Even the Rocks of Creation Praise the Creator’s Son

 

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, and for centuries many Christians have let that Sunday before Easter carry their minds back to the amazing scene of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before he would die.

Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey no one had ever ridden, a beast his disciples found just as he had said they would. Our Christmas cards invariably depict Mary, Jesus’ mother, riding a donkey to Bethlehem. It’s not unlikely, though no Gospel specifically says such. If it’s so, that alone would have been enough to ennoble the species. But now this! What a privileged beast!

As he approached the city, people began to spread their cloaks on the road and wave palm branches hailing the coming King.

As he came down the road from the Mount of Olives, the crowd began to burst into praise.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The Pharisees, soured, joyless, and heart-atrophied by their toxic (and still all too popular) approach to religion, began to warn Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples. Shut them up!”

And Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

On Palm Sunday—and on every Sunday—I’d rather be a rock on the road praising the Savior than a Pharisee all knotted up in religious robes and with no one to praise.

The cynical poet Swinburne once wrote, “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean! / The world has grown grey with Thy breath.”

If Christ was the morose Son of a joyless God sent just to tell this world we are wrong and lost and that we’d better straighten up, but to do nothing to help us . . .

If the cross was just an unfortunate accident, a tragic historical footnote with no meaning instead of the event in which God himself accomplishes the work of salvation and does for us what we could never do for ourselves, I could well agree with the poet’s words. Good news? What good news?

If God was just a stern heavenly killjoy, a thin-lipped, overly strict, bloodless, joyless frustrated caricature of a “father” griping that his kids are more trouble than they’re worth and who’d really rather not bother with them . . .

If God had stopped with the tables of stone revealing his holy law and not gone on to send the Savior with the message, “God’s laws are real, and you often break them at great cost, but I have paid the price for your pardon and risen to heal and empower you to live lives under his mercy, led by his Spirit, and filled with his joy . . .”

If God had sent just the Law to be our Prosecutor and not the Son to be our Savior, Swinburne would be right.

But he’s not right.

And it would be a shame to let the rocks do all the praising.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne

     And may this be a sweet and meaningful Holy Week and blessed Easter for you and yours!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


A Hard-to-Spell Prophet Points to Hard-to-Beat Faith

 

So, tell me, have you read Habakkuk lately?

You know, in the Bible. The Old Testament. One of the prophets.

The English major part of me has paid attention to this prophet only rarely and then only to try to remember if his name, which sounds vaguely like a variety of something legal in Colorado but federally frowned upon, includes two Bs and two Ks or one B and three Ks.

It’s the latter. Like the World War I vintage song I remember singing around the campfire with the Boy Scouts: “K-k-k Katy, beautiful Katy, / You’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore…”

That song was a run-up to my still-favorite-Boy-Scout-song we crooned about Dutchman Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Its best line: “All the neighbors’ cats and dogs / will never more be seen; / they’ll all be ground to sausages / in Johnny Verbeck’s machine.”

But I digress. (Ya think?)

When the Bible major part of me read that prophet’s “book” years ago, I was rather surprised—and then awed by Habbakuk’s—I mean, Habakkuk’s—incredible, and unfailingly honest, faith. I’d not really spent much time in the Psalms, or, for that matter, the other prophets, or grappled enough with the nature of real faith. I still thought genuine faith was mostly unquestioning, always serene, content, and nice. Habakkuk put the lie to that nonsense. (Read the prophet’s “book.” Three chapters short, it’ll take less time to read than a Reader’s Digest article. And by all means, read it in a modern translation.)

You’ll quickly notice that Habakkuk is not a happy camper. First, he’s intensely frustrated that God seems slow to see his nation’s situation, hear his prayers, and do something. Habakkuk is appalled at his nation’s (Judah’s) sinfulness and is pleading with God to come and bring justice. For a long time, no answer. But then…

Oh, but then God answers. And Habakkuk hates the answer. Yes, the Lord says, I’ve seen the rampant wickedness and injustice, and I intend to deal with it decisively with the kind of eye-popping punishment that will cause the whole world to take notice and be appalled. Here’s how: I’m sending the Babylonians, the fiercest pagan army in the world, to be my whip and wreak havoc. (The Babylonians are about to run Judah right through Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Only worse.)

