I played some of my best rounds (golf) in June, some decent ones in July and August, and the worst one in two years on Labor Day.
Having preached on Luke 14:15-24 on the day before and focusing on the lame excuses made for distancing ourselves from intimacy with our Lord, I cannot bring myself to rationalize my awful play as resulting from giving away a driver which I should have kept and can't afford anymore because of the Caliber deal, taking two tablets of Aleve after three Advils just an hour before teeing off, and sharing a cart with a guy who would accuse John Daly of slow play.
Total depravity strikes again!
I just, uh, stunk.
I was as bad as the Bears have been throughout the preseason.
I was awful.
Truth is I've been awful before; and I'll be awful again.
I'm so, uh, human.
I thought of a few lines from Henri J.M. Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus which a liberal friend who is really quite conservative brought to my attention again after reading about my experiences with Special Olympians: "The more willing I was to look honestly at what I was thinking and saying and doing now, the more easily I would come into touch with the movement of God's Spirit in me, leading me to the future."
I read it back in 1989.
It chronicles the transition of Nouwen from Notre Dame/Yale/Harvard Professor to priest for the mentally challenged: "I began to ask myself whether my lack of contemplative prayer, my loneliness, and my constantly changing involvement in what seemed most urgent were signs that the Spirit was gradually being suppressed...So I moved from Harvard to L'Arche, from the best and the brightest, wanting to rule the world, to men and women who had few or no words and were considered, at best, marginal to the needs of society."
It makes sense only now.
An honest estimate of self.
Dumping garbage before others dig it up.
1 John 1.
Though I cannot begin to articulate what I'm feeling, my love for Jesus is deepening in increasingly tough-minded and tenderhearted ways; or as Nouwen described his transition, "I was starting my life all over again."
"I am telling you all this," he, uh, disclosed, "because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self."
But I was trained to be a leader and mover and shaker...
Obviously, until now, Jesus did not train me: "Jesus' first temptation was to be relevant: to turn stones into bread."
I want bestsellers to pay my bills, give lots away, put some away for the boys, pay for what will not be funded by those who have but hoard, and be known for knowing Him.
Nouwen's counterpoint: "Look at Jesus. The world did not pay any attention to Him. He was crucified and put away. His message of love was rejected by a world in search of power, efficiency, and control."
I want to make a difference for Jesus; but Nouwen contends, "The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?...In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, that cares, that reaches out and wants to heal. In that heart there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred...It is a heart that suffers immensely because it sees the magnitude of human pain and the great resistance to trusting the heart of God who wants to offer consolation and hope...Very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits."
I never understood Jesus on the cross until that last line in the previous section: "Very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits."
He said, "Father, forgive them. They're ignorant."
My paradigm shifts and my sense of justice fractures; for He forgave before confession and repentance.
He elected them though they did not vote for Him.
I asked a friend whose counsel is important to me why people are so afraid of, uh, just about everything.
He answered, "We live in one of the most fearful generations in history...Fear feeds and grows on the loss of connection with God's grace as the primary relationship in life. When we lose sight of this foundation, this root, this radical, this fundamental, then we are contentious in our fears. We take over where the Lord really does better than us. In so doing, we lead all kinds of coordinated armies and attacks against the Church of Jesus Christ; because we don't trust Him enough to change the hearts of our brothers and sisters."
He has many more things to say about fearful attitudes causing fearful actions which fracture the fabric of church and society; and, basically, he concurs with Nouwen, "When we know the heart of Jesus which is the same as loving Him, we cannot do other than bring healing, reconciliation, new life and hope wherever we go. The desire to be relevant and successful will gradually disappear, and our only desire will be to say with our whole being to our brothers and sisters of the human race, 'You are loved. There is no reason to be afraid.'"
I've believed, for as long as I can remember, the solutions to our divisions are through Jesus.
Nouwen: "Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.
"For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future," he concluded, "a movement from the moral to the mystical is required."
"The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led," he observed.
The need to win over the command to love is at the core of all contentions.
Again, I go to the cross: "Father, forgive them. They're ignorant."
I think it was William Barclay who said, "God is much more forgiving than people."
While we're always trying to figure out the formula, He's inviting, welcoming, including, and loving 'em back into the family.
While we're always denigrating those whose goose-stepping ain't in synch with us, He's embracing and granting grace-filled dispensations which defy our much less than divine definitions of value and eligibility.
I'm a lot more thankful for Jesus than those who are always trying to figure out who qualifies for His limitless love.
Blessings and Love!