he gently guided me to the living room to sit down, I knew that the news couldn’t be good.  My thoughts flitted between friends and family members here and there, wondering what had happened, and then I read…

The words I saw were beyond my comprehension. I struggled to make meaning of the news, begging West for answers he didn’t have, asking with broken sentences about how, why, and were they SURE…  I wondered, pleaded, prayed that it might be possible for her to have survived the fall…

I tossed and turned that night, praying endlessly for her, for her family, for meaning…  I felt trapped in a living nightmare, and I could only imagine what those nearer to her must have been going through.  And of course I wondered:

Did I miss the signs?

Was there any small way in which I made her feel unloved, unlovely, unimportant?

What could I have done that might have prevented her from such a drastic and final step?

I was haunted by the thought of her falling, her long dark hair trailing behind her, feeling the vast and frightening emptiness surrounding her…

The next morning, the sun rose – how strange it felt to me that this should be the case, that something was still normal.  And we had to sit our kids down and tell them that we’d lost her.

West and I had discussed the daunting task of informing our kids and concluded that we would tell them only that our sweet Anna had fallen.  They were just too young to know more, and we wanted to spare them some pain and confusion – it was enough that everyone around them was reeling with the news.

Two days later it was Sunday, and we entered a church that was – appropriately – utterly unlike the sanctuary we’d entered just a week before.  The atmosphere was hushed, funereal; our collective grief was palpable.

I don’t remember the first part of the service; all I remember was feeling numb.  That surreal sense of being stuck in a bad dream made it difficult to focus, and around me I could hear that others were struggling.  I kept praying for her closest ones, who were in our midst that morning as they were every Sunday – praying that they were feeling buoyed by God’s love and comfort during this darkest time.

And then the sermon began.

Our pastor spoke of this loss and our grief, and gave voice to the anxieties we were feeling. And something amazing happened.  His words, undoubtedly chosen carefully and prayed over, transcended the bitterness of our anguish – and those words poured a healing salve over our raw and broken hearts.  All those thoughts and worries and sorrows that had been reeling in my head were quelled and soothed and comforted. The oppressive atmosphere lifted and Truth breathed hope into a room that had, just moments before, been filled with despair.

We were reminded of the girl we knew and loved, and we were counselled to remember her as such.

We were assured of God’s presence in her life even in her darkest hour when she must have felt far from the truth of it.

We were woken from the nightmare and encouraged to take shelter in the wings of our Lord.

The truth is this:  there’s no such thing as an ‘unforgiveable sin’.  If there were, grace would be a lie.  Even when we would forsake the world and the pain therein, God never forsakes us.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house there is more than enough room.”

-John 14:1-2a

Anna had made, our pastor told us, one terrible, fatal mistake.  She had been blind to the love and care that surrounded her, or so overwhelmed by her internal suffering that she lost sight of the Truth.  But God never lost sight of her.  She let go – but God never let go of her.

Were all our questions answered?  No.  How could anyone measure the depth and breadth of the suffering that would drive a beloved friend, daughter, and sister to take her own life, or give full meaning to it?

Were we immediately free of the pain and grief that had so ensnared us since hearing the terrible news?  No.  We have all been indelibly changed by it.  Four years on, the scars remain. The scars will always remain.

But the Truth remains, too.  Grace saves us.  Grace saved Anna; death does not hold the victory in her story.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

-John 3:16

We all have times in our lives when our sadness, guilt, or shame consumes our thoughts – and sometimes threatens to consume our souls – but God has the final word.  And that word is grace.

God said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

-from 2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s grace is sufficient for us.  God’s grace is sufficient for me – and it is sufficient for you.  God’s grace was sufficient for Anna.

When we fall, we are not lost forever.  God catches us.

 

 

 

*Not her real name

 

Please know – if you are in the trenches, He may feel far, but God is there.  He loves you, cares for you, and he wants LIFE for you.  Find someone to talk to – call your local Crisis centre, a friend, even your doctor, and tell them how you’re feeling.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

With Love (Truly),

-Trix x

 

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Easter, Faith, Grace, Life, Reflection

Sanctuary to Sacrifice

2 Corinthians 1 4

Maybe it’s the stage of life I’m in, where one child’s nighttime waking is almost guaranteed (and so, therefore, is my tiredness), or maybe it’s because we sprang for the extra layer of cushioning on our mattress, but I love my bed.  I could just nestle in there and stay snuggled up all day.  The demands of my life don’t permit such laziness, though (more’s the pity!); in order to attend to my necessary duties, I’m forced to leave the comfort of my bed.

