Thursday, December 20, 2007

How Did I Get Here?

"The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
C.S. Lewis

How do we get into the messes that we often find our selves in? Do we suddenly wake up one day and find ourselves standing in the midst of ruin that has become our life? Does a teenager spontaneously become pregnant? Does a man wake up next to a woman who isn't his wife, scratch his head and declare, "Huh. When I went to bed I was alone. Now I find this woman in bed with me. What's up with that?" Smeagal (Hobbit/Lord of the Rings) didn't suddenly become Gollum and Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars) didn't suddenly become Darth Vader. First Gollum had to take the Ring of Power, take a life, withdraw from community, and move into a mountain cave condo. Anakin had to first believe he knew more than anyone around him, ignoring counsel, regardless of experience, and wisdom. Then he had to kill a tribe of sand people, withdraw from community, embrace the counsel from someone who agreed with him, and kill all of the children at the Jedi boarding school. Through gradual steps we venture away from the security of God and His people. Convinced that we are right, and/or deceived into believing we are strong, we slowly move away from the place of truth, grace, and peace. Eventually we are so far away that we can't hear the cries of our family and friends beckoning us to return. Their voices are gradually quieted by a resolute conscience. Our desire to “become like God” crystallizes as we take possession of the object(s) of our desire; power, a relationship, drugs, control, prestige. If by God’s grace we are awakened to the horror of what we now possess (The default that is built into every temporal pleasure), crying out in repentance, it is true that “Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power.” Here the church is called to model her Savior, to forgive what He forgives, offering the restoration of fellowship and love. Apart from repentance the Church should also model the attitude of the Father as displayed in the Parable of the Prodigals. There the Father scans the horizon anticipating his return, upon which He runs towards, embraces, kisses, restores honor, and throws a celebration feast. How many prodigals would return if they believed the church was an inviting place for them to return? Are you running from God? Are you running from God’s people who are calling you back? If so make haste in your return. Your reward is the promise of satisfaction and fullness in Christ, restoration that comes on the other side of dieing to self. Apart from repentance there is only the promise of greater emptiness, becoming less than what you were made to be. You will become Gollum. You will become Darth Vader because though they are mythological characters they represent gospel truth. What promises life can only produce death (James 1:14-15). “He who seeks to save his life will loose it but he who looses his life for my sake will find it.” You will not be transformed into something more glorious, mature, and full. You will be distorted and disfigured, empty and wanting. It will always be Winter and never Christmas (Narnia-speak). Do you know someone who is on the safe road to hell? Are you warning them in love, coming along side of them as one who also struggles, who has also received mercy from the Savior? Have you taken the log out of your eye before you approach them about the speck in their eye? If they have run, ignoring all pleas, are you praying for and anticipating their return? Are you a friend who stands ready to receive the repentant one, bringing a warm embrace and kiss rather than hypocritical scorn, gossip, and shame? Remember the order of reward the Father bestowed? Embrace, kiss, honor, celebration. May our steps be toward the Savior who promises to receive all prodigals. The safest road to hell may be the gradual one without signposts but the quickest way home is marked clearly by the Cross.