~~It’s cold! Really really cold for December in Arkansas. It won’t last, but we’ve gotten spoiled, and a bitter blast like this unseats us a bit and we whine. I was at the library yesterday watching a young mom with three little ones bundle up after story time to head for home. The littlest one, barely old enough to have more than one word, but knowing it well, began to holler, “No!” “Noooooooooo!!!!” “Noooo Noooo Noooo!!!!” The unfortunate thing for him was that as he skidded into full buck mode and locked the brakes, his mama just lifted him up by the arm until his feet no longer touched the floor and out they went into the brrrrrr. I couldn’t say I blamed him. And bless it, he kept it up all the way down the sidewalk without giving an inch except what he was powerless to. I smiled a little to myself remembering those days as a mom and sympathizing with the little one’s sentiment when I heard in my head, “…you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)
I’ve been reading a book lately that is way above my pay scale, but I’m plowing through. From the first chapter it has been all up in my business and I’ve had to put it aside several times while I simmer down. It has held a mirror up to a corner of my life that I thought was a non-issue. It’s a place that no one in the church has ever mentioned even in passing in all (the few) years I’ve been there. And it’s sin. Plain and simple. I am deeply convicted. And deeply conflicted. This is one of those things that is easily justified and argued (which is why the church has abdicated its voice), and I believe that if I brought my confusion to anyone else I personally know to be a Christian (with one exception) they would poo-poo it away and tell me to press on undeterred. That’s not the answer I need, but it’s the one I want, because I am in full buck mode. ‘No! I do not want to go there! I do not want to do that! It’s uncomfortable, and I’m scared, and I do not trust You to lead me through this!’ Followed by crushing shame and a heart the longs to repent, but doesn’t really know how. (Oh…I know how…I just can't seem to get my mind from a tantrum-level ‘No’ to a full-on submitted ‘Yes’.)
Here’s the thing. God never said following Him would be without cost. He said, "If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what can a person give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26 – emphasis mine) Well, the cross is an instrument of torture and death, isn’t it? What do I expect? It’s gonna be hard some days. It’s gonna be scary. It’s gonna hurt a little (lot), and it may even kill me. So. What? So, what, Melissa?! That’s where the rubber meets the road. That “what” is sadly pretty big to me still when I take its measure, and I’ve come to a place in my Christian walk where I expect to be able to keep my “what” and still call myself God’s child. I am a double-minded man.
I’ve experienced this before, having a divided mind over a truly simple matter (from God’s perspective), my sin nature in full out war with my spiritual nature. I confessed this condition to a friend once when we were driving and she threatened to pull the car over before we got struck by lightning. I absolutely feel torn over this issue, but I’ve never known God to abandon His efforts to make me holy when I’m in a dither like this. Though I have failed Him in countless ways with compounded interest, and broken His heart by refusing His gifts, He has always brought me to a place where I could repent. I’m counting on that mercy again now.
What I want you to hear is that unwaveringly, God is good in the small things, in the big things, and in the monumental things where we are literally at war with ourselves with no hope of Nato intervention. I know you’ve been there. Here’s what we can both remember, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 – emphasis mine) It doesn’t take Him by surprise when we find ourselves here, and He knows where we are going and how to get there. We just need to move. Forward. Obediently. Sacrificially, if that’s what He asks. Trusting Him with everything we leave behind and everything we face ahead. It’s so simple to say, isn’t it? Then we actually have to go out into the cold, swinging by one arm as we are led where we do not want to go. Such is the life of faith. But it would be simpler for everyone if we would go without having to be dragged.