“But, Lord,” Habakkuk complains, “how can you do this? Those idolatrous cutthroats, those bloodthirsty Babylonians, are far worse even than my terribly wicked nation! How is this fair?”

And God answers. Just wait, Habakkuk. Justice and mercy will both prevail. Just wait until the end of the story. This is not the end. Trust me. And wait.

Waiting is the hard part. Waiting in those many times when God seems silent… Waiting in those times when, well, if this is God’s answer, we might have preferred silence.

Habakkuk makes the choice of real faith, faith with its eyes open: God is God, and I am his. Come what may, I will trust him.

“Even if the sheep die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet will I rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is my strength” (Habakkuk 3).

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Storms on the Sea of Galilee and in Robert Lee, Texas

 

“Quiet! Be still!”

Those words from Christ did the job that day in the midst of the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4). Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat when his terrified disciples had disturbed his repose.

“Master,” even the seasoned seamen had opined, “don’t you care that we’re about to head to the bottom and drown?”

It certainly sounds as if the Lord was not particularly pleased at being roused. His question for the disciples: “Don’t you have any faith at all?” (The Message).

And to the wind and the waves, he casts a stern gaze, as if commanding an unruly child, “Enough! Be still!”

If Christ had been a supposedly enlightened modern parent, oblivious to the fact that a properly and lovingly administered spanking in the face of willful defiance is not even in the same universe as child abuse, and unaware that much closer to real abuse for parent, child, and everyone else unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity, is the common situation where the parent rarely expects to be obeyed, if at all, until the parents have “reasoned” the child, themselves, and everyone around them into a truly dangerous state of utter frustration and exhaustion . . . Well, I suspect the stormy sea would still be tossing and the awful wind still roaring, the boat long since at the bottom of the sea and all aboard drowned but thankful for finally finding some blessed relief.

But the elements argued not at all with their Creator. The storm was immediately stilled, and the disciples were immediately amazed: “Who is this? The wind and the sea at his beck and call!” (The Message).

For a couple of days this week I’ve been about as far away from the Sea of Galilee as it’s possible to be. The only body of water nearby is Spence Reservoir which in the last few years has managed to get from less than 1% “full” (which is pretty darn close to empty) to being now, I think, at a staggering 14% full (86% empty). A disciple, or anybody else, wanting to put a boat out on that lake today will find it a challenge, the forlorn boat docks bone dry and about a day’s journey from anything wet. I’m sure you could still drown in the lake, but you’d have to be pretty serious about it.

My brothers and I, spending a few days at my grandparents’ old   home place in Robert Lee, Texas, have dealt this week with a rare but frustrating “stormy” situation. Dead dry but maddeningly constant and raging, crazily high winds have for two days just about blown us off the acreage. We’re all pastors. My estimation of these fraternal colleagues would have increased immensely if even one of them could have stepped outside, looked up, sternly pronounced, “Enough! Stop it!” and achieved some success. Alas, none of these “clout-less” clergymen even tried.

I’m heading home. It’s finally a beautiful day. The wind has tired out and shut up. High time.

In the midst of storms it’s good to remember that one day the Lord of the universe will command and all tears, all fears, all storms will be over. Finally and forever. The  Cross says our Creator has the clout to get it done.

 

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


A Tweet From the Apostle Paul: #WhateverIsAdmirable

 

If, like most folks, you deal with email and its accompanying blessings and cursings, you know that the first step after you open your inbox is to obliterate 90% of it by clearing out a ton of junk and deleting a few nefarious attempts to set a hook in you through phishing.

I’d love to change email addresses to try to buy 30 seconds worth of a cleaner inbox, but my trusty ol’ address is emblazoned on everything from a few thousand music albums to business cards to newsletters to coffee cups to . . . (An AOL address was really cool when I got mine. Cool marches on.) I’ve actually got several addresses, but all get a preponderance of junk and none more than my primary address.

Like you, I’ve long ago learned that anything marked “urgent” isn’t. I know that anything from the FBI isn’t. I know that Dame Nastasia Ambrovada living in exile in Nigeria and sadly short of relatives and heirs really does not want to deposit a million dollars in my account.

