Where we wrestle with the sublime, mysterious, powerful and often frustrating paradox of God's necessary grace.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Grace, mud and blood--but first, the news

Remember the WW2 news announcer greeting? "Good day, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea!"

That's a bit how I feel. I'm in my lighthouse here on the rocky coast broadcasting to anyone who comes within range, broadcasting until they leave again, some to return, others not. I find this satisfying in an odd way. When I lived in Texas, for two years I worked as a radio DJ from 6 pm - midnight. I grew accustomed to the red, green yellow, white lights glowing on the control board, the dark street outside the waiting room illuminated in pools of light by streetlamps, the lights of passing cars flashing by.

I played music, ads, read public service announcements ("First Baptist Church is having a brisket barbecue Saturday on the grounds from 11-4 to raise money for their mission teams. Side dishes served will be potato salad, green salad, cornbread and butterbeans. Cost is eight dollars a plate, children under five eat for two dollars."). A highlight was when, during bad weather, the teletype just outside my control window chattered into life and the National Weather Service ordered all stations in an area to broadcast a weather advisory. For my area of Texas, that usually meant possible flash-flooding, but I did get a tornado warning once.

So how does this bit of nostalgia tie into the topic? It doesn't, I just shoved it in here, like a nice tablecloth to go under the main meal. ;)

This Sunday in church Brad, the preacher, taught on the Passion, Jesus praying in the private garden.

John 18:1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.

The blood from the thousands of daily Temple sacrifices drained into the Kidron Valley, so when Jesus crossed it, He had to step through mud, blood and all kinds of wretchedness. I took comfort from this. We as humans are little versions of the Kidron Valley, we are comprised of our own blood, mud and goo. All our sins )large and small), all our lies to ourselves and to others, our pride, our greed, etc. Yet Jesus doesn't let our filthiness dissuade Him. He plunges right into the worst of who we are, undaunted, coming to redeem us from what we think of as ourselves but is our fallen nature, and reveal to us, to others, and to the Godhead our real identities: sons and daughters of God.

This means I can stop trying to be good, trying to be perfect, trying to earn God's approval, trying to earn the approval of others. Everything I touch in my own strength is touched by my fallen nature, marred by finger smears and thumbprints of mud and blood. But when I am redeemed, then Jesus makes all things new and past things are no more, even though it may take years, decades for that reality to become reality.

This doesn't mean Jesus redeems me and bang! my life is now perfect and I'm ready to go on a talk show. No, my flesh is still my flesh, it's still present and I still wrestle with it every hour, every day. Most times I lose, a few times I win. (But then I get proud and boasty of that fact and I lose all over again.)

What changes is the kernel of reality buried deep, deep, deep within me, as far underground as it's possible to go without coming out the other side. Like a seed, the kernel slowly, o so slowly! twists and writhes and soon sends out shoots and tendrils, and in a chemical exchange straight from God's greenhouse, it exchanges my pain, my sin for grace as a tree exchanges carbon dioxide for oxygen.

The kernel's mission is to reach the light, and to that end it labors unceasingly, every day, every night while life exists in me and in you.

It's not a fast process, never has been, never will be because of the dynamic involved. It's also often a painful process as deep-seated hurts, sins, scars, are brought up to the surface and to the light.

So Jesus approaches us through our Kidron Valley, slogging through the muck, the filth, the mud, the blood, to give us grace within us.


Anonymous said...

I don't go through these struggles.
Is my seed absent...or have I always been covered with foliage?

Jackie said...

I love your writing Ken - great stuff. And I loved the radio anecdote - I bet you could make the phone book sound interesting, never mind 1st Baptists' coffee morning :)

KenWritez said...

Pru, let's face the painful truth--it's not me, it's you. Many's the time I'm on my knees in heartfelt prayer, holding you up figuratively, and God reaches down from Heaven, pats me on the shoulder and says with a rueful smile, "I know, I know. She's not easy for Me, either. Boy, sometimes I wonder...."

But I press on.

Beatrice Becker said...

Thanks for this writing! It encouraged me as I was writing my morning devotional! Keep up the good work, writing what you hear from the Lord!