Monday, April 1, 2013

Garbage Picking

We are all infected and impure with sin.
    When we display our righteous deeds,
    they are nothing but filthy rags.
~ Isaiah 64:6, NLT ~

Remarkable!  That is the only word to describe watching your eldest child experience the true sacrifice and miracle of Easter from the depths of her spirit.  Baptized as a believer years ago, our teenager has always had a vibrant faith that is uniquely her own.  My own relationship with God at that same age paled in comparison.  Yet, our girl had never grieved or mentally identified with her own wickedness until the end of this Holy Week.  I stood next to her as she cried in guilt for the first time this year, while our pastor nailed about a dozen spikes into a wooden cross on Good Friday, linking each spike to one of our common, human sins.  Experiencing Jesus' crucifixion in that context, a new awareness swept over our daughter, as she suddenly felt anguished realizing the magnitude of Jesus taking her place, her punishment.

A wonderful, deep conversation continued with her into the next day.  My daughter and I talked about how easy it is to fall into sins of gossip, pretending to be someone we are not, and judging our neighbor.  Great humility hung in the air between us as we experienced the quiet shame of our default actions.  And amidst that, we both had to confess that we don't miss a beat, trying to justify or normalize those sins.

Yes, we all try to justify our sin by arrogantly rationalizing, "Well, at least I'm not as bad as that!"  How many times have any of us shaken our heads at others and thought, "Wow!  I could never be that bad!"?  Such mentality has existed as long as the ugliness of sin has been wedged into our world.  Jesus even quoted a parable chronicling this sort of rationale.  (See Luke 18:10-14) 

Suddenly in our conversation, like a spring flower unfolding in bloom, God revealed a fresh truth to my daughter and I.  "Isn't it strange that we judge ourselves by garbage picking, using the lowest common denominator to compare our behavior when God tells us that our very best intentions, behavior, holiness are like disgusting rags to Him?"  We hung out on that thought for a few minutes.

It is utterly ironic that we, who can never be good enough to work our way back to earning God's good grace, would try to elevate ourselves by casting a downward glance at the behavior of others.  And it's especially ridiculous when God wants our focus to be fixed upward at Him.  Easter morning, the angels greeting the women at the tomb asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5).  It makes me wonder, how do we think we will reflect the Light of Life by focusing on dead behavior?

As my daughter and I parted company later that day, I thought of all of the self-justification I struggle with while raising children with special needs.  How much garbage picking have I done to make my behavior seem better than it truly is?  Rather than aspiring to a godly response to my circumstances, how many times have I tried to legitimize biting the teacher's head off or gossiping about the doctor with hatred while claiming that I'm at least better than the driver who just flipped me off or the relative who has just done me wrong? 

In the light of what we remember Jesus doing for us, shouldn't we be lifting our eyes, our full attention to Him?  Don't we owe Him the highest debt of gratitude knowing that we could never deserve the Salvation He so freely gives?  Who cares who I might perceive to be less well-behaved than me!  My best is still filthy rags.  And yet, He still loves us and gave His life for us.  Do we not owe Him our very best?  Being pliable, teachable in God's hands, setting our goal as being shaped more and more into Christ's image is what pleases the Lord.

"All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life." ~ Philippians 3:10-11, GNT

PRAY:  Jesus, you are the lifter of my head.  I need your Holy Spirit to keep my eyes fixed on yours rather than wasting time down in the garbage heap of bad behavior.  I want to reflect Your glory to everyone we come into contact with, regardless of our circumstances.  Help me to accomplish this goal in ever-increasing measure.

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

1 comment:

  1. This really hits home. I think we all compare ourselves to others from time to time and compare our sins. I've also looked at other people though and thought, I wish I was like them and feel inadequate when around them. Like they measure up to God's standard and I don't. Thanks for sharing.