Wounded Lions, Part 1

 

 

Wounded lions don’t hunt;                             they scout.image

Life is a story.  Every story has an author.  If you, like me, have attempted to write your own story, you may have found yourself frustrated and confused at the lack of direction in the narrative. Here’s the message: you are not the Author.  I am not the Author.
God is.
God writes a very simple story and it consists of three words: I LOVE YOU.
As simple as that story is, how often do we attempt to rewrite it?  God writes in ink.  God uses periods.  The story has already been written.  So why do we insist on changing it?  Let’s start at the beginning.

image

As we begin to understand our story, we often misinterpret the setting.  We are not the center of our universe.  We are placed in the center of God’s love.  God’s very simple message comes again and again: I LOVE YOU.
Immediately other characters enter our story: family, friends, culture, education, loved ones.  We open ourselves to this story, but as we continue to gain our legs, we take on wounds as well.  Allow me to use an example from my own life to illustrate.

I have always thought I was okay.  I have allowed others to believe that I am okay.  I am not.  The reason I am not okay is because I have tried to play the role of author.  I have tried to change what God has already written.
God has said to me: I LOVE YOU. I have chosen to disagree.
No One Loves Me: Divorce, like many of life’s crippling wounds, has made me think that this is the story.  If the relationship that promises for better or worse becomes broken, then who really loves you?
I Love Me:  At my best I have had good moments.  At my best I have succeeded. I have accomplished in spite of my wounds.  In these moments, I have taken pride in what I have done.  I have loved me for all that I have done.  It doesn’t last.
Jesus Loves Me:  Telling this story seems innocent.  It seems healthy.  It seems okay.  But why could I tell others that story?  I told that story because I had always heard it.  I heard the Word in the womb.  I attended church more times in my first five years than most people will in a lifetime.  But when head and heart don’t agree, the message is shallow.
I LOVE YOU, God writes in periods. There are no qualifiers.  There is no “but” looming ominously behind those words.  God does not pause to take a breath.  God’s words are complete.  I am the one putting a comma at the end.  I am the one confused by unconditional love.

So what does all this mean?  It means that I started in the center of God’s love. That does not change.  But as others come into the story, they sometimes leave wounds.  Family can leave wounds.  Our work or educational experience can leave wounds.  Our friends can leave wounds.  Even church can leave wounds.  And wounded lions don’t hunt, they scout.
image

The big, wide open space of God’s love is suddenly smaller.  I close myself off because it seems safer to keep out those who hurt me.  But now, to mask my wounds, I cover up.  Instead of being the son wearing the coat of many colors, I am the son wearing many coats.  It is heavy.  It is tiring.  It is the wrong story. The message of the story has not changed, but I have to decide when to stop writing my own story.
In Part 2, we will look more at what it means to “scout.”
Which story are you writing?

Advertisements

My Problem with Grace: Part 3

We often do not discover our problem with something until it is right in front of us.  For example, I had no problem with asparagus until my mother encouraged me to try it and offered that it was “good.” Her words did nothing for the smell, appearance and texture of the food.  I believed that she liked asparagus, but I insisted that I did not.
The same seems to be true of grace.  I have been the one to encourage grace and promote its goodness.  But, unlike my mother, I have not been tasting what I myself am putting on other plates.  Be careful of the chef who does not eat his or her own cooking.  In my first post I shared how I learned to allow my slate to be wiped clean rather than remaining hung up on my imperfection.  In my second post I shared that I had to humble myself and acknowledge my own insufficiency.  This third part may have been the hardest, but also the best.

