Previously, these weekend posts/challenges have been light of heart and full of cheer, but this one feels so very different. Earlier today I read a blog post by Tonia Peckover, entitled “where peace begins” (http://www.studyinbrown.com/writing/2013/7/30/where-peace-begins.html). In this post, which takes you to another site for the complete story–please check it out!–I read a more detailed story that has peeked in and around the edges of a grace-filled writer whom I’ve followed for some time. Her tone is grounded and full of peace…with these occasionally crispy-battled-brittled edges of some deeper darker dealings…and I’ve often prayed for this woman I’ve never met with a passion and a compassion I couldn’t explain.
Today I understand that a bit better. Today, I get it a lot more because in her honest sharing of the difficulties she and her family have and continue to face, there is a reality that hits closer to home than I’d like. I know others in her shoes. People I love whose loved ones are in flaming open rebellion against all that is good and right and reasonable…not to mention, holy. I’ve seen these loved ones suffer unimaginable distress and be filled with doubt over things beyond both their understanding or their control.
I saw it again today on the TV screen as I watched a man named Ariel Castro declare that he was not a monster…when that is so clearly far from the truth. I heard it on three separate occasions today…this word “narcissistic” used to describe actions of those who somehow have come to believe that the people in their path are either there to serve their needs or be removed as hindrances. It chills me. This subjugating of persons designed to love into objects designed only to serve. It chills me because these examples are rising in their number.
I cannot supply the specific answers for each of these situations except to say, “God!” I cry out His name because it is the only hope. I cry out this name because in each of the three instances that crossed my path today where self-interest and evil reign is a light that can only come from Him. In each of these events I clearly see the picture of hope and the old, old story of a man whose son chose to go his own way after demanding his birthright in an exceedingly disrespectful manner and then squandering that blessing in a place so far from where he was intended to live and thrive on love and acceptance. Upon finding himself in such desolation and in such a downcast position, he decided to return home in hopes of becoming a servant instead of the beloved son he once was.
Instead of servanthood and further subjugation, he was greeted with lavish love and affection, cleansed and given new robes, new joy and new restoration. It is possible! Luke 15:11-32 assures me that it is! It is possible to go so far that you think you’ll never be able to return and it is still possible–even in that state–to be restored to the love of your Heavenly Father. There is no one and no place too deep or too dark for Him to dare descend in order to bring one He has created back into right relationship with Him! Oh, the hope in those words!
I cry out His name for those who don’t yet know how to do it for themselves. I cry out His name for those who still don’t believe He’s there. I cry out His name for those whose lives are shattered by loved ones whose rejection of my God blinds them to His great love for them…even though…even now. He pursues you. He chases you down to tell you of His great love for you! That’s what you’re reading right here, right now! GOD LOVES YOU!!! Immensely, immeasureably, completely and irrevocably! He will continue His pursuit of your heart until the last possible second of your life because He values you far more than you could ever imagine.
Never let it be said that hell is full of those He sent there! To the contrary, hell will be filled with those who ran screaming to get in all on their own in an effort to prove that they didn’t want to choose the love so freely offered to them by the One who created them for fellowship with Himself in the first place. The horror of that choice chills me further.
It chills me because I can still see myself there in that old, old story. I can still see that same determination to go my own way and do what I want despite what I know to be true. We all do it. We want our own way, on our schedule, without consequences that get in our way or inconvenience us to any degree. We all want that. Still. To say otherwise is less than honest. Though there are often times we are less determined to go that route and we draw closer to the Source of all peace and perfect love, we still do it. It is no less ugly in us just because our examples are less than those I’ve seen today. It is no less sin before a perfect God. And yet there is still hope. Even now. Even for us. In Him.
This is the challenge for this weekend: Evaluate where you are with God. Do it honestly. Don’t take this lightly or grade yourself on the curve of those who are “worse than you” are. Do so against the standard of what He has actually said in His Word…not what others have said He said or what they think it means, but by what you read for yourself. Dig deep! Don’t get sidetracked by the socially acceptable slush that is so often attributed to God. It is not worthy of Him…or of your time. Ask Him what He thinks…and be prepared to hear that He loves you…even now…even though…
There is hope! It is true! He will not leave you where or as you are. You were made for better things because of His great love for you!
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3: 21-23 (NIV)