Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Acceleration and Sanctification

I was walking down the street, pushing our dual stroller with the kids, when the blanket wrapped around my daughter’s legs came loose. I saw no need to do the sensible thing and stop, but rather assumed I could fix this problem while on the move. So I shifted the stroller-pushing responsibility to one hand, swung my body out wide left, and then quickened my pace to overtake the stroller and arrive at the front, where my left hand could hypothetically fix the blanket while we walked. A problem I did not foresee was that as my pace quickened, so would that of the stroller, which was attached to my right hand. So when the stroller sped up too, I naturally picked up the pace with my feet a bit more. Surely I could make it to the front of this thing! But soon I was running alongside the stroller, my right hand reached back and pushing, my left hand reaching to the front grasping for a corner of the blanket now flailing in the wind.

Is this a little bit of what sanctification is like? Sanctification is one of those words that I don’t know I’ve ever fully grasped. It’s abstract, not simple, and there’s really not a lot of agreement on how it’s played out in the world. But isn’t it a bit like me running faster and faster down the street alongside my stroller? Or like that cartoon donkey with the carrot dangled in front of him, trotting quickly ahead with increasing velocity? Physics taught me that acceleration is the rate of change in velocity over time. Isn’t that sort of what sanctification should be like, a perpetual state of acceleration toward Godliness?

God said, “Be holy because I am holy,” (take your pick between 1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 11:44,45, or 19:2). Sanctification is described as the process of being conformed to God’s image, of becoming holy on this earth.

God said “Be holy.” He’s right, we need to be. And I strive to be. But to be honest, I’m not too sure I’ll reach perfect holiness on this earth. I do believe firmly that I am fully justified, changed from within. The day I handed my life over to Christ and prayed that he take away that intimately personal and sinful spirit I’d long held onto, replacing it instead with his own, something changed entirely. I became right with God. I am now his, and will forever be. But back to this side, can I really be holy?

I have friends - brothers and sisters in Christ - who say yes. They sin no more. Not so sure I really buy that. I have other friends that wallow in a depleted state of their sinful selves, proclaiming that they are nothing but horrible, awful, no-good sinners but by the grace of God. Well, yeah, without his grace, that’s accurate. But I can’t proclaim that I’m a worthless sinner. My God lives within me, and that’s not who he is, so that’s not who I am either.

But what, where am I? I’m not perfect. I’m not a wretch. I’m in process. Sanctification.

In the words of David Crowder, “You are Holy... I am wholly Yours.”

I also learned in physics that inertia is a term referring to the property of a body which resists change in motion. Sort of a resistance to acceleration. That’s what I seek to avoid - stagnation. And because of the justifying work that God did in me, I can move into a constant state of acceleration - sanctification.

I did finally get that blanket fixed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Drawing the Scriptures

Have you crossed paths with that super artsy musical friend of yours who says something like, “I just got done with a deep time of worship, took my guitar and a charango up on a mountain and communed with God like never before,” and then think ‘great for you, but I don’t play the guitar, I don’t really have any musical improv skills, and I don’t even know what a charango is’? I have those moments.

I wish I was super-creative and could use that to just express all of the desires from the depths of my heart to God, but I’m not, really. I love my time with God. I pray, listen, read His word... but to be honest, that sometimes gets monotonous. And then there’s scripture memory, I totally stink at it. I get it - the importance of it - but I stink at it.

My wife changed some of that recently.

She was leading a small group in a time of prayer, and gave us each pads of paper and crayons. We read some verses together and then she began an explanation of how we’d doodle out our prayers. A verse we read rang in my ears. I read it again, and while holding crayons and a blank piece of paper, suddenly the verse leapt off the page to me in a new and vibrant way. The imagery of the phrase became an actual pictoral image implanted in my head. My hands loosened up; I knew I’d remain unsettled until I put the image down on paper. Thus I did so. And then I did another. And another.

These images that I drew out weren’t pretty, my actual artwork resembled a 2nd-grade classroom’s wall decorations. But in putting pen to paper, the image in my head became even more ingrained. The verse came alive, the metaphor made sense, and I actually may have memorized a few verses out of it all.

An example: I read Psalm 119:72 and some other verses like it and tried to imagine the emotions invoked. The first thought that came to my mind was of a McDonald’s Monopoly game. I imagined what it would be like to peel back that 1 million dollar boardwalk piece from my cup. The joy, elation, excitement that would come from suddenly having more money than I could spend. Then I thought of what my life would be like if I had the same joy over God’s teachings, the same excitement over abiding in Him. What if I could actually turn away from the riches because He is greater? Then I attempted to draw that image. It stuck.

A suggestion: Start with Psalm 119 and read until a verse becomes an image. Then draw it. Do that every now and then. Psalm 119 is full of metaphors, descriptive language that naturally call up imagination. So create it! You don’t need skills.

Now I’ll humble myself and show a couple of examples:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. -Psalm 119:105

The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. -Isaiah 37:31

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Running Late

I checked my watch as the doors of the train opened. I’d left the afternoon meeting in just enough time to pick up my son from his garderie before their workday ended. I only needed to make one connection and ride the metro three stops, I may have even had a 5-10 minute cushion.

I was admittedly a little nervous. The day before, 5 minutes late picking up my son, I’d been lectured. “C’est pas possible, Monsieur! Il faut que vous arriviez √† l’heure!” The directrice had squawked at me, saying that it’s simply not possible to come late. I must be there on time. We have a one-hour window in which to pick up our son, and there’s no room for error on the back side.

I wasn’t interested in another lecture, nor in being ‘that’ family.

So I quickly strolled up the stairs and across the metro station to make my connection. As I reached the platform, an announcement rang out. An “incident” had occurred, and everyone on the train was asked to exit, leave the station, and then find alternate transportation. A flood of hundreds of people then pushed up the stairs and out of the station. They were all trying to travel in the same direction as myself. Moments later we all stood at a bus stop, where we waited anxiously. The bus pulled up, but had barely room for 10 people, far less than the 100+ standing on the sidewalk. The electronic sign told us the next bus would come in 10 minutes. I checked my watch. I had exactly 10 minutes before I’d be arriving en retard.

I began to walk. Then, realizing my transit options were thinning quickly, I broke into a jog. Soon I was running hard down a busy street. People stared, wondering what was with the guy in dress pants and a polo, sprinting down Prado. I checked my watch again, time was ticking, a bit too fast.

Finally I turned the corner to the garderie. Red-faced and gasping for breath, I entered and saw the directrice. “Ah, Monsieur,” she said, somewhat cheerily, “Je viens d’√©crire votre nom.” She informed me that she’d just written down my name. I was that parent. Twice in a row.

I have no idea what it means to have our name written down, but it can’t be good.