A couple of years ago I was compelled to write about not dwelling in comfort; I wrote the following article for our church magazine, because it was to my fellow Christians that I felt this message should be directed.  Basically, I felt the need to remind us all that comfort is not a dwelling place; i.e. it is good and necessary for us to nestle into the comfort of our salvation; it is good and right that we should draw near to Jesus and find peace and joy in His presence; but we need to remember that we are called to be His hands and feet.

God calls us to take refuge in Him.  He calls us to find comfort in Him, to ‘dwell’ in His perfection and light as a respite from a world in which we experience pain and struggle and darkness.  Our Lord encourages us to take time to reflect and revel in being in Him.  We are to embrace and celebrate the sanctuary of God’s love – but our responsibility does not end there.  The purpose of this refuge is to re-charge us to go into the world and embody that love for others. Second Corinthians 1 instructs us that God comforts us in order that we may then provide the same comfort to others.

Christ himself took comfort in the Father.  Jesus went up to Gethsemane to pray and to seek peace from the turmoil in his soul.  But he did not stay there; from that hilltop he went out, strengthened in his resolve, to do what God was calling him to do.

God is calling us to do His work, too.  Like a mother whose reluctant child is clinging too long to her skirts, He is ushering, cajoling, exhorting us to take heart and trust in his love to go with us as we leave the sanctuary of His breast.  We have things to do in the world around us and we must not tarry in this place of comfort for too long, lest we deny our calling to be God’s heart out there in a hurting world.

As we approach Easter, we’re invited to look upon the Cross.  Often, we’re tempted to bypass the gritty crucifixion scene and move straight to the more comforting symbol of the empty cross and the hope and peace offered there.  It’s easier to skip the hard parts of Christ’s story – His suffering for our gain – and go directly to the joy of our redemption and His resurrection.  But let us pause before the Cross, and Christ upon it – bound there by our sins – and consider the challenge therein.

It’s difficult to contemplate the Christ’s experience on the cross.  It is not comfortable to encounter the pain or suffering of our fellow human beings; it’s not comfortable to consider how much we have and what our responsibility might be to those who have not; it’s not comfortable to think about speaking God’s truth into a world which has, historically and continuously, rejected Jesus. “I’m not called to missions,” we declare – forgetting that we are called to be God’s hands and feet in this world.  “It’s a fallen world – there will always be sin and poverty and sickness.  There’s nothing we can do to change that.”  But do we really think we’ve got no responsibility to pass on the comfort of the Father to those who struggle beyond our natural sphere of influence and interaction?

As Christians, we’re called to be people of action.  Our deeds should reflect God’s heart in the world.  But too often we go to that place of refuge in our faith and we STAY there. Instead of taking sanctuary, being filled up and encouraged, and then getting back into the thick of things to do God’s work, we wrap ourselves up in the comfort of our salvation, in the comfort of our blessed lives, in the comfort of our smug completeness – and we do nothing.

Instead, let’s commit to the challenge of aligning ourselves with God’s will for our lives.  This is an ongoing process; the action God expects of us depends on our particular gifts and talents as well as the stage of life we’re in – we need to remain open to God’s calling in small ways as well. But we do need to be willing to embrace discomfort in order to show God’s heart to others.

Accepting grace is simply not enough.  How can we receive a transformative gift and remain unchanged by it?  God is calling us to demonstrate His love in this world.  He is moving in us, dwelling with us, encouraging us and renewing us; all for the purpose of equipping us to go out and be active in our faith.

This year, as we complete the Lenten season, perhaps we can challenge ourselves: if comfort is something we strive towards or even spend a lot of time thinking about, then perhaps it’s time to re-examine our priorities.

Jesus didn’t die to ensure our comfort.

