Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Beautiful Ugly

I've been thinking...that's usually how these writings start. We are all searching for "happiness" or whatever you want to call it, but we are all looking in different places, hoping some divine voice will call "you're getting warmer...WARMER". For some it's in pleasures, others it's in a job well done, that special "someone" or creative expression. The search continues for years and years. Dead-ends prevail or else we wear out the hopeful idol. And sometimes, our time runs out, way before we thought it would. 

What if we are living life upside down? What if the secret to contentment, peace, happiness, strength and hope are in the opposite direction? Like a big stinkin' city traffic jam. Everyone is frantically stalled, fender to fender. Anxiously trying to get through, to get ahead. Every once in awhile, one guy gives up. he wriggles out of the common line, turns around and goes the other way. It seems absurd. That's not the right direction. But he's desperate for another way. He is really unsure of his decision, but he is convinced that his current course is not working. Losing his place in line is risky, but he cannot bear another horn honk, curse word or revving engine. The stillness is killing him. Faith and hope turns him directly around. A glance at the back of the line is not enough. Leaving his car and running to "check it out" back there is not enough. He has to  get out of line, turn around 180 degrees and fast as he can.

 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"
The traffic is heading straight for a place called Self. Self is a place exactly the way you want it to be and the capital city is Me. It's laws command that you believe in yourself...your own strength, your own will and your own truth...custom made to your own desires. It's a Utopia. I like the idea of living there myself. The problem is that it's not real. It's a great idea, but pure fiction. If it were real, then the greatest people in the world, those who accomplish the most, make the most money, have the most power or popularity would have reached Heaven on Earth, but they don't. Sometimes they even take their own lives in the hopelessness of reaching another dead-end. The end of the highway. The end of pleasures.

"There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death."
Proverbs 14:12

Brokenness. Before we find that place of peace, joy and contentment, we need to make a pit stop. It's a nasty and painful the direct opposite direction most are traveling. You don't need to stay there long, but you need to sign the guest book at least. This place is wall to wall mirrors that show the hidden places of the heart. It reveals the ugly truth about what we often think, desire and do. The things that no one else may know. When you stand on the border of Good and Bad, with one foot about to cross the line, you start to realize what you are capable of. Every monster out there that we see in the news doing unspeakable things was once a precious baby with all the potential for good that we have. God's grace holds us back. Once we see the possibility of our own destructive nature, something changes. The fear, disgust and shock of that mirror's reflection is a critical moment. That horrific, but necessary moment is the key to passionate love and transformation. It is what turns us around, motivates us to really love and be loved.

 "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:39
Contrite spirits. That feeling or showing or remorse for sin or a shortcoming. That brokenness over our failure and incapability. That is what ignites the power. That is the weakness that gives birth to strength. That is what furnishes the home where Jesus wants to dwell. Once He moves in, we get on the right road and move forward enduring every bump, turn and stall with indescribable peace and joy. His love for us, for that horrific mirror image we denied was there for so long, compels us to love Him back. Acceptance, faithfulness and unlimited hope is ours, never to be lost. That brief moment of darkness, that pit stop, opened the door to unending light. But most won't go there...not even for a moment.

  "I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."
Isaiah 57:15

Some people begin their journey with Jesus at the pit stop of ugly mirrors and others experience a rejuvenation of their faith there. Either way, that's where the love is born or grows.  Being loved unconditionally by a perfect and all powerful God is the key, but we cannot appreciate that until we see how undeserving we are...what a great price that love costs. The uglier we see ourselves, the more beautiful He makes us feel. Opposite. Upside-down. Other direction. Turn around.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:9

North American affluence and humanistic and self esteem...often hide this turning point from us, as well as our own fleshly avoidance. Don't be fooled. Helplessly go there. It'll only hurt for a moment, as long as you let it go. See it...hate it...then give it away to the Healer. Ask Him to take you there, whatever the cost...He'll cover you. It's a beautiful ugly.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Matthew 6:33

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