Friday, March 26, 2010

Wonder Woman & The Lasso Of Truth



I rented the first season of Wonder Woman this week- I haven't seen it since I was a kid. When I say "kid", I mean I was between 2-5 when I first saw it. But I remember I absolutely loved it. The opening titles didn't jog my memory, but the theme song did, as well as the lasso of truth. Everything else- her Amazonian roots, her sidekick Lyle Wagonner, her "invisible" airplane (Really? Everything is invisible except her & the chair she's sitting in?!), & her nifty ability to change clothes while spinning (& somehow come out completely put together) was forgotten. I found it entertaining all these years later however, in a cheesy sort of way. I mostly remember the outfit & the lasso of truth- wishing someone would use one on me.

I wonder if I was even able to comprehend truth & lies at that age... Perhaps the idea of "truth" meant something entirely different to me then. When I saw the villains being lassoed, I saw them become "real". No facades, no pretending. The masks came off, the deception was exposed. They told the truth & tragedy was averted. Not only that, but justice was served.

When I'm not out among people & the daily activities of this world, I often crawl back into my mind for refuge. Translation: I think too much! But consider with me if you will, the circumstances of the years between ages 2-5 when I was watching this program... My father was in & out of my life, my mom worked a lot & I was in the hospital, sick with asthma so often that the nurses knew me by name. I'm sure preschool was traumatic & there was a significant death in the family when I was 5. The idea of Wonder Woman, the idea of truth, stuck with me. Perhaps its just a vestige of nostalgia (though I don't have many in depth thoughts about Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy or The Facts of Life!).

But I had ask myself- what would the lasso of truth represent to me, if I were the villain being lassoed? What crime might I confess? Would it be deception? Would it be secret hatred? Would I reveal a bitter hurt that drove me toward acts of malice? Its hard to say what a child might confess... perhaps I didn't have the words back then... but I knew I wanted the truth to surround me, to rein me in, to keep me safe. I wanted someone to see me, to know me for who I was inside, not for the things that happened to me... and I wanted justice.

As it turns out, "Wonder Woman" is a senior citizen now & the lasso of truth is just make believe... Ironic, isn't it?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Repercussions

Recap!

I've been thinking about what a fear based belief system could accomplish in the development of child & adult alike. Here are a few things I grew up believing:

-Whenever I sin, I'm in danger of hell.
Hell is just a misstep away.
-God loves me, as long as I do what's right.
-If I sin, any connection I have with God is severed, left hanging by a thread.
-My salvation is contingent on what I do for God.

Now, I have no idea how I came to believe this way, but hell was surely a constant threat in my mind. It must've really freaked me out. I'm sure the lady at the bar-b-q said something about the security of my salvation, but I honed in on the part about eternal punishment...

For many years, I could say I believed God loved me, but in my heart, I was afraid... I never thought of Him waiting to greet me one day with a lighting bolt or the back of His hand- I didn't envision an angry God. But I did see one I disappointed horribly. This God would send me to hell out of sadness. I always envisioned Him disappointed, sighing, shaking His head... biding His time till He would abandon me forever to be damned... Not b/c He wanted to, but Hes a Holy God & "them's the rules".

Over the years, I've come to believe the truth about my salvation.

-There's grace for me when I sin.
Ro. 3:22-26
-God loved me even when I was still a sinner.
Ro. 5:8
-Jesus made it possible for me to approach the throne of grace with confidence!
He. 4:14-16
-I am saved by grace, not by anything I can do!
Eph. 2:1-10 2 Ti. 1:9-10


For God so loved the world... John 3:16-18

How did I miss that? Its the most widely quoted scripture of all time & I missed it. I remember memorizing it, I remember singing songs about it, but the meaning escaped me for so many years. Twenty nine of them in fact...

The repercussions of a fear based belief system are great. Its the difference between life & death, joy & despair, hope & hopelessness. I'm not blaming anyone... God has worked (& continues to work) everything out for my good. (Ro. 8:28) I no longer feel that I'm dangling over the precipice of hell by some imaginary thread. I'm saved by grace, not by anything I can do. And this grace comes from God, through Jesus Christ- as a simple gift of love.

Thanks be to God indeed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Irresponsibility

In my last post, I suggested it was irresponsible to present the gospel to a child in the way it was presented to me. So how DO you share with a 6 year old?