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Something to consider: When we encounter difficulty/challenges, do we seek a way out of those challenges or do we seek God in the midst of those challenges?  Remember, God invites us to take comfort from Him; from there we are equipped to go out, strengthened by His love and His presence, and do whatever we’re called to do.

Go in peace (but do make sure you GO OUT THERE!),

 – Trix

x

 

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Faith, Grace, Life, Philosophy, Reflection

Growing Old Graciously

Folded hands by Horia Varlen on flickr.jpg

There was a series of ads for a popular anti-aging cream a while back that ended with this tagline:

“I don’t intend to grow old gracefully.  I’m going to fight it every step of the way!”

The line was delivered by a beautiful, feisty woman; one who didn’t look her age and one who, by her own admission, had no intention of allowing her beauty to fade as she grew older.  This was ostensibly her main goal in life.  As if wrinkles somehow negate a woman’s beauty.  As if youth were a commodity more precious than experience.

But is it truly a measure of ‘aging well’ that we should remain unchanged by the passage of time?

Aging, and how (or whether) we change as we grow older, has been on my mind lately because I’m on the cusp of a milestone.  As I’m a sentimentalist, this birthday feels like a significant event in my life; and, as with all such things, anticipating this milestone has caused me to evaluate the past and make plans for the future.

To me, the mirror isn’t the only place we should pause for reflection.

There’s so much to celebrate about the decade I’m leaving behind.  In the past ten years I have borne children (I had only my eldest in my twenties); I have moved countries (twice); I have travelled (with kids!); I have studied (and I’ve been a student in the school of life); I have written (and been published!); I have served (and been served).  I’ve grown.  I’ve matured.  And, most of all – I’ve softened.

I’m not just talking about the physical softening and the extra exertion of gravity on a body as it ages; I’m talking about a softening of the heart.  The years have had a tenderizing effect on me; many times when my heart is full, so are my eyes.  I no longer contain my emotions as carefully as I once did; I am no longer in such firm command of the inconvenient welling-up of love, or sympathy, or heartbreak.  And yet – I’m stronger, too.

I’ve seen more death, so life is more precious.

I’ve seen more life, so death has more significance.

I know more about people, so I can relate better and sympathize more.

I know more about myself, so I can play to my strengths and work on my weaknesses.

flaws quote

And there’s more to come.

In the decade ahead, what will I learn, and how will I grow?

This is what I’m hoping for:

I hope that I will grow more tender – and yet stronger, too – with each year that passes.

I hope that I will reach out more to those around me; to shake off the guilt over what I haven’t done in the past and embrace the opportunities that present themselves in the future.

I hope that I will honour my belief in the paramount importance of Relationship by nurturing the relationships I feel privileged to enjoy, while also opening my heart to new friends.

I hope that I will be quick to listen and slower to speak; I hope that the perspectives of others will always inform and interest me.

I hope that I will continue to listen and heed God’s call upon my life; my time; my service; and my heart.

I hope that, while my body ages, I will continue to be renewed by His grace.

Lamentations 3

I hope that, whether or not I grow old gracefully, I will grow old graciously.

 

Maybe my reflections will give my friends pause to consider their own.

How do you intend on growing old?

 

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Faith, Grace, Life

On Not Being Spat Out

Cliff by Zach Werner on flickr with text added

My toddler’s behaviour has epitomized the ‘terrible two’s lately.  He (D) is climbing too high; ignoring instructions; disobeying rules; and just generally pushing the boundaries with everything.  At the same time, he is SO affectionate and so funny and so totally loveable (speaking with absolute bias, of course) that we think him adorable even while he’s challenging our patience.

Because D is a sly button-presser, I have to keep an eagle eye out when he’s in the kitchen to avoid an unwanted extra dishwasher cycle.  And because he’s fascinated with dipping his hands into cups, I have to keep hot drinks well out of reach.

One of my sisters-in-law visited for tea the other day, and D hovered next to her teacup.  It was no longer hot enough to burn, but I did want to avoid any mess and embarrassment.  I warned him, “No touching!  Keep your hands out!”

And he obeyed.

He didn’t touch.

Instead, he leaned forward and, with expert aim, he spat an entire mouthful of milk right into her teacup.

My sister-in-law was the mirror of me as we simultaneously clapped our hands over our mouths, eyes wide in disbelief.  But as the shock wore off, our shoulders started to shake.  What could we do but laugh?