Most of us are all too accustomed to the daily task of hacking through our inboxes with DELETE key machetes to whack away stacks of dreary deadwood, knowing that a serpent or two lurking therein will need to be deleted and dispatched as well. But sometimes, I’m still surprised.

This morning, after clearing out the usual mess, I couldn’t help but notice two items. The first, purporting to be from “NFL Cheerleaders,” promised in the subject line that “these cheerleaders will delight your eyes.” “Delight” is not the word I would have used, but I have no doubt that my eyeballs would have been engaged had I chosen to be reeled in by that one. I try to remember that those gals probably have grandpas who’d much prefer that they wear clothes.

Also eye-catching was the exclusive email opportunity to own a bobblehead figurine fashioned after a more or less famous sheriff in Milwaukee. Evidently, the figure is very large by bobblehead norms. And it talks. Since our world is in no short supply of bobbleheads already, and since bobbleheads that talk are never farther away than a button on a TV remote control (C-SPAN is a great place to look if you find yourself in desperate need of a bobblehead), I deleted that offer, too.

Of course, it’s not just email that requires a little literate discernment. Most of us still receive plenty of Spam-equivalent paper via actual mailboxes. What we rarely receive are real letters. Do they still teach letter-writing in school? Lots of folks these days are as likely to write a good letter as they are to pen a treatise discussing alliteration in the Declaration of Independence. If letters, considered antiquated anyway, are far beyond our capability and a 350-word email is unbearably long (and even email is becoming “old school”), and if a twit with no attention span can hardly string together 140 characters cogently and almost never gets closer to opening (or downloading) a book than reading a two-screen text message . . . Well.

But some things don’t change. Whatever we let in our souls via our eyes, and whatever we expound or affirm via our words, written or spoken, says much about the condition of our hearts. By the way, the Apostle Paul recommends some great hashtags in Philippians 4: #WhateverIsTrue, #WhateverIsRight, #WhateverIsNoble, #WhateverIsPure, #WhateverIsPraiseworthy . . .

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


To Lose Faith’s Focus Is Both Dangerous and Tempting

 

When I was a little lad, old enough to ride a bicycle but not nearly old enough to drive a car, somewhere in the pre-teen larva stage, my family and I (those of us who were still at home) spent some evenings doing what families now almost never do: we rode bicycles together around the block, around the neighborhood, for fun and a little time together.

I know it’s hard to believe, and it gets harder. We even on regular occasions took time to sing together as a family.

I don’t want to misrepresent things. My dad worked most evenings, but somehow we still managed to have a good bit of family time together. In our world today, it seems that 1) many families don’t really want much time together, and 2) every conceivable activity under the sun (not bad things, just lots and lots and lots of things) conspires to make sure families almost never have any real time together.

I’m fairly sure it was clear to my parents early on that I was almost certainly not heading to the NFL or the NBA no matter what degree of attention we paid to such things. In those archaic days, kids’ sports actually had seasons and year-round wasn’t much of an option. Family time was a bit easier to come by.

Anyway, our family went through a stage where the family thing we often did was to ride bikes together.

I remember one evening’s ride—at least, most of it—fairly vividly. We’d gone south down our street, Goliad Street (named for the famous Texas battle), and we were riding along one block east on what passes for hills in the flat high plains, riding down Palo Duro Street.

I think we’d passed the house of the weird family I remember, one of whose sons had an iguana lizard for a pet who, on one memorable occasion, jumped out of a tree onto the back of a very surprised postal person.

We weren’t quite to Granville and Daisy Kizer’s house when I suddenly became distracted. Maybe I was interested in the view, or just talking, or looking upward for an iguana in the trees—but I piloted my two-wheeled craft straight into the rear end of a parked car.

Just for a moment there, I’d quit looking forward, put the bike on auto-pilot, and plastered myself and the bicycle all over the back end of that car. I wasn’t going really fast, but I was going too fast to make running into the back of a car the kind of pleasant experience I’d care to repeat.

I hit hard—first vertically, and then horizontally, rearranging most of my spinal column. (And, no, I definitely do not want to repeat anything like that as an adult on my motorcycle.)

In what has become one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 73 (which you can read for yourself), the psalmist begins by talking about a great way, in a spiritual sense, to end up stopped dead in your tracks, flat on your face, bruised and bleeding, biting asphalt, derailed, de-biked, and demolished.

