A sincere heart note from our friend @JohnR1977
This weekend, I had a rather emotional experience. Actually, it was more of a series of divine appointments that could have only been orchestrated by The Almighty. I apologize in advance if I ramble and change directions during the following, but this isn’t a thought-out attempt to appear witty or introspective. It’s an admission of guilt and a testimony of grace. Away we go.
I have a problem. Well, I have several problems, but one in particular which I cannot seem to pin to submission. My ego gets the best of me more than I care to admit, and I cannot stop it. And it’s completely undeserved. I am by far the best looking guy in the world, I never graduated high school, I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict, and I have I destroyed more relationships in my life than I can count. I try to be better, every single day, but I still catch myself looking down my nose at those around me and shaking my head in derision. I scoff at people who have no idea why I’m being such a jackass, and the reality is, I have no idea either. I’d imagine it’s some sort of deeply wired defense mechanism that’s operating on some subconscious level that only a professional could navigate, but I believe God can fix it faster. So that’s what He and I talk about. A lot.
Let me tell you a story. Once, there was a wayward young man who followed his beautiful girlfriend into a converted school on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. The school had become a church, and the church had become a beacon of hope for those in the surrounding neighborhoods. The people inside were caring and wonderful, and the love was palpable. It was an amazing experience.
Or, it would have been, but it was all lost on the young man. See, he didn’t care about being there. He was only present out of some duty and obligation to his significant other. He would have much rather been at home. But he went nonetheless,and tried to appear interested.
This charade lasted for a few years. He would go, she would be happy. They would leave, he would be happy. And so they danced, the beautiful girl and the wayward young man, even though truth be told she somehow knew him to be disingenuous.
The men of the church cared for the young man as their own. Reached out, pulled in, and the young man pushed back. Love doesn’t come easy for one who has spent a life time either in passionate pursuit of it or fleeing from the sharpened tip of it. Brotherly love wasn’t a concept that rang familiar to one who was an only son, and to his father, a forgotten son. But this isn’t a step into the bog of self-pity, for those who keep their eyes on those behind them never have the chance to see the smile in those in front of them. So the young man extended cursory pleasantries and hurried handshakes and made haste for the exit. Every Sunday. For years.
His duplicitous behavior transcended church attendance, however, and one day, the young man found himself in the midst of a rather precarious predicament. Down one road lay the beautiful and lifetime of happiness and love, and down the other lay selfish pleasures of the flesh and a mistake that would destroy the beautiful girl.
Which path do you think he took?
Sufficed to say, the young man chose the path of least resistance, as he was wont to do. Love and respect were commitments, and one doesn’t have the time for such things when self-gratification is so much easier.
Away! Away the young man rode, straight into the arms of the enemy who had been waiting for him for sometime. As darkness wrapped it’s tendrils around the young man, he heard the words of God speaking from somewhere above, as if God was up in a tree shouting down with hands cupped over mouth.
“Make haste, young man!” the voice would cry. “Take one step back, just one, and I will reach down and pull you up into this tree with me. Up here, you and I can speak freely, and I can tell you my plans for you.”
The young man stopped being a young man in that moment. In a single action triggered by a lone thought, every cog in the mechanism that ran the young man’s heart popped out of its housing and shot off in a hundred directions. As the light left his eyes, the last thing the young man remembered before he submitted to the dark was the face of God reflected in the eyes of the beautiful girl.
There he lay. No longer young, and no longer a man. A husk that held a brain with more knowledge than wisdom, and a heart with missing pieces. It was all he could do to simply pick himself up off of the floor and stumble towards reality. And as he cried softly to himself, he noticed he wasn’t alone. A presence had filled every inch of space around him. It enveloped him but didn’t stifle. It encompassed him. It warmed him. As he opened his eyes and wiped away the tears, two hands reached out. In one lay the pieces of his heart, and the other rest upon his shoulder. He cautiously picked the pieces from the palm of the hand and in an instant, the young man felt love. In the next, he knew love. In a moment, he was whole again. Not a better version of his old self, but a completely new entity. Then the voice came again.
“I will never leave you. I will never stop loving you. I will never be apart from you. I am here always.”
“But I didn’t reach up my hand so you could pull me up, and look what I did. Look what I destroyed. Look who I hurt.”
“It’s all fixable. I will fix it all. I will renew it and rebuild it and revive it. Look at me.”
“No tears, my son. Look at me. Look in my eyes.”
“I hurt her so much. I can’t”
“You can. Through me, you can.”