My aunt & uncle became Christians right around the time I was born. When I was 5, they sent LPs of children's songs as gifts for my birthday & Christmas. This was my introduction to God & all things Christian. I remember looking at the illustrated booklets that came in the jacket (The art was so much better back then!)...




I learned about the 10 commandments & other Biblical principles, but I didn't really connect with the reality of God or my need to be saved. But then, is that really necessary at 5 years old? Jesus said "Let the little children come"... In another place, it says He "put His hands on them to pray for them". It doesn't say He told them to repent & be saved. It doesn't say He told them they did bad things & were going to hell. He didn't even tell them to follow Him. He simply placed His hands on them & prayed for them. And then He went on His way.

I've heard theories about guardian angels or automatic salvation prior to the "age of reason", but no one seems to be able to agree on anything solid. I'm under the impression that a child (in my case, a 6 year old) can't be expected to make a fully conscious, logical decision to commit their entire life to Christ after hearing a few sentences about God's love & the threat of hell.

I'm convinced I prayed out of fear- not necessarily b/c I was able to comprehend eternal punishment or even God's love. The idea that I was going to suffer if I didn't pray the prayer terrified me. Moreover, every time I did something bad, I feared hell & asked God to forgive me- not because I cared about our relationship, but I didn't want to end up a crispy critter. I don't think a child should have to concern themselves with this kind of fear however. It seems wrong to impose the truth in this way. And what's worse, I never really formed a relationship with God until many years later.

In hindsight, I can be thankful that I had a foundation- that God saw fit to reveal Himself to me by some means, so many years ago. But perhaps Jesus set an example for us when He said nothing more than "Let the little children come"... and He put His hands on them to pray for them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Journey of Faith Part 1

When I was a teenager, I always wished there was some kind of concise resource out there cataloging the journey of faith. What was this thing supposed to look like?

I went to church, I "prayed", I sang worship songs, & even led worship for a time. I once had an actual "prayer closet"! I was mentored, went on mission trips & lived on a missionary base for a while. All my friends went to the same church. And all my friends seemed to have an insatiable joy & passion for Christ that I didn't. Me, I did all the same things, but I was still dead inside. When I sought help, people prayed for me & rambled off scriptures to "help" me combat my unbelief. Unbelief & lack of faith always seemed to be my problem. But as I've begun to come to life now in my 30's, I realize these things weren't the problem at all. I had faith, I believed, I just didn't know why.

I first heard the "gospel" when I was 6. It was a warm July day & my mom & I were vacationing with family in California. A friend of the family was having a bar-b-q & she came over to chat with me... This is the "good news" I heard: God loves me & wants to save me from hell. I do bad things called sin & deserve to go to hell when I die. But God sent His Son to die for me so I don't have to go to hell. I don't want to go to hell do I? No! All I have to do is accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord & Savior! Yay! I can be saved forever! While that's a simple way of presenting the good news, I've come to think its irresponsible. I was six for crying out loud. That's not to say kids can't make decisions for Christ, but there needs to be more to it than that. So many times I've wished I never heard that "good news" until I was able to understand what it really meant. I prayed the prayer & sealed my fate (I do however, think it's fitting that I was saved in the great outdoors!).

From that lady's backyard, back to New York where I grew up- I started going to church & learned Bible stories via flannelgraph & songs like Father Abraham... We did arts & crafts & put on Christmas plays. I had my own Bible, complete with illustrations, but I never cracked it except in church. When I was 13, I dropped out of church altogether. That was the year they split the boys & girls into their own rooms. We went around the room to do introductions. The girls in my class were all prettier & more talented than me. I was still wearing last year's purple pants & they all had swanky designer jeans & perms. They had an air about them I didn't want to be a part of, so I left. And I ended up leaving my faith behind as well... momentarily.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Miracle of Presence

I spent the day alone, went walking in the park & treated myself to lunch out. I've been feeling wistful, thinking how this is an idyllic day for friends to spend time doing nothing in particular. I've been lost in thought since I got home, my senses still taking in the feeling of late afternoon... I randomly started talking to God & told Him how I liked the way the light was shining just so... how the colours of the trees & sky seemed so vibrant... I shared with Him how much I loved the warm breeze & how it rustled through the leaves. The sun burst through, casting shifting shadows on my walls & I thanked God that He was not like those shadows...