It’s a focus thing. You see, it is as dangerous as it is tempting for Christians to take their eyes off the Lord who should be their focus, and to start looking instead at all the multitude of distractions and problems around them.

It’s tempting. But I can tell you from oft-repeated experience, you can get hurt that way.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Unless You Become Like Little Children . . .”

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So said the Lord Jesus to his disciples as he “called a little child to him.” No doubt, one of my favorite things about our Savior is that the children seemed to always flock to him. When his apostles tried to shoo the kids away, opining to their parents that the Lord was far too busy to mess with little folks, Jesus quickly disabused his disciples of that way-off-the-mark notion.

In fact, as he laid his hands on the children and blessed them, Jesus had those intriguing words for his followers: “Unless you become like little children . . .”

My back hurts, and I’m a little achy today. Not bad. Just a little. Some trampoline time, some rolling-around-on-the-floor time (thank the Lord our floors are carpet-covered and not bare!), some doing fun experiments sitting on the concrete (no carpet) in the garage time, some lift-them-up-and-hugging-them time, some crawling around in the living room sheet-constructed cave/castle time—all of these contribute to some soreness. But mostly, it all adds up to wonderful memories for grandparents and grandkids alike, a sweet recipe for one beautiful little word: joy.

Our deepest joys are usually best just experienced and accepted with deep gratitude to their Giver, but some reflection is also occasionally in order.

Why does time with the little folks so renew our souls even as it tests our backs? A million reasons, I’m sure, but . . .

Unconditional love. You learned about that holding your newborn children; you learn even more about it with their children. You for them and they for you. Just spending time together adds up to sheer delight. No strings. The upstretched arms of that little 18-month-old mouthing “PawPaw”? Worth more than gold! You can live for a month just on one smile, and a giggle will make it two.

Purity, simplicity, and trust. The littlest folks have no qualms about “asking” for what they need, be it bottle or “blanky” or diaper change or nap on your chest. What looks bad in adults and, may I say, completely pathetic in high-officed politicians—neediness and almost no impulse control—is not only okay in the littlest folks, it’s appropriate and shows their absolute trust in us. As God cares for us all, continually doing infinitely more for us than we can possibly know, we gladly provide for the little ones he’s put in our care.

Wonder and joy. Everything is new to them. Everything is beautiful. Everything is full of wonder. That grass beneath the trampoline is a magical forest filled with mythical creatures. Those Christmas lights are as beautiful as twinkling stars. And PawPaw is a noble and valiant unicorn (with wings) who doesn’t at all mind being christened Buttercup if the little folks are doing the naming.

Long after we’ve grown to adulthood, it’s one of God’s most beautiful surprises to use little folks to help us grow back into children and much more like the Son who so delights in them and us.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“There Is a Season” Even for Using “There Is”

editor

“For everything there is a season,” writes the wise man in Ecclesiastes 3.

Not only is that very smart fellow pointing us to a profound truth, his English translators are phrasing it beautifully. The vast majority of those folks are smart enough themselves not to mess much with the English construction of this well-known Scripture.

If you’re not an English major, I hereby give you my blessing to tune out. Blessing or not, if you’re not some sort of word person, you’ll soon turn off anyway. But are you aware that the famous words above are breaking (beautifully) an “Editing 101” rule?

Some rules you should never break. Spelling rules, for example. As a short-lived teacher of English 101, I discovered that between 87 and 93 percent of college freshmen (well, a lot of them anyway) are convinced that “alot” is a word. “Allot” is, but “alot” ain’t, and “allot” is not what they mean.

Sure, some rules ought to be broken occasionally. For example, starting a sentence with a preposition really is okay if you’ve got a good reason for it. (But you don’t have a good reason as often as you think.)

As an editor, I quickly learned one of Ten Editorial Commandments. “Thou shalt quickly kill ‘there izzes’ and ‘there arzzes.’” What that means is that when a writer begins a sentence with “There is” or “There are” a good editor will prune those words because they’re almost always deadwood anyway. If you see many of them in a book, article, or manuscript, it’s a dead giveaway that the author went to press without an editor or the writer threw his editor into a deep sleep. Somebody goofed.

“There are many bears who hibernate in January” may be true, but it’s drowsy word-wise. “Many bears hibernate in January” is a tad closer to coming awake.