The thing is, D wasn’t spitting because he didn’t want his milk.  He was spitting to see what would happen (and I made sure to explain later that we can spit in the sink when we brush our teeth, but it’s NOT OKAY to spit in people’s tea!).

Recently I read an article that reminded me of a verse in the Bible that talks about not being spat out.  The spitting in this case is a sign of God’s disgust with wishy-washy faith:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

-Revelation 3:15-17

In his commentary, Matthew Henry expounds on these verses thus:

Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth anything, it is worth everything; an indifference here is inexcusable: Why halt you between two opinions? If God be God, follow him; if Baal (be God), follow him. Here is no room for neutrality.

In short, we are to take a stand for what we believe in.  (And this is what the article I read was talking about.)  But how do we take a stand in a way that is honouring to all aspects of God – how do we respect his law and demonstrate his love?

It’s easy to see what not to do.

Westboro Baptist Church and its followers stand for the law and ignore the love.  They’ve obviously got it wrong.  On the other end of the spectrum you have the churches who preach that love is all that matters, and they ignore the law.  This is wrong, too.

Both are unbalanced views, and both are unbiblical.

What does being a Christian require of us?  We have to look to Jesus for the answer.

Jesus didn’t ostracize those living outside the bounds set by God’s commands – he didn’t get up on a pedestal and just denounce, denounce, denounce.  He didn’t try to motivate people to change by warning them that they were going to go to hell if they didn’t.  Jesus didn’t spew hate and he didn’t withhold his love from those deemed unworthy under the law.

He also didn’t endorse the views of the lost – he didn’t discount the error of their ways; he didn’t go up to the woman at the well and say, “Well, your husband was probably a lout and impossible to live with!  He practically drove you into the arms of that other man!”  He didn’t say, “Zacchaeus, you probably had very good reasons for collecting extra taxes to fill your personal coffers, and I’m not going to judge you for that.”

Instead, Jesus walked alongside sinners.  He loved them.  He spoke Truth to them.  He didn’t wait for them to change their ways or behave perfectly or even to confess God as Lord of their own lives before he gave them his attention and offered them his grace.  He healed and he restored.  And he told those newly-minted whole people – those sinners he had healed from their brokenness – “Follow me;” “Go and sin no more;”; “”Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.“.  He didn’t say, “Don’t go changing, now!”

The Truth is that God’s love changes us.

There once lived a man called Saul.  Or perhaps that should more correctly read, there twice lived a man called Saul – because once Saul had encountered Christ he was a different man.  Saul was a Jew, and a conscientious one at that.  His job, in fact, was in rooting out blasphemers and heretics; and his focus was on a new sect that had recently cropped up: followers of Jesus, also known as ‘Christ’.  As far as Saul could see, this was a dangerous new philosophy that needed to be stamped out through swift and severe action – and he was doing his level best to ensure that these followers of Christ were stopped before they could spread their messianic views any further.  He was dogged, determined – and devout.

And then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.

The Saul (henceforth known as Paul) who emerged from that encounter was just as dogged, determined, and devout.  But his focus had shifted 180 degrees.  Now, instead of working to cease the spread of Christianity, he aimed to increase it.  He moved from persecuting Christians to proclaiming Christ as Lord.  Why?  Because God’s love – in the form of Jesus Christ – had changed him.

He was transformed.

Almost every time Jesus exhorts his believers to ‘come, follow me’, he precedes that invitation with an instruction about what they need to release in order to do so.

In Saul/Paul’s case, he had to let go of all of his preconceived ideas about Jesus and followers of Christ.  He had turn his back on convictions he had carried through to death (not his, but those of so many believers), and turn towards a new conviction of the truth of Jesus’s resurrection (which he also carried through to death – this time, to his own eventual martyrdom).

Jesus knew that the young man was willing to abide by the law but not by the love – the young man’s heart wasn’t in it because he was unwilling to give up his home comforts for the promise of God’s reward.

  • Jesus called Peter to step out in faith – literally – and join him in stormy seas.

“‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”

Peter had to leave the boat.  He had to trust in Jesus’s ability to literally support him – and, when he believed, his faith provided a firm foundation for his feet.

