Sweetness

When I was a young boy I wanted to be a soldier. I remember in junior high wanting to be part of the Special Forces. Part of me still maintains this demeanor. I like order and obedience. Although I’ve learned that these things are important I can never fulfill them perfectly. Nor can I expect them perfectly in others.

Another aspect of being a soldier is the heroic nature. To do something brave, bold and dangerous captures the fancy of many young men. Even in my middle ages I still have this fantasy sometimes. I want to be a hero.

In following Jesus, these desires can, to one degree or another, be fulfilled. Still these remain side effects at best, and unnecessary distractions at worst, of something much more profound.

In our never ending attempt to define and understand ourselves we try on different identities from time to time. These can last for months, years or even decades. Like a costume they allow us to act in a way different than if we were standing naked. Stripped of all our adornments would we act the same?

It’s not about the physical clothing, but the things that dangle off of our bodies say a lot about our human condition. As a youth, a uniform and gun fascinated me. How telling this is. As a follower of Christ I want to be his toy soldier. Send me to the front to be brave, my Lord. Send me to my death if need be. I want to be your hero.

And in this he lets me do many things. He lets me fight demons and engage in the battle I longed for as a youth. But the fiercest battle is within me. It is  his everlasting sweetness against the bitterness that tries to consume me.

Where this bitterness comes from I’m not sure. I can guess about my ancestry or my childhood or my sinful early adult life, and the answer is probably a combination of factors.

I see so much bitterness in the world. In the recent US elections it was especially intense. This is because every world leader is chained to the currency of power. This they manage well. We love to criticize the outside world. It’s easy game. This bitterness makes me want to lash out with it’s deadly sharp edge.

Yet God rises above all this. He let’s the cold steel of my bitterness sink deep into the wounds of Christ. This is where I will find my answers, deep in those wounds. His is the currency of love. This is the seat of all God’s power, grace and authority. And in moments when I realize the sweet love of Jesus it overwhelms me to where I can barely stand. He dislocates and disorients me as I float upon his sweet caress.

This is not an entirely pleasurable experience. It’s not like taking a nice hot bath after a long day. This is something entirely different where God changes you structurally and integrally. It’s almost like a change in your DNA, but really all he is doing is stripping you down to your real self — to who you are and who you were meant to be. All the ridiculous trappings I weave around me, he does away with. And like a silly spider I keep spinning and weaving, but my gossamer strands melt easily away in his consuming flame. In moments when I stop all my plans and stop running away he enters my heart with his ever sweet love.

It’s the realization that things will never be as they should be but, rather, as he wills them to be.

Just stop for a moment. Today just stop all the noise and worry. Let his sweetness in. To know his love is to know him. Stop running, stop weaving. This is the love you have always longed for. This is the love that has longed for you always. Since your beginning, until your death and forever after. Let his love in just this one time. How long has it been since you felt his love? How long has it been since you felt God’s love wash your bitterness away?

How long?

Jesus waits for you patiently always. Never ending, never failing never wavering is his love for you. His wounds run deep for you.

Let my knowing become my being

How far are we, as writers, willing to go in dedication to our craft? Some write for a release and as an outlet for expression. What happens when your hobby becomes an obsession? For what ends do I write? For recognition? For others to tell me how insightful or witty I am? Here I dig for my true motivation. I say it is for God. But is it? Or is it all just to satisfy my selfish needs?

As a Christian, I know I must serve. But where? How? If my words, no matter how inspiring, are born of pride or ego, then they only soil my faith.

I search for clarity. I search for truth.

If I can rip down the barriers of my insecurities and produce something revealing my true self, then perhaps I have done a service to someone and to my God.

So we kick ourselves in the pants every day pushing the envelope. We get stiff necks and fingers pounding out something that might stir someone to quiver with discomfort or delight… something that might move them for a moment at least.

We seek community, but also individual recognition – a most difficult balance if one cares to maintain integrity. How much am I willing to give in order to get? How much am I giving with no strings attached? Is there not even a gossamer thread that binds me to a darker motive? Upon closer inspection perhaps that thread has the tensile strength of thick piano wire and cutting it is like cutting a nerve.

By nature I am selfish, egotistical and proud. By the Lord’s grace, these faults have been attenuated, but not crushed. And I fear their obliteration as it will mean the death of me. He calls me to give more, yet how much more? I feel myself being pulled inside out. The Father is never ashamed of me, but maybe I am, so I look for every soothing word except His in my insecurity. If only I could be a simple man.

My resources are infinitely limited; His of infinite abundance. I must take my eyes off of myself and look upon the love He spilled out. His precious blood, His deep wounds… in these I find hope because I know what they mean. Holy Father…  let my knowing become my being.

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JHR