Rooted
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – Ephesians 1:4,5

And
While I was uncomfortably waiting inside the bank, I thought I should seek out another option.  Maybe the bank would not be able to help me with the impending shortfall I was facing.  I took my phone and sent out a text for help.  An offer came back, but it would not be available until Monday – the day that I needed it.  Before I could finish the conversation, I was called into the bank office.  A proverbial dash, like the one after Ephesians 1:5, was hanging over my cry for help.
As I walked out of the bank office assured that my payment could still process, I glanced at my phone.  I had one text message with one word: “Done.”  In other words, not only would I have the amount that I needed, I would have it in time.  What a relief.
A few days after that, I received this text from that person:  “I’m very glad you asked me for money.”
That seemed to be an odd statement to make.  So I asked, “Because?”
I received this response:  “I know a lot of people that need it won’t ask, you did a lot for me and I’m glad I’m able to help in some way.”
Isn’t that so true of grace?  How many people need it but won’t ask?  How many people know they need it and won’t ask?  And how many people need it again and again but allow their pride or sense of self-sufficiency to prevent them from making that request?  Put me in that final category.

Reaching
Verse 5 of Ephesians 1 ends with a dash, a “wait-for-it” type of marking.  Here is what comes after that:
to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. – Ephesians 1:6
There’s that word again: grace.  Freely given.  Freely given in the One he loves.  I have tried to repay my debt, not only with my friend but also with God.  I want to “make it right” or “even out” what has been done.  So not only do I get hung up on mistakes and have difficulty admitting my failures, but I also do not receive well.  As soon as I was able to repay what had been given to me by my friend, I made my intentions clear.  The loan was appreciated and I was ready to settle up.  The response I received was not what I had expected (nor hoped) to hear:
“You know I won’t take it.”
What?  I cannot repay? But how am I supposed to settle the score?  Don’t we do that with grace?  How often have you treated grace like a loan to “get you by” in a tough spot instead of receiving it for the gift that it is?
Ah, but grace is not about settling the score, at least not on our end.  Grace is freely given in order to settle the score from God’s perspective.  This morning I asked my sons about the word “reconcile” after we heard it in a song.  “Reconcile” is one of those words tossed around in Christian-ese, but we often miss the application it has to the accounting world.  (Those of us who have reconciled bank statements should understand.)  In that sense the word points toward accuracy and an accounting for of all transactions.  That’s grace.
We’re imperfect.  We’re woefully short.  We receive grace to balance out the account.  But it’s not a loan, so we cannot repay. If the account has already been settled and the cost paid, how would we make things even again?  How do you repay adoption into a relationship so undeserved?  How do you repay love?  (Many of you will try on Valentine’s Day.)  You cannot.
We are not used to gifts without conditions, so we may struggle to only receive.  It’s not that we cannot respond at all, for grace does compel us to action.  But the very simple point is that we cannot repay grace.  We can, however, respond in love.
I like asparagus now; my mother was right.  It makes me wish I had tried it sooner.  And people were right about grace as well.  In fact, I was right about grace.  I knew it was good.  The difference is that I now have a taste for grace, and I hope you do as well.  Don’t wait any longer to try it.

Honduras, Dia 6

Daddy, do you see me?
Do you know that I am here?
Will you step forth to hold my hand
And wipe away my tears?
To live within your love
Is my heart’s only desire,
To feel your love consume me
As a never-ending fire.
Your love, my heart; my heart, your love,
Naught else satisfies.
Your love my love; my heart your heart,
My heartbreak is your cry.
As son of God, I pray that you
Would rise up and take a stand.
As child of God, you know that you
Should come and take my hand.
Help me color, feed and clothe me –
Know I wait for you.
Show me love and show me God
And prove his Word is true.
You’ve seen my smile and now I know
You’ve heard your daughter’s voice.
And now my final question is,
“Daddy, what’s your choice?”

