Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AT THE ALTAR

In a moment alone, I sat on the couch in our vacation condo meditating with uncertainty on God’s direction for me and the war  waging within.  The rain poured down outside my window and in my soul. My mind was clouded and uncertain, my heart was hurting and my spirit was depressed. 
After all, I had spent the better part of the year being offended and demeaned, publicly and privately insulted, and ignored. I had been the subject of subtle ridicule. I had been misunderstood and offered no opportunity to clarify myself but rather subjected to criticism and false accusation. Judged and rejected.
 

My heart said “It hurts so much. Make it stop.”  God said, “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. Proverbs 20:30
My mind said “I don’t understand why this is happening?! What have I done?”  God said, "I have determined your path; how then can anyone understand the direction his own life is taking? Proverbs 20:24
My fleshly spirit said “I’m tired of waiting.” God said, "Don't take it on yourself to repay a wrong. Trust the Lord and he will make it right. Proverbs 20:22
My pride said “I’ve been wronged! I want justice.”  God said “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

How I truly struggled! How hard it was not to seek justice! I pondered, I prayed, I asked for forgiveness, and prayed for my enemies! Finally the Almighty reminded me:  "These six things does the LORD hate, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,  a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief,  a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren." Proverbs 6:16-19

I often thought this passage was referring to those who fell into temptation, and acted in selfishness or malice; however, this time God brought a new angle to light.  The next day, I came across Matthew 10:38 where He says, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Wow, NOT WORTHY. NOT WORTHY. This time, these two words spoke volumes to me.


Groping in the dark, I think I was beginning to understand the cross more completely..... For me to want to ask that these life experiences would be changed or taken away, that He would take the pain and suffering away, my spiritual growing pains, just because I was being a good girl, makes me totally unworthy of Him.  I need to live it even when I had done no wrong, had turned the other cheek and my heart was breaking. I had humility in relation to others but not before my God. I hadn’t really approached the cross from this perspective before. Boy, did I need to eat a huge portion of ‘humble pie’. I truly must give thanks in all things.

I, albeit reluctantly, began the daily sacrifice of letting go. He showed me that I must.....

.....rid myself of the desires of self appeasement, pride, and to be in control of my circumstance no matter how good my intent......... to rid myself of the hope of retribution, justice, or any attempt at maintaining my reputation no matter how justified I might be.....riding myself of any desire of receiving acknowledgement or affirmation from someone other than God though I knew others would agree......to always esteem others better than myself even when they are unkind and...

He helped me to realize, in more fullness, that the symbolism of the cross is not just about a sacrifice I make in my life in giving up something for Him, not just about service or sharing burdens. It’s about the sacrifice of self no matter what the case without compromising. I cannot be divided in my offering in sacrifice. I cannot hold on to ‘self’ in part by projecting my will onto His, no matter how well I’ve behaved or how good my intentions are; I need to construct an altar in my heart that is wholly devoted to Him rather than any self aggrandizement no matter how Christ-like my actions may be. 


I need to ask myself what is the sacrifice that He requires of me?  Am I willing to suffer so that He can do a work in me or do I just want Him to work through me?  Am I sacrificing to feel good about my Christian walk or to fully surrender and completely change for Him? It is truly about His Spirit sending me to that extremely uncomfortable place where I struggle and am confronted head on with my human weakness in not letting Him reign supreme. In the flesh, I’m desperate in wanting to hide it under the grace of the cross, to ask for forgiveness and then forget about it. But I can’t. I must die a slow death on that cross. Otherwise I run in endless circles around it.  I am not worthy.

So, there I was at the altar.  I was ‘dying to self’ firsthand.  Would I choose to get on the on that altar? I knew it was the only way to close the door on the darkness and to once again embrace the light. To be fully worthy of Him I must confront my sin--pride, selfishness, vengeance, self esteem, my own will--in repentance.  Not just when I am bad but when I’m good. Not just when I am wrong in my actions but when I am totally justified. Only then is the power of His Spirit free to make me a new creation.

He reminded me that Christ carried that cross, not only because of the symbolism of burden and sin but more importantly because it was the instrument of ultimate sacrifice. Certainly, there was no one more justified than He. The cross was His altar. My purpose here is to become more like Him.

So, this circumstance was another opportunity to build a memorial to Him and give Him all the glory. As I sat there in this home away from home with tears streaming just as the rain poured outside, the lyrics of a popular Christian song came to mind....”Scattered words and empty thoughts seem to pour from my heart I've never felt so torn before seems I don't know where to start.....”

Amazingly enough, the cloud just outside my window was low in the sky and seemed to have fingers at the end...”but it's now that I feel Your grace fall like rain from every fingertip, washing away my pain....”

And, my heart and spirit cried out, “I still believe in Your faithfulness; I still believe in your truth. Even when I don’t see, I still believe.”

At that moment, I asked Him to give me a sign of hope that I wouldn’t be this way forever and there will be brighter days ahead. I told Him that I would love to see a rainbow. I turned my head and, out the other window in the room, low in the sky, was a beautifully arched bouquet of colors. Another coincidence? Again, I think not!


For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21