Friday, March 7, 2014

A Lenten Reflection

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16.

I was brought out of darkness and into glorious light, yes. But if the only thing I am doing in the light is getting a tan, I’m missing an incredibly profound purpose. Yes, God desires to make my face radiant with His glory, but He also wants me to grab His radiant hand and march into darkness in order to bring illumination. This world is so dark. The darkness of broken minds and hearts is absolutely terrifying. This world needs the light of Jesus. And that light, my dear friends, is burning in everyone of us who is called by Christ’s name. John 1:9 tells us that Jesus is the true light, the light that gives light to every man and woman. In Matthew 5, Jesus doesn’t pass the torch to us – hallelujah! – but He leans His brilliant, burning giant star of light and touches it to our flimsy matches and we are now partakers and sharers of the light.
It’s cool, yes, but I wonder if it terrifies anyone else when Jesus looks you in the eye and says, “You, yes, you, are the light of the world!”
Yes! Finally I get to shine! Finally people will look to me and behold my shining! And suddenly, no. I am acutely aware of my inabilities, disabilities, inadequacies, and, let’s just be honest, out right failures. Not only am I a small person, but I’m a sinful person. And He wants me to be the light of the world? Are You sure, Lord? You want me to be responsible for taking light to dark places? I can tell You right now, Lord, I’m not the best person to be center stage. You tell me I am a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. This means there’s no sneaking off to commit my sins in secret. Nope. My life is on display. Talk about terrifying! So not only am I responsible for taking light to dark places, I’m also incapable of hiding. Awesome. This shining like stars in the universe thing has a lot more to it than I thought.
            I want to be a shining star but the closer I look at the requirements, the more I realize that I am hopelessly inadequate for the job. There is just no way I could ever fill that job description. Take light to dark places – but, Lord, I’m scared of the dark! Live a perfect life that evokes others to praise God – but, Lord, I can’t be perfect! My best efforts are not good enough! God, You really should not hire me for this job.
            Too late.
            He already did.
            “You are the light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven. You shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of Life.”
            What on earth makes God think I am the right person for this crazy job? Seriously?
            I so wish the answer was that He is going to give me super powers so that I will never fail. Wouldn’t that be nice? It would be easy if God would just hit me up with perfection so I’d never struggle; I’d just do the right thing all the time.
            Alas, that’s not God’s strategy.
            The thing is that God already has a Child who never fails and always does the right thing. His name is Jesus. Even though He filled the job description perfectly, He still ended up being put to death because God wanted to adopt a bunch of losers and failures who could never ever fill the requirements and someone had to pay for the epic failure that is the entire human race.
            So God installs me as His child and says, “You, Kaitlyn Hope, are the light of the world. Take the light into darkness.”
            “But, Daddy,” I protest. “I’m scared of the dark.”
            “I know,” He tenderly replies. “You’re afraid of the dark because there once was a very sinister and horrible thing that lurked in the darkness that hurt you and longed to completely destroy you. But,” He says with a smile and lifts up my chin, “I defeated that horrible, sinister thing. You don’t need to be afraid anymore because the darkness cannot destroy you. I’ve taken away the thing you fear. Now go and live a holy life.”
            “But, Daddy,” I grab His arm again. I open my mouth to speak, to explain to Him my inability to be holy, but shame washes over me and all I can manage is a pathetic, “I can’t.”
            A deeper sorrow than mine fills His eyes. The most beautiful tears I’ve ever seen roll down His glorious face. He wraps His majestic arms around me and leans His great forehead against mine.
            And a soft, distant thunder roll answers, “I know.”
            And then I see my beloved Christ, the sight of whom is more precious to me than anything else. His once perfect body is now marred and marked with my imperfection. My sin has left the most horrible gashes on His strong back, wide gashes that scream of excruciating pain. My doubts have made jagged scars on His kingly forehead. I grit my teeth at the thought of His precious blood being scraped out of His marvelous veins by the thorns of my disbelief. And then His hands – the strongest, toughest, gentlest, lovingest hands to ever grace the universe – those hands were marked with the nails that ran them through every time I said, “I do not love You.”
            That His perfect body is tainted because of me…my ugliness that so disfigured His beauty…what have I done? Oh my Jesus, what have I done?
            “You’re right, little one,” the Lord says to me. “You can’t live a holy life; you can’t live perfectly. But I have sworn to love. I swore it from the start. Despite your awful life, I cannot let you be torn apart. The sin you committed, the monster you made, I just couldn’t let it pull you down to the grave. You could not have withstood it and you could not have come through it. You are weak. But, oh, how I love you so. I swore to love you and I’ll always keep my oath. So I came instead – to live perfectly and to rise from the dead. I didn’t walk out of that tomb empty-handed, either. I came out with your dead heart and your dead soul clutched to my chest because no one could ever give you the best – except for Me. I paid the price for your failures. I did. So now you can fail in your rickety pursuit of perfection and never have to worry about the true danger of what lies at the bottom of the murky pit of failure. You might fall in and have to climb back out. You might get stuck and get covered in slime. But, My darling, you will not be sucked down. That thing, that sinister thing, that wanted to rip you to shreds, well, it ripped Me instead. For those who are in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation! This means you can go to the darkest corners of the darkest nation and you can shine and you can fail because failure cannot catapult you into Hell. In fact, if you do it right, your splendid failure will catapult you straight into My presence. I stretched out My magnificent arms for six hours across a wooden beam so that a day would come when I could hold you for all eternity. Your failure cannot separate us. I entered your failure and I conquered it. So go into the world, if you believe Me. Amidst this dark and broken world, a shining star’s what I created you to be. Don’t worry about filling the requirements – I took care of that. Just go and shine with all your might. Don’t worry. Just be the light – the light that is so desperately needed. The Ultimate Light came to the world once and it will be repeated. One day, My light will shine so brightly that every knee will bow before Me and you will be so glad I let you come along on the journey.”