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (New International Version)

I thanked Him for the fresh scent of growth, for the trees budding & blossoming, for the flowers displaying their new life. But then I stopped, wondering if I was rambling on about nothing or being annoying. As I quieted myself, I "heard" that familiar voice. I got the sense that He was glad I told Him how I felt about His creation. He was glad that I cared to talk to Him. And He was especially content just to listen. Today I got the feeling that He cares about the "nothings" just as much as He cares about the "everything" in our lives. He's present for all of it. Like two friends hanging out, doing nothing in particular, chatting about nothing & everything, its all part of relationship. Its the miracle of presence.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Through The Eyes

In a recent post entitled 'Myth & Life", I ruminated briefly on the question of Christ's endurance of humanity while He walked this earth. I surmised that He was tortured by a handful of idiots & died for the sins of a worldful. However true that may be, those were rash words spoken without love.

I had lunch with Conviction today. He stared me down till I looked Him in the eye. He seemed to say , "You don't see what Christ saw b/c you aren't looking through His eyes." And then it hit me. Jesus LOVED us. Scriptures flooded my already cluttered mind: Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 23:37

I had no recourse but to submit myself to God & to the realization of my limitation- no, my utter failure- in my ability to love. I can't love like Christ, I can't see what Christ saw using my own eyes. I'm too jaded, too wounded, too human. But if I can begin to somehow see through the eyes of Christ, I'll see through a lens of love, of compassion, of mercy. What did He see? He saw people like sheep- easily lead astray. He saw them like children, helpless. He saw them hungry & naked & sick. He saw them poor, He saw them simpleminded & burdened. He saw them oppressed by the religious leaders blustering about in the temple courts. He saw how they followed, how they just wanted a glimpse, how some were willing to give everything & how others just walked away. He saw me. He saw you. He walked this earth & was crucified in flesh so we might have the chance to come to repentance, so we all might be saved from a wrath we can't fathom. Even as He rose on the 3rd day, resurrected by the power of God unto new life in the very same flesh, we too can be raised to new life by that very same power...

Jesus tells us, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you". (John 15:12) And how has He loved us? Luke 6:27-36 gives us a taste...

Jesus loved us while we were still His enemies. He did good to us, He blessed us, He prayed for us. He fed us, healed us, covered us with the price of His blood. He gave freely & demanded nothing in return. He was kind to us, an ungrateful & wicked lot. He was merciful when mercy was undeserved. He endured because He LOVED us. And He still does.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Mission of Conviction

One morning at church, I decided I wasn't going to sing the songs that talked about lifting my hands. I knew I wouldn't be lifting my hands & I wasn't going to lie to God about lifting my hands if I had no intention of lifting them. Naturally, I felt convicted. Who am I to tell God I won't sing for this reason, I won't do this other thing for that reason? But instead of thrusting my hands to the sky in an act of triumphant surrender, I just quit singing altogether. I shut down & sat in my chair, grasping my tea & feeling horribly sick to my stomach. A few songs later, the tension eased as we transitioned into a time of fellowship.

This seems to be how I've lived much of my life as a Christian- times of conviction come & I sit with being uncomfortable instead of doing something about it. Naturally. Its such a normal feeling in fact, that I've grown accustomed to being uncomfortable & making excuses at the first hint of conviction. As a result, it often doesn't yield the fruit God intended. I've been told by people in the past that my stubbornness & excuse making is an act of pride & rebellion against God. Its doubt & unbelief in His power & Lordship over me. Still, I always maintained that in my heart, I wanted to obey with everything in me, "but"... (see excuse here).

As I've grown older, I realize they were right. Those were hard words to hear then & they've not lost their edge all these years later. But they were right. When conviction presents itself, its not up for debate. Its not seeking my opinion or approval. Conviction isn't a research project to be analyzed & experimented with over time. Its there as an established means of movement. That is, conviction leads me from one place to another if I obey it. The less I argue, the more it changes me. It will always draw me closer to God, but only if I humble myself under it's guiding hand.

Maybe this is lame, but I've got an acronym to share.
If you HUMBLE yourself under the guiding hand of conviction, if you OBEY it & MOVE in the direction its leading, you'll EXPERIENCE change. Can you see it? Can you see that the 1st letters of the capped words intentionally spell "HOME"? When conviction comes, instead of making excuses, remember HOME... as in with God, in heaven. Conviction has a mission to get us there & we should want to get there too, with as little hassle as possible.

HUMBLE yourself under the guiding hand of conviction.
OBEY it.
MOVE in the direction its leading.
EXPERIENCE change.