A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bible Grouch

My daughter is almost 4. She, my son, and I attend a Bible study on Wednesdays, and last week the children learned about Jesus helping some fishermen catch fish (and how they would become fishers of men). However, here is her interpretation of the lesson:

Daughter: We talked about when Jesus went fishing with that boy from The Brady Bunch.
Me (slightly puzzled): Who?
Daughter: Peter!

And I knew that the whole morning she was envisioning Jesus hanging out with Peter Brady, probably also enrobed in egregiously-colored/patterned bell-bottoms, because Jesus would want Peter to feel like he was with a friend. Then I got to wondering how the episodes would've gone with Jesus actually as a character. Of course, there wouldn't be any squares left to include him in the opening song. Anyway, this really isn't the point of my message here. But speaking of Jesus . . .

A notion has thrust itself upon my brain this week, and it is not at all one I'm comfortable in acknowledging either to myself or anyone else . . . and that is that I'm a better mother than I think I am. And no, I'm not going to provide the evidence either for or against this conclusion, as that will only bring forth a spirit of comparison. More, it's just this total discomfort in accepting myself when I'm less than perfect. I'm not talking about burned pork chops or forgetting to put my son's library books into his backpack on library day. I mean perfection in character, in service, in motive, even. The stuff that really matters.

I fall into the trap of being a Bible Grouch sometimes. I define a Bible Grouch as one who is burdened to point out all the reasons why we don't deserve the grace offered us, in whatever situation in which the Bible is expositing on, and in whatever situation in life we find ourselves. Bible Grouches are usually very correct in their declarations. We do, absolutely, need to remember the depths to which we have all fallen. But some people, like myself - and like all Bible Grouches, I dare say - have such a hard time ever looking away from the length of that fall. Somewhere there is a place of perfect balance in which a person is always aware of this and yet is no longer a prisoner of negative perception; a place beautifully perched on the strong arms of knowing there is no limit to the depth of truth that we are not worthy, yet so exponentially worth it, at all costs to the God of the universe. I know for myself I rarely find that place to mentally reside in as I function, just as I'm sure the Bible Grouch as a template figure hasn't either. I get so worried I'll forget my fallenness that I don't ever forget my fallenness. I think it's just a self-avowed attempt to avoid arrogance. But what is arrogance and what really causes arrogance? Isn't it just the "spirit of me-ness" and believing I have the ability within myself to rise above my "spirit of me-ness"? It's paradoxical. There's a way of knowing I don't deserve to be in heaven, and yet still moving past the gates, into the city itself, making my home there, believing that I've been invited in to stay. My name is written in the book . . . I don't have to keep checking to make sure it hasn't been erased. Sometimes faith is just choosing to believe in faith.

I went through a process of great stripping-away a couple of years ago. This was a stripping of the heart, stuff that God was clearly asking me to concede to Him. Things no one could see or understand . . . things I had believed were promises He made to me, things I believed were necessary for me to feel alive in my world, and the kicker was that they were all things He showed me were good. Good things He was asking me to willingly abandon. It put me into a real funk because it felt like God was doing this for no other reason than to either punish me for my priorities being off (which they were), or just to be mean, or at worst, that He just was not interested enough in any of it to care anymore. It was a time when I was forced to sort through my emotions and beliefs about God, to get to the pit where motive is formed, and after months of seeing layer after layer of filth and negativity and self-centeredness, and feeling extreme loathing for myself, I received a priceless gift: I got to see a reflection. My gift was getting to see that a mirror has been installed in my heart, a mirror that is pointed towards the Lord, so that when He looks at me He sees His own, and He sees Himself. It doesn't mean that things don't exist between He and the mirror, things that bring dirt and darkness, and cloud the reflection so much that nothing underneath all of that can be seen, but it doesn't negate the existence of the mirror. I saw the purity in my heart that lay beneath all these layers of pride and selfish ambition, the purity that confirms I really do love Jesus, and I really do believe in Him and in the best about Him. And the greatest desire living within me is that I would be like Him in character and deed. That desire is what He sees when He looks at me, though the layers of worldly living become caked on. But He gently holds the mirror in His hands, and wipes it clean with His blood so He can see what He knows is already there. I believe this is a fundamental step in the journey to living in grace - letting Jesus show you that your heart has indeed been made new. It is what I stake my claim to when I can't find anything worthwhile about myself as a person that would make Him want me around, when the Bible Grouch inside keeps reminding me of how I've failed to earn my spiritual keep again. Conviction comes from God. But I don't really think it's conviction if it makes you feel like you've got to work harder to be lovable.

See, a mirror doesn't have to understand the "why" of anything, it just reflects the truth of what is there.

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