‘Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.’
– J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
After I first came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior (read my personal testimony about how that happened in “The F Word, Part 2: A Letter to Aiden”), things seemed so much simpler…more black and white in terms of right and wrong living, what God was like, how things worked in the world, etc. And I was so passionate about my newfound faith and relationship with Christ that I wanted to save the world! I still strive to fully share God’s passion for not wanting one soul to perish…a passion and love that is truly beyond our human limitations of comprehension, especially when you think about people who do really evil things beyond most people’s understanding, and the fact that God sent His one and only son, in essence Himself, as an atoning sacrifice and substitution for all our shades and degrees of evil. Slowly though, I began to realize that no one’s salvation is dependent on any of my works or words. It is a gift of grace from God alone. He chooses how and when to work through my works and words to plant seeds of salvation into the lives of others…similar to the ones that were planted by God and others in my life, and eventually brought me to my knees literally to meet God face to face. You only need to focus on being, obey Him when He calls with a good work or word of encouragement to share, and do what He prepared in advance for you to do…no more, no less.
Still, in this learning process, I made my fair share of well-intentioned, but still poorly timed or voiced, mistakes in trying to help (or push as the case may be) others closer to God too. After about 15 years of trying to walk with the Lord, I’m realizing how complicated and/or frustrating myself, other people, God, and the world actually are…how much gray there actually is…how we each are given some chalk to draw our own lines in the gray, and then perhaps later erase and redraw them as we grow closer to God and He shares more of His heart and mind with us. We’re a blurry, but still beautiful mess that God pursues and loves into focus and acceptance, where we can be sharp, crisp, and clear in facing the endless landscape of plaid and unknowns before us on this earth. It seems that the main reasons for all the blurriness are all the mysteries and inconsistencies in the world as well as all the pride and error in the world’s thinking…we don’t want to accept that mysteries will exist no matter how hard science and mankind try to have it all figured out…we don’t want to admit we don’t or can’t know it all and have every answer…we don’t want to be humble enough to admit that God does know it all and has every answer we need.
‘Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.’ Amos 5:14-15
Have you ever stopped and really tried to comprehend the awesomeness of God? He always has been, is, and will be…He is everywhere all at once and nothing and no one can hide from His sight or judgment…He created everything…He is in the largest plans and the smallest of details…He made mankind in His own image…He forms every body in the womb…He numbers the hairs on our heads and each of our days…He knows each of our thoughts, feelings, and deeds…He works in each of our lives, speaks to each of us in ways as unique as us, and hears each of our humble calls for help…each person in the world…each life that is created and passes away…for all of past, present, and future…He orchestrates all those lives full of unique personalities and decisions together for His divine and sovereign purposes, and the eternal good of His children…He can make the dead rise, the lame walk, and the blind see…He took our place and paid the price for our wrongs, taking all of mankind’s evil for all eternity, the weight of this world, on His precious shoulders. Try as hard as I might, I cannot fully wrap my limited and tiny head around this awesome, wise, loving, and all-powerful God who showed us how to live and serve by humbly stooping down to wash the disciples’ feet.
Holy…without sin, perfectly good, all light…the darkness is like light to Him…and He calls us to be holy as He is holy. Yet, we cannot be while on this earth…not in and of our own strength. He stoops down to meet us where we are and loves the blurriness, legalism, and darkness out of our lives. He loves us if we’re single, married, or divorced…gay, straight, or bi-sexual…a murderer or a life saver…a liar or a pillar of truth…overweight, healthy, or underweight…doubting or faithful…and what the world sees as scars and imperfections, God sees as beautiful. No, we can never be perfect like Him in this body, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be more like Him, to start allowing God to change us so that we can be holy in increasing measures. Accept and deal with the limitations of human imperfection, but never be content or comfortable with the sin in your life. Instead, ask God to help you demolish the strongholds that hold you back from realizing greater holiness and experiencing His presence.
‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.’ Psalm 86:5
For example, as I was writing blog entries in 2012, mixing my mind’s meanderings up with some pop culture references, it occurred to me that some readers might be confused. Why reference characters in secular music, movies, books, etc. that may not be good influences? As Christians, aren’t we to protect our minds and only focus on the good? What should I allow myself to be exposed to? On multiple occasions, I’ve debated in my head while purging CDs, DVDs, video games, books, computer files, artwork, and even items that come with painful sin-related memories…is this ok to keep or not? Some decisions in the pursuit of holiness were easy, black and white…but others…where do you draw the lines when all you can see are shades of gray? And then take it a step further than entertainment and possessions…what about news headlines, food, health, and finances to name a few more?
Far too many people live in gray worlds of their own making instead of the plaid one that actually exists with black, white, and gray. They do not recognize that each one of us has a subjective set of perceptions that color our thinking and living, but only one objective truth and reality rules us all. Just as we do not each have our own earth, but rather share the same one earth. They do not recognize the black and white in our plaid world, and instead insist that every person has his or her own truth, everything is relative, every person has to decide what is right or wrong, etc. Therefore, even what is black (evil, lies) and white (goodness, truth) cannot be agreed upon. So then, how much less can we expect to be clear on things belonging to a muddy shade of gray?
As Christians, God has told us and made very clear what is evil in His sight and what is not, but still we find disagreement, compromise, and complacency among Christian denominations. The foundations of Biblical truth, of sin, and of salvation cannot be disputed. We also cannot allow the world to corrupt us to such an extent that we choose only the parts of the Bible to follow that we are comfortable with and that the world is comfortable with. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be of one mind, the very mind of God, in regard to these black and white matters. Still, we need to allow the same mercy and grace we have received from God to live in the shades of gray and cover ourselves and others.
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