“There is very little to be gained from using ‘there is.’” Absolutely true. “Very little is gained from using ‘there is,’” is, however, greater gain.

A quick Google search just brought up this “Op-Ed” title: “There Is a Long Campaign to Put the U.S. Economy Back on Track.” What does that mean? Maybe . . . “Putting the U.S. Economy Back on Track Will Require a Long Campaign.” Economists probably won’t notice anyway, but more reconstructive surgery than that will be required before this title dances much. Those dratted “there izzes” and “there arzzes” are guaranteed to hobble decent writing pretty much anytime an editor allows one to sneak in and live.

Except . . . when the rule is turned on its head and needs to be.

Mahatma Gandhi: “Where there is love there is life.” And right there are two great uses of “there is.”

Yes, indeed, in God’s good time, “for everything there is a season.”

There really is.

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“For Everything There Is a Season”

 

snow-dragon-01

Well, rats! My fire is out. I just looked up across the room and, no flame in the fireplace. A sad sight.

I confess, I laid the fire, lit the match, and quit paying attention. Instead of staring at the hearth, I was staring at a blank computer screen and wishing words would start appearing. Moments later, it seems, my fledgling fire fizzled.

A good fire in the fireplace is one of my favorite things. I like living in a place where we have real seasons, where fireplaces are not just decorative, and where I’m just a few hours away from the second most beautiful thing in nature: mountains. The first? Snow, of course. The fact that the two so often go together is nature tipping her hat in a dance of glorious gratitude to her Creator. (No, I don’t have cattle. If I did, my love of snow might be modified.)

Fact is, it’s been a wimpy winter. Sub-zero cold a few nights, yes, but otherwise puny. And don’t broadcast this, but as much as I love Sunday worship and as seriously as I believe that Christians who claim to be serious about Christ ought to try being serious about being in church . . . I always feel like any winter where we don’t get snowed out of Sunday morning church once during the season is a weak winter indeed.

I figure church-going folks like me who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their church attendance ought to get an opportunity on one Sunday a year to stay home and relax (in front of a fire) like non-church-going folks who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their nonattendance. No hypocrites (that’s all of us at times) are harmed in this once-a-year civilized exchange. And I could hardly be more thankful for our usual one Sunday a winter snow day. (If you think this shows I’m not religious enough to be a preacher, you’ll get no quarrel from me.) But the Lord who said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” is neither the sort of Pharisee nor the sort of kill-joy who will begrudge us a snowy sabbatical.

Alas, no snow. The snow dragon that my grandkids know is hibernating under our front yard won’t get to rear his head this year. But even on a better year, snow melts, trees and lights get packed away, and winter bids adieu as some other sweet seasons swing onto the stage.

I know I’m living on borrowed time this year fire-wise. Oh, we’ll still have a cold spell. Count on it. At least one. A late one that fritzes foolish fruit trees. An Easter sunrise service where the sun rises but the mercury in the thermometer forgets to is not that unusual. And I remember a mid-March road-closing due to snow blowing across the highway so thick you couldn’t see. Even in spring, winter will get in a parting shot.

But, no doubt, it won’t be long until my wife issues her annual edict and the decorative candles slide back in where once roaring flames lived and danced and delighted my soul.

God’s age-old wisdom is that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3). I figure that includes snow and green grass and birdies and falling leaves and . . .

Thank God for the beauty of them all!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Warning: Grumble at Your Own Risk

 

 

grumbling

Grumbling is risky business.

Of course, like any temptation, it feels good at the moment we fall to it. The act of grumbling stokes the fires of our sinful pride. It also stokes the fires of hell—the one hereafter and the one we may be creating here and now.

Aside from the fact that we’re flirting with spiritual suicide when we play with this powerful poison, grumbling feels good to us because grumbling is by its very nature a complaint against “The Management.” It implies a superiority of intelligence or dedication or proficiency over a group or person—be it a boss or governing body or organization or business or colleague or coworker or family member, or . . .  Whether he says it or not, and he probably does, the grumbler is loudly implying, “Why, if I was in charge, things would be better! What’s wrong with these idiots? Can’t they see . . .”

