Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sweet? I think NOT.

“I must really have people snowed.” 

That was my thought yesterday when I was joking with someone about being a trouble-maker.  She said to me, “There’s no way you’re a trouble-maker; you’re too sweet.” 

“I’m too sweet?” I wondered to myself.  “Since when?”

I’ve never thought of myself as sweet.  I’m friendly.  I’m mostly well-behaved.  I’m polite.  I try to be respectful and kind.  I hold doors open for people, offer to help with projects at work, and generally try to be cheerful.  I have empathy and compassion.  But, “sweet”?

I often think of 1Peter 3:3-5a: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.  I’ve never been accused of being “gentle and quiet,” so this singular passage has been one of the proverbial thorns in my side.  It’s also how I viewed the description of “sweet.”  Uh -- NOT me. I’m big. I’m loud.  I’m talkative.  I blurt.  I often feel like a bull in a china shop – I have been known to trample, no matter how “accidentally”—people’s feelings.  Without exception, I leave gatherings and wonder “what stupid thing did I say now?”  My insecurity knows no bounds.  I’m not a meek, mouse-like creature, though – I am big, loud, and have a big personality!


This morning I was listening to Fernando Ortega sing a fairly old song that I don’t hear as often as I would like to.  “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”.  It’s a beautiful thought-put-to-music about how God loves us so deeply, he gave his only Son, and made me, “a wretch, his treasure.”  The lyrics speak of how God turned away from Jesus on the cross, and of the pain that Jesus must of felt.  But what stopped me in my tracks (figuratively speaking, since I was driving!) was this line:

Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders!
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

Did you see it?  Did you see what stopped my heart?  No, not that the Man was upon the cross, bearing my sin – that’s something that I think about, and pray about, every day.  No, the next line: “Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” 

Me? My mocking voice?  Ummm…

I have studied the cross in depth.  As an extremely empathetic person, I have spent countless hours thinking about the weight of my sin that He bore for me.  I have prayed countless prayers of gratitude, thankful that I no longer have to bear that weight.  And yes, I have even thought about how MY sin is what put him there.  I beat him.  I mocked him.  I pounded the nails in.  But it’s not something I camp on often. 

It’s easy for me to remember that He died for “us.” Collective.  Humanity.  Everyone.  But, do how often do I stop and make it personal?  Every Sunday I sing about how God loves me, how Jesus died for ME, so I suppose I think of that in a more personal way on a fairly regular basis. 
But MY mocking voice?

I want to believe that I was in his small band of supporters – that I was among those who cried at His feet, and who gently removed His broken and battered body from the cross.   I held him reverently, cleaning off the blood and wrapping Him in cloth and herbs, and giving Him a proper burial.  I was Mary, who sat outside His tomb, weeping.  I was she who discovered Him missing, whom He appeared to first.

Maybe I am.  Maybe I would have been.

But I was also the mocker.  I stood among the rest of the angry cowards, and shouted at Him.  I laughed at His followers who cried for Him.  I betrayed Him like Judas.  I denied Him like Peter.  I riled up the crowd like the Pharisees.  I pounded in the nails.  I pierced His body with the sword.  I was hate-filled, or scared, or na├»ve – whatever I was, I was LOST.

WAS.

But because of this greatest act of Love – because of the deep, deep love my Father in Heaven has for me – I have the most important things in this world:  Forgiveness.  Redemption.  HOPE.

How deep the Father's love for us -- how vast, beyond all measure! -- that He should give His only Son and make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss!  The Father turns His face away as wounds, which mar the chosen One, bring many sons to glory.

Behold, the Man upon a cross -- my sin upon His shoulders!  Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished.  His dying breath has brought me life; I know that it is finished!

I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection!

Why should I gain from His reward?  I cannot give an answer.  But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom!
©1995 Kingsway's Thankyou Music 
Words and Music by Stuart Townend


If you were to ask me, at this very moment, the reason for my faith – THIS would be my reason.  

This. 

God, the Father, gave His only pure and faultless and perfect Son so that I, a wretched mocker, can be His treasure. 

No matter how unworthy you feel – how wretched, mean, how LOST – you have Someone who loves you.  He already sacrificed for you, and gave you the most incredible gift – you just have to humble yourself and accept it.  I know how hard that is to do – I drug my feet about ever setting foot in a church in college, because I knew what a rotten person I was, and thought, “There’s NO WAY God will ever want ME.” 

I’ll write again about God’s love for us, and my thoughts about why Christians get such a bad rap, and what I think I need to do to help change it.

In the meantime, think about the words of Paul:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:6-10, NIV)


Hang in there, friends – YOU ARE LOVED.