Friday, December 24, 2010
The Lord has blessed me with one of the most glorious Christmas breaks thus far. I've been productive, gotten to relax, and I've overwhelmingly felt His favor and witnessed His blessings in my life. All the while, however, I've been battling a recurring sin that He has been working hard with me to purge my life of. I've managed to keep that monster at bay for quite a while, but it reared its ugly head again yesterday. I immediately became overwhelmed with disappointment and fear. I heard Satan whispering that I had single-handedly ensured a loss of God's favor and ignited His disappointment. I vehemently know this to be such a lie! I was still shaken by it, though. I immediately thought of my dear friend with whom I had discussed God's anger with that very night. She was convinced that God was angry at her. After reassuring her of His Love and relaying a clear message from Him of just how much He wanted for her, I had praised and thanked Him for the gift of His Love and overwhelming forgiveness. So, I was truly shocked at myself for feeling so fearful and unsettled. I fell asleep in prayerful tears...
Little, did I know, He would remind me of who He is with the help of my cat, Arwen that very night...
Alright, as any good English teacher would, I'll start with a little exposition and set the scene. At Sylvan last week, the sisters I had been working with brought me a beautiful gift - a box of truffles ornately wrapped in a red and gold package and topped with a gorgeous bow and a glittery golden bell. Oh, that accursed bell! Then, over this past week, I thoroughly cleaned my apartment and decorated for Christmas as much as I could. I can never do as much as I'd like to because I have one mischievous little kitty cat whose curiosity and need for play leave little hope for the survival of dangling or otherwise strategically placed shiny objects. I did, however hang my stocking from my bar and place a Santa novelty and the wrapped box of truffles on the bar as well. Now, to her credit, Arwen did well for a few days. She left the decorations alone for the most part (only knocking my stocking down ever so often). BUT, yesterday, she discovered the bell.
Quite a few times throughout the day, I had had to get her down off of the counter where she was studying the truffle package and timidly pawing at its bow. She had done little harm, though and generally jumped down immediately if I even feigned a disciplining walk in her direction. Thus, as any good Grinch would do, she simply waited until I went to sleep to begin her reign of Christmas terror. However, this is also when God began his work.
The first time I woke up to the sound of claws on glittered paper and the ringing of the bell it was midnight. I began by clapping and yelling "Arwen, get down!" from my bed. When that worked to no avail, I did get up and walk into the living room. She immediately jumped down, rolled on her back in surrender, and meowed a sweet little meow. I went back to bed.
The next time, it was 2:00 am. I got up and was a bit more stern in my vocal inflection. I stomped into the living room groggily. She cowered down onto the counter below the bar and meowed. I actually had to physically remove her form the counter this time. In my exhaustion, though, I left the gift where it was and simply went back to bed.
I heard the bell hit the counter again at 3:00 am, and this time I was furious. I was tired physically, and tired of having to get out of bed to deal with her. I suppose my anger was palpable, because the moment I reached the threshold, she had bolted off of the counter and into the bedroom. I walked over, put the bell back into its place on the bow, turned around and got right back into bed. She accompanied me this time, curling up in her spot beside me and apparently going back to sleep as well.
4:40 am wrought an entirely different truth, though. I heard the bell hit the kitchen floor this time. I was DONE! I shot out of bed, anger coursing through my veins. I did not even acknowledge the cat, I simply walked in, picked up the bell, placed it back in the bow, moved the gift into my closet, disdainfully got back in bed, tossed around to get comfortable, and breathed deeply trying to calm my emotions enough to allow me to fall back asleep.
It was within those moments that God spoke to my heart.
I saw myself in Arwen - the sinner constantly drawn back into her sin by the pure temptation of it - no matter how many times I had been chased away from it by my loving parent.
I also saw how frustrating it is to watch someone you love just continue to go back and do the same wrong over and over again with you having to discipline them over and over again. It became almost impossible for me to not get angry even though I know it's simply in her nature. I was awed. It's in our very nature to sin and in our selfishness that we do so, often repeatedly. How amazing it became to me how He handles us with such patient mercy.
Through all of my getting up and lying down, my frustration, my anger, my disappointment, He was playing out for me a scene in response to the growing shadow of His disappointment in my mind. As fearful as I was at the anger of God over my sin, He reminded me and made me so exponentially thankful that His Love and temperament are constant. He does not react with growing temper at every recurrence of our sin, as I did with Arwen's. For, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). He is "good, ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy ...full of compassion, and gracious..." (Psalm 86:5,15). "He has not dealt with us according to our sins...for as the heavens are far above the earth, so great is His mercy" (Psalm 103:10,11). "Many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath"(Psalm 78:38). Praise Him that His ways are not our ways!!
He loves us, and He wants good for us. We must trust in His Love and Mercy - the highest of which He exemplified by sending His one and only son to die for the very sins we suffer such fear and shame over. Why would Jesus die if God were simply going to remain in His anger over our every sin?? No, beloveds! "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:8-9). Instead of leaving us in disgust to the consequences of our sin, He came toward us. He entered into our world. He took the penalty of our sin and bore our death, Himself.
"Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace [we] have been saved" (Ephesians 2:3-5).
Let us never forget! Do not let yourself run in shame or hide in fear of His reactions to our sin. He showed us that. Instead, beloveds, draw close to He who first drew close to us. He wants to free you from the fetters of guilt, not bind you up in them. Trust in who He is no matter what lies you hear whispered through the darkness. He is LOVE. Period.