Take my yoke upon you.  Faith can be a burden; but in Christ’s strength we are more than fit to carry that burden.  We are called to release our need to be in control over our lives and give up this freedom to accept the Freedom that is in Christ Jesus.

We are changed by faith.

The world at large doesn’t know this truth.  In an age where everything is relative, personal choice is king.  Further, there is an expectation that whatever those personal choices are, they are right.  And good.  And uncontestable.  There is a pervasive sense of this supremacy of personal choice and of the idea that if anyone doesn’t agree with someone else’s personal choice he is being hateful.  According to this new line of thinking, if I don’t support a woman’s ‘right to choose’ or hang a rainbow flag out my window then I must be passing judgement on everyone else, no matter how vehemently I deny it – and no matter how much I love the woman who has to make an impossible choice and the ones who endure hate because of their sexual orientation.  The world tells us that we have to agree with everyone in order to love them, but that is a fallacy.

I parent differently from how some of my friends parent – don’t we all, by necessity, make choices based on our own situations, our own research, and our own instincts??  If I choose not to let my kids ‘cry it out’ does that necessarily mean that I stand in judgement of my exhausted friend who chooses to try that approach in order to save her sanity?  If I believe that a meatless diet is healthiest for my family, does that mean that I hate those families who aren’t vegetarian or vegan??

No.  Not at all; disagreeing does not equal disliking.  Lack of assent does not equal lack of love or respect.  Believing that faith necessitates change doesn’t equal hypocrisy, even when it’s a belief held by a still-imperfect person.

Jesus loves sinners in spite of their sin (in spite of our sin).  We love others because Christ first loved us – not because they are married or single; gay or straight; religious or secular; or carnivorous or vegan, but in spite of those designations.  I love my friends in spite of their agreement or disagreement with my beliefs, and regardless of my agreement or disagreement with theirs.

But because of these differences, I have – at times – muzzled myself.  I have erred on the side of caution in sharing my views for fear of appearing unloving; because in this world, disagreement is taken for hatred.

I wonder, though, how much this is deference on my part – and how much it is cowardice.

A short while after I read Matt Walsh’s rousing exhortation to Christians to stand up and be counted, I read an article that cut me to the core.  This article, written by Ann Voskamp after a trip to Iraq to meet displaced women and children, is a raw and powerful portrait of the destruction wrought by Isis (and perpetuated, I fear, by the indifference of so many in the rest of the world).

Persecution is happening now.  Discrimination is happening today.  Prejudice is happening alwaysMothers are having to choose which children to bring and which to leave behindCan you imagine??

The world tells me that I am unloving if I disagree with someone.  But how loving is it that we ignore the slaughter of Christians in other parts of the world and the displacement of so many?  How loving is it to ignore the enslavement of their children?  There is a modern-day holocaust going on in the Middle East, and we are tip-toeing around for fear of offending*.

We are (correctly) outraged at the description of events in WW II – the idea that so many people sat idly by while Hitler moved brutally forward with his plan to exterminate Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone else who didn’t fit into his ideal.  And yet we ourselves sit timidly by as a slaughter takes place a continent removed from us.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

And so I am not going to ‘do nothing’.  I am not going to be lukewarm.

Law and love are both central to living as Christ lived, and I cannot apologize for that.  Jesus honoured the Sabbath, but he also healed on the Sabbath.  Jesus embraced sinners, but he also expected sinners to release their sin in order to follow him.

It is not loving to pretend that we sinners are just okey-dokey if we keep sinning wilfully.  “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Finding faith has to be the catalyst to change.

“Jesus Christ did not say ‘Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right’.”

– C.S. Lewis

If I water down my beliefs to make someone else feel better, how is that loving?  I don’t tell my kids, It’s OK if you don’t want to wear your seatbelt, ‘cause I know it’s restrictive and uncomfortable… – I tell them, I want you to be safe, and this is how you keep safe.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” – Proverbs 14:12

So this is what I believe:

I believe that God is sufficient for all of us, to fill every one of our needs.  Therefore I don’t need to apologize about my beliefs to the unmarried friend living with her boyfriend so that she’ll feel OK about her decision, because ‘after all, doesn’t God just want us all to be happy?” No because the truth is, God wants us to be fulfilled – and He is the one who can accomplish that. 

