Mending the Net: August 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The art of offering cutlery: forgiving past yourself

He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:14

I had large chunks of doubt in my teenage life-soup.

There were carrots of hatred, potatoes of fear, leeks of abuse… oh but the stock was faith, the water was hope, the chicken was me. Though there are more vegetables, usually, than chicken in chicken soup you’ll notice that they don’t (often) get featured in the title.

It’s just chicken soup.

Sure, there are vegetables there, but though they’re important ingredients that help make the soup what it is, it is chicken soup. I’m the chicken. My sins, my doubts, my fears – the things I find hard to “deal” with, yes they’re important, but they don’t define me. They’re not who I am, they’re actually forgotten about when I think about my self-soup. My hope is in there too, surrounding me, making me palatable and useful, and my faith brings the best flavours out of me. When it comes down to it, I’ll be known as chicken soup.

Without God I wouldn’t be soup at all, I wouldn’t be warm on winter nights and comforting to the lost and unfortunate. I guess I might make a mediocre salad and, though some people kid themselves that is good enough – it really isn’t.

Personally, I feel little surprise that soup kitchens can offer solace to those not yet stepping through church doors. We’re all ingredients, we give each other cutlery and say “Dig in!” every day of our lives, do we give God the same chance? Ah, because we’re not perfect, and we can’t let the big perfect guy up in the sky see into these hearts that we are ashamed of because we stole lipstick/did drugs/were mugged/kissed the wrong boy….

How selfish that we have to forgive ourselves , not feel guilty, or other people have to forgive us so we stop feeling guilty. Why is it not God’s forgiveness we truly crave with all our hearts? These imperfect hearts of ours. Well, let’s get this straight – God knows they’re imperfect and, you know what, He loves us for it. He’s our Father and, sure, He wants us all to walk the path he left us a guidebook for, He wants us to help others down that road too – but if we mess up, He still loves us. He loves us all the more for coming back home to Him after our mess ups. He’s that kind of guy.

So why not pass Him a spoon?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Just beneath your skin where the light does fall

There are footsteps that make my skin crawl: there are times I seem to catapult from this body into a place full of fear and anticipation. These are times that I sometimes foolishly let cloud my thoughts - that a few moments of folly, temptation, murky memories of atrocities mar me insufferably. That my existence is one of pain and hardship and, I admit that I have grappled with this word on more than one occasion, cursed.

The word curse always brings me to Job... it's not as if the Bible is bereft of cursings, they feature mightily, but Job is where my heart is called to when I try to apply the word to myself in any way.

Resentment kills a fool,
and envy slays the simple.

I myself have seen a fool taking root,
but suddenly his house was cursed...

...For hardship does not spring from the soil,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground.

Yet man is born to trouble
as surely as sparks fly upward

But if it were I, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him.

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted...

The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.

He thwarts the plans of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.

He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away.

Darkness comes upon them in the daytime;
at noon they grope as in the night.

He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.

So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.

Job 5:2-3, 6-9, 11-16 NIV

Oh those words speak to me in ways I can't even begin to describe. Just think about them - there is nothing in this world that we can truly call our own except sin and trouble, that's what Eliphaz is saying to Job! Our sins come from ourselves, they are not down to anyone else. Jesus died to save us from the ultimate truth of this knowledge - He washed us clean with his blood so that now when we sin (which we are all bound to do) we only have to admit it and ask forgiveness.

God is so mighty - He won't let those who seek to harm, the evildoers, the crafty win out. He is the one with the higher plan. Even in our darkest moments when we question "Why has this happened to me? How is God letting this go on? Doesn't He know how much I love Him?" - He still has that plan of His, you know. It's still there. He is always looking for hearts open and willing for His use to further His work.

When we sin, our wrongdoings, our temptations that we let "win" - these matter. They fly upwards, just like sparks do! Sparks! They that jump out of the fire and burn - it's unexpected as to the exact moment that they jump, but we all know that if there's an open fire, there are going to be sparks jumping around. What we don't know is when... but guess what? God does. He knows. And by the death of His only Son, it's already forgiven! My gosh, what a statement that is. We only have to own up to it, and BAM! the slate is clean.

We are such a prideful species that we actually have more trouble forgiving ourselves than God has with forgiving us. And it's so awful of us, it really is. God actually sacrified His Son for us to save us from all this, and what - we can't forgive ourselves for things we do wrong? Was Jesus' death not enough of a show? Was His blood not enough to wash us clean? What pride.

Giving your life into God's keeping, trusting Him completely means that, yes, your faith may be tested; just think how strong you'll come out the other side. It's happened to me more than once, and I've survived through God's grace. I gave Him my soul and He lent it back to me. So I have to take such good care of it now, it's like a library book that I don't know quite when to return yet, but I know that I will know when it is time.

And as for cursed - like God would lend me anything cursed!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

All the redemption I can offer is beneath this dirty hood

“You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain, make crosses for your lovers and throw roses in the rain, spend your summer praying in vain for a saviour to rise from the streets…"

Oh Mr. Springsteen, what images you paint me. Thunder-Road, what a tune. It's on the Bruce Springsteen album I had playing in the car earlier. No, I don't technically drive. I intensely dislike driving, in fact. It terrifies me. Big time. But my theory test certificate runs out at Christmas and I feel that I should at least attempt my practical test once before then. I first started driving lessons to please my father, now it's to please my fiance. Go figure. Why am I not pursuing it with my whole heart looking to serve God? Maybe that's why I get so scared, I'm not letting Jesus sit beside me.

Oh Jesus, please guide my prayers from my heart to God’s ear. I implore you not to let these months pass by in vain. I know your plan for me is wonderful and I give you my trust entirely. I pray that I can open my eyes truly to better see and travel my path with whatever transport you see fit. Through you.