Grumbling’s poisonous and seductive appeal is heightened because it is so easy to do and, at the very same time, requires no positive action at all. When we grumble, we don’t have to bestir ourselves to do, well, anything but grumble. And, in fact, as we allow ourselves to enjoy the presently sweet poison of grumbling, the very last thing we want is for the situation or people we’re grumbling against to improve lest we, at least theoretically, have to quit grumbling.

And grumbling snowballs—not only in our own hearts as we fall to its seduction more and more often, but also in our society with others. Habitual and dedicated grumblers always attract a following because everyone enjoys the poisonous pleasure grumbling affords. We all like to feel superior to those in authority. We all like to complain and take no responsibility for doing anything constructive.

I’m at least as prone to grumbling as anyone, so I need to say it again—grumbling is risky business.

If we grumble often and long enough, we so twist, contort, and poison our souls that pretty much all that is left in us is a slimy, stinky, malignant  grumble where once resided a warm human heart.

Because he loves us, God hates grumbling. Evidence abounds, but stark testimony is found in Numbers 21. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites are fed up. Among other things, they’re fed up with manna! They’re tired of the “miserable food” they eat each morning. They’ve become finicky eaters complaining against the cook. I mean, The Cook, and his staff.

Both as punishment and as a way to save others from the infection, God wipes out a big bunch of grumblers.

When I catch myself grumbling, I need to heed the warning: Danger! Grumbling Is Very Risky Business. It easily spreads to all parts of our lives, and in the final analysis, “The Management” we grumble against is God.

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Control Freaks, Prepare to be Controlled”

 

control-freak

Control freaks, beware! A “controlling” approach to life is fraught with danger and tears.

We all fall into that mode from time to time, thinking that if we can just “get it right” and force (we’d say “encourage”) others (spouses, children, coworkers) to  “get it right” by submitting to the improvement plan we create, we can fashion for ourselves and others a perfectly ordered, smoothly running, incredibly efficient existence. As long as we’re in charge, masters of the situation, all will be well, right?

Life doesn’t work that way, and, ironically, people who have a deep need to be masters end up as slaves continually dealing with fires that they rarely realize they’ve set or stoked themselves by their own sick need. And they are not the only ones who end up wrecked and broken, resentful and resented.

In a fine article in Christianity Today entitled, “Justify Yourself,” David Zahl writes that 500 years after Martin Luther helped the world rediscover the truth of the gospel, that salvation is by grace through faith and not by law through works, we still need to be reminded—and in very practical ways.

Zahl points to a university task force exploring reasons for a “spate” of suicides on its campus. Seriously contributing to the problem was the pressure many students felt to push for perfection in “every academic, co-curricular, and social endeavor.” The result? Serious anxiety and/or depression.

Jesus told us, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). But what if the fingers gripping your throat are tentacles of your own perfectionism? As you choke for air, the neurotic need you refuse to recognize is also throttling your spouse, kids, and coworkers.

It’s a sad symmetry. Failing to feel mercy and grace, or admit we need it, we become unable to extend it. Even if we can’t see the reality, all of our relationships become conditional and sick: “You’ll be okay with me IF . . .” That is poison.

When Luther grappled with Scripture, the Apostle Paul’s words both assailed and freed him: we are truly saved only by grace through faith; law through works will only condemn us. But that’s just religion, right? Wrong!

As Zahl points out, that truth is as practical as hyper-driven students and suicide rates, women who’ll never be thin enough or successful enough, business folks who’ll never get enough work done and get shaky if they ever turn off their cell phone, kids with headaches and tummy aches and no virus but adult-sized stress, spouses whose marriages are more based on performance review than on unconditional love . . . Resentment flourishes. No one ever feels that he/she has done enough. Worse, no one feels that he/she IS enough. “If only I can do, get, achieve . . .” “If only I can get YOU—spouse, child, coworker—to do, get, achieve . . .” then my own life and existence will be justified. But what’s enough? When will I reach it? The answer? Never.

The fruit of a law-based life? Bitterness, resentment, anger. “The sad irony of our lives,” Zahl writes, “is that our desire to be in control almost always ends up controlling us.”

The good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to justify ourselves; it’s already been done. We’re completely loved, forgiven, and free. If we know that, let’s pass it on. If we don’t? Well, control freaks, prepare to be controlled.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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