I am not writing this to stand up and denounce, denounce, denounce.  I am not trying to point out the splinter in someone else’s eye whilst ignoring the log in my own.  I don’t believe that there are shades of sin – there’s sin on one side (the result of which is separation from God), and there’s forgiveness on the other (in which we are reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice) – and I also don’t believe that watering down the Truth to make it more palatable is a kindness.  The truth is that we have all sinned, and we all fall short of the glory of God – and that’s where his grace steps in.  His sacrifice – like his love – is complete, and it demands action on our part.

What do we do, then?  Keep the law, and share the love.

I will not stand up and shout out against people I love, no matter whether or not I agree with them.  But I will stand up and be counted.  I will risk discomfort and even (‘though I cringe at the idea), being ‘unfriended’.  I will do my best to speak Truth into the lie of an untransformational salvation.  I will not accuse, but I also will not apologize.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

– Romans 6:1-4

Here I am, Lord.  Count me in.  I will honour your sacrifice, Jesus, and the sacrifice made by countless Christians around the world to this day who have been willing to die for these beliefs we share; I will honour you by speaking Truth, upholding your law, and sharing your love.

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My little D wasn’t spitting because he didn’t like what he tasted – he was just testing the boundaries of propriety.  But I’m not going to allow the boundaries of propriety to dictate to me so much that *I* am in danger of being spat out.

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*For the record, Isis is radical and not representative of Islam in general, and I know this.  I have beloved friends who are Muslim; by no means am I condoning hatred towards followers of that religion.  I do understand that there is a point at which our faiths divide, and that is OK.  I don’t have to agree with them to love them.

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Faith, Grace, Life

The Promise of Perfection

Perfection by Joel Bedford on flickr

My shampoo bottle is an indictment of all that is wrong with me.

Or, at least, the wording on my shampoo bottle boldly lists proof of the inadequacy of my hair.  It tells me that it is a special product for ‘hair that is limp and stressed’.  My hair is stressed.  What about the rest of me??

But that’s not all. The conditioner describes hair like mine as ‘dry and lacklustre’.  Really – this again?  Now my hair is ‘lacklustre’???  I think my self-esteem just oozed down the drain with the second rinse.

In fact, if I look around at my cosmetics and ‘beauty’ products, they’re all blaring loudly about the problems I have that they promise to correct.  All these products we buy, they sell us an idea – and, when you stop to consider it, it’s not a positive message.

Face cream jars promise to ‘fight signs of aging’ – telling us that we need to take pains to avoid a face with wrinkles.

Pantyhose packages advertise ‘controlling and smoothing’ abilities – telling us that a bit of tummy roundness is unsightly (and to hide the embarrassing evidence that we’re sporting knickers, it promises to ‘hide pantylines’, too!).

Even yoghurt containers spread the joy; our regular diet, they claim, is likely deficient in ‘healthy flora’ – therefore we’re probably undernourished and flatulent.  But the good news is that we should be belly-dancing with well-flowered tummies by the end of our trial of their product.

Leave it to me, these products promise, and I will take all that is wrong with you – and there is a LOT – and make it perfect.

It’s pretty hard to feel good about yourself with these ubiquitous messages proclaiming your flaws.

Lucky for us, we don’t have to accept these assertions, no matter how slick the wording or how pretty the packaging.

We don’t have to believe that we need those things, and that by having those fixes we will achieve perfection.

We have the Bible, and the message of that good book gives the lie to those other claims.

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It is a message of affirmation:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God deemed us worthy of his love even before we knew or loved him.

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It is a message of wonder:

The Bible tells us that, in all our imperfection, we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’.

God created us with care and purpose.

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It is a message of love:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son; that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

God made us perfect through the blood of Christ, and heirs to his inheritance.

Unlike the message on the bottles, the Bible affirms us.  Through it, God assures us that we are works of wonder, loved wholly and sacrificially by him, and purposed for holy things.

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Perfection isn’t found in a bottle, or a jar, or a package.

Perfection is being seen with eyes of love, through faith, and in grace.

This is the true promise of perfection.

“…the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.

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