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed. Romans 8:19

One possible response to brokenness and injustice is to feel pity. How terrible, that’s awful..the I’m-sorry-I-saw-that response. But pity does not move us beyond ourself.
There is compassion as another response. Compassion drives us to activity, to do something. Compassion is good, but then what? Did your activity change the life of the receiver, or did it make your own broken heart feel better? Compassion is not bad – don’t get me wrong – but this is an honest question I must ask to myself.
Compassion seems like enough until it is held up to a higher standard. That standard is love. Today we had the opportunity to visit San Jose orphanage in La Paz. The orphanage exists because God found a willing vessel. A vessel empty of all but love. Edith was once a nun, teaching in a school. But as she taught in a privileged area, she felt God telling her there was more. There was.
She left the ministry and, therefore, all of her means of support. While staying with her parents, she continued to pray. One day a mother dropped off two children, asking Edith to care for them, and left. Edith did. What may have begun as compassion grew into more. Word spread of Edith and more children were left with her. Her only means of support was daily dependence upon God. When the mayor’s office forced her from her apartment, she was offered the use of an abandoned high school. Fitting, perhaps, that abandoned children would be given an abandoned building.
Edith thanked the Lord and her compassion spilled over into love. Tonight as I rest comfortably, Edith is sharing a bed with at least two, if not three, small children. Daily she cares for at least fifteen children, and sometimes even more. With the help of one woman that prepares lunches, she labors on.
But look at what the Lord does – he provides. There is always food. The kids are safe. The kids are loved. We often forget that there is a difference between our wants and our needs. My list of blessings has grown longer this week while I am farther removed from my comforts. We experience the complete fullness of God when we are empty.
The verse in Romans cries out for sons and daughters of God to be revealed. And how will the world know we are God’s children? By our love. I shared with others today that I do not like the feeling of being an outsider. All three girls in this picture are special for me in my experience of Honduras. Two of them became my playground partners as I took off the safety net and waded up into their world. I put my limited Spanish into practice, and they were thrilled that I understood. Because I understood, they asked me to do more and more. One in particular talked to me all afternoon at the park, even though she knew I could not understand everything. The third girl is one that I met at the orphanage and I helped her color a picture. With fierce intensity she colored and then asked for the next color to add. And that is what I had to stop experiencing when it was time to leave.
Which all points back to my honest assessment: when have I been completely empty? How do I reconcile my experience with theirs? I know that such questions are common at he conclusion of a mission trip, but still I ask, “Now what?”
I intentionally chose not to say good-bye to the children this week. Instead I thanked them for the hugs and said, “Hasta pronto,” our equivalent to “See you soon.” I know God confirmed my steps in this journey. I also know there is more. But to experience more, I must move forward in the process of emptying myself. Only then will I see where God is leading.
Bendiciones, Honduras.

20130407-012713.jpg

Honduras, Dia 3 y 4

We often talk of love as something like the wind: you can know that it is there by what you feel, or by seeing the effects. I often thought that, but that makes love a mystery. Jesus did not come to write a mystery. He wrote a love story, a torrid affair between God and his children. How we know that? Because of touch.
Jesus did not want us to feel love in the wind, which are like our thoughts and wishes. No, he let all feel it in his hands and words as he:
Washed their feet
Touched their eyes
Broke their bread
Held their hand on the water
Picked them up into his arms
Spoke their language
Told them stories
Stretched out his hands

I am tremendously blessed to have experienced love – tangible love – through the touch and the words of those around us here in Honduras. Now, certainly it is not necessary to travel to another country to experience this. But we do have to travel out of our comfort zone. Our comfort zone is like the bed where we sleep, and where we can think about love. But when we walk into the lives of others and experience what they are experiencing, then we can experience love – both giving and receiving.
Receiving abrazos y besos (hugs and kisses) are powerful gifts of love. Being asked to slide down a slide, swing on a swing, all while in another’s world, is powerful. I am a guest. I am visiting. But the reception has been gracious and loving.
And who would want to leave that?
God has graciously given me more time here to love and be loved, but it will be hard to leave.
Unless…
I remember that God’s love is everywhere. It is not bound to a country, a city, a school, a person. God’s love is bound in us…
Unless we set it free.
Then, God’s love is boundless.

20130405-094011.jpg