The young man dried his eyes and looked straight into the face of forgiveness. All at once, the pain was gone.
“Now, remember this. You have to put into action a few things. Show me you believe what I’ve said and I will not stop working until what I’ve told you has been made true. Can you do that?”
“I don’t know. I have nothing. I have no job, no money, no one trusts me. I’ve destroyed my life.”
“You’ve looked me in the eye and known that I am for you. That’s all you need to know. From this moment, you walk forward. Follow my son. He will take care of you while I work. As for her and the others, you will see that they’ve never stopped loving you either.”
“How can I be sure?”
“Because you will see me in their faces. Just as you did with the beautiful girl.”
I told you that story to tell you this one. The young man did see the love in the faces of the men of that church. And they accepted him despite the mess he had brought upon himself. They never judged, they never condemned, and they never made him feel unworthy. And for awhile, a brotherhood was formed that was set to take on the enemy with a ferocity that could only be fueled by a bond forged by God. But, again, the young man felt himself to be too close to pure love, and he ran for the railing and vaulted over. Right back into the darkness.
God’s word says that there is nothing we can do that will keep us from His grace, love, and mercy. I believe that. I’ve apologized to God a lot lately. And I know He forgives me. And He and I are still hard at work on the whole ego thing. We’re getting there.
This weekend, two groups of people did two totally different things, and both groups did them in the name of God. One group joined together yesterday and praised Him for all of the good He has brought to the world. The other destroyed lives because they believed it’s what God wanted them to do. I took a piece from both events, and they fit together. Hear me out.
Muhammad isn’t real. He isn’t a prophet. Allah is not God. It’s so unfortunate that some people believe the opposite, but one day they will know the truth. The lives lost in Paris were not in vain, however, because when things like this happen, God uses the devastation to mold greatness as only He can. People will come to Christ from this. I feel it. I know it.
I spoke to a security guard yesterday at Spirit Fest. We talked for an hour or so, and he was a very interesting man. He wasn’t there to praise or worship, however, he was just there to complete an obligation. Exactly what I used to do. He said something very profound to me that I haven’t been able to shake in the past twenty four hours.
“I think it’s great that people believe in God and all that. For me, I’m not ready. I just can’t see myself being that nice to everybody, everyday. I couldn’t do it.”
That’s his perception of being a Christian. And he’s so close to the mark that I’ll call it a bullseye. We are to love everyone, and how better can that love be perceived by others than when genuine kindness is reflected in every action. I gave him a very quick lesson in how accepting Jesus as your savior is first and foremost, and how all of the other stuff comes together through that acceptance. He didn’t become a believer yesterday, but the seed is there.
Here’s my point, for those that haven’t bailed on me yet. I am a messy, imperfect horrible person. I am an egotistical jackwagon (thanks Pastor Scott :)) and when I feel myself getting too close to someone or something, I purposely set it on fire. Not literally, of course, but I burn bridges so I don’t have to walked back over them only to find the other person has given up and left. I ruin things. That is who I am.
At least, it’s who I am sometimes. We all have the incredible hulk to our Bruce Banner’s, and mine just happens to be the monster who thinks he’s too good for everyone else because deep down he feels he isn’t good enough at all. And I am trying so hard to change that. And I will. Rather, God will, and I will let him.
It comes down to how you view yourself, and how you view your God. Is the God you serve one that speaks mercy and love, so that everyone sees how “you are nice to everybody, everyday,” or is the God you serve one who instructs you to murder? It isn’t that difficult to see which one we ought to be pursuing. And do you view yourself as worthy of being rebuilt? You should. I do, finally. And even though God has just started, I can’t wait to see the finished product not only in the reflection in the mirror, but in the reflection in the people I come across.
Hold on to those who love you. Hold on to The One who loves you. Cast your pride aside and accept mercy and forgiveness, because we are so blessed to have it.
Thank you, my brothers. And I know you’re just as sick of me saying sorry as I am of saying it. Know this, though. The young man owes his life to you. God used you men to speak into me and hold me up when I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. I never stopped loving you guys, even if I let myself believe I didn’t like you very much. And I respect you all for everything you’ve become. The lives you’ve changed are a testament to your faith, and you should be proud of that.
Oh! I forgot to mention. The beautiful girl still captivates the young man, and they are closer now than they ever were, even if they aren’t where they used to be. But that’s a good thing. Where they used to be wasn’t leading either of them anywhere.
This young man is off to bed. God bless you all.