A few years ago I quit reading my Bible, praying or attending church. I still longed for a relationship with God but hoped I could find it without all the "trappings of religion." I believed in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior but I had become
highly suspicious of pastors. At best I thought they were deluded and
at worst, actively perpetuating a God-hoax on unsuspecting,
Essentially, I wanted a god of my own making. I re-imagined Jesus as a sort of postmodern hippie; a long-haired guy wearing eco-friendly sandals and dedicated to social justice issues.
I certainly didn't want God, The Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. That was the kind of God you had to obey and I wanted the kind of god that would obey me.
I wanted a god that made me look intelligent, hip, sophisticated. You know, the kind of god you read about in books like Eat Pray Love. I wanted one of those. Especially if it meant I could spend three months of my life eating pasta in Italy!
But I was making a huge mistake. I was seeking signs and wonders, an experience, a feeling. I wasn't seeking God Himself.
God wanted me to find Him. But I wasn't looking for Him because I was too busy looking for a genie to grant my three wishes. I'm glad God didn't give up on me. He let me run around, careening from one thing to the next, trying on different ideas of Him like I was trying on clothes.
Does this god make me look good?
When the Bible tells me that God is long-suffering, I know this means He puts up with my insufferable nonsense. The truth was, all my fiddling around was nothing more than a grand charade aimed at hiding my unwillingness to obey Him.
There were a couple of issues, in particular, that I had been avoiding. I had been keeping these petty, private indulgences in a secret corner of my life. I thought of them as harmless little sins, guilty little pleasures. But of course, that was a lame excuse. After all, it's the little foxes that spoil the vine.
One day I had to confront the reality that these "harmless little sins" were causing real, actual damage. I had delayed my obedience to God so long that the cracks in my moral character were springing leaks.
No matter how hard I tried to cover it up, the truth was clear. Delayed obedience was disobedience. I had dilly-dallied and made excuses long enough. It was time to own up.
It was embarrassing to have my sin exposed. But it was also love. Hebrews 12:6 tells me, For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth. Chasten is an old-fashioned word meaning: "To inflict suffering upon for purposes of moral improvement."
I realized that God loved me enough to discipline me and to expose the error of my ways and thoughts. It didn't feel great, but it was grace all the same.
The moment I took action and started to obey Him, God blessed me with peace and renewed joy. I was shocked. And again, embarrassed. I had wasted so much time wandering around, making excuses, shirking my duty. God had told me to get rid of those little sins a long time ago but I had taken years to finally up and do it!
Part of the reason I had been so "stuck" in my relationship to God was that I had refused to kill off those little foxes. And yet, I had become all high-and-mighty, ready to call down judgment on any pastor that I deemed worthy of my criticism.
Talk about having a log in my eye! Man oh man.
So, this Lent I am thinking about the ways in which I sin by omission: by failing to do what I should.
It's a humbling process. I would appreciate your prayers.