When we think of ourselves, are we consumed with thoughts of who we are as a person, or what we are capable of? Do we look at ourselves the way we want others to look at us? Why don’t we look at ourselves as someone who should be in a hospital? I recently spoke with my mother-in-law about perception of sin as it relates to those who do us the most harm. For her, it was my father-in-law, a person she loved at one point in her life with unimaginable unconditional love. She saw her life, as an old woman, growing old with her husband surrounded by kids and grandkids. This wasn’t to be, she faced a reality whereby, she was deceived and eventually abandoned by her husband. Her wound was deep, and in human fashion, she was forced to deal with a new reality which included hard-times, strife, and the coming face-to-face with an all to reality of loneliness. In here reality, she was forced to look at those items of her life which caused her the most grief and deliberate over the face of the person who wounded her the most. In her despair and anger she found solace in God but struggled with forgiveness of the one person who caused the greatest pain in her life, her ex-husband. So, this is where my point of recognition begins. This in my conversations with her over more than two decades has become the realization of our sickness.
So, bear with me, imagine you are walking through a hospital, and you see a patient burned beyond all recognition. Burned so bad, you’re not sure if there is a hope of his survival, he will probably gain some manner of disease, or eventually die of the pain. Then imagine, you look around and everyone in the hospital ward seems to have the same degree of pain and wounding. You look around and begin to ask questions about whether there was a fire or an event involving terrorism. No one around you has a good answer but they are feverishly trying to use their machines and medicines to alleviate the pain and suffering, but more people are coming in by the droves. You think to yourself, “what is this madness, why are all of these people coming in?” Then suddenly, you are struck down with sever pain, you can’t seem to understand why you are feeling so ill. Sores and blisters begin to form on your skin and the pain is unimaginable, and yet you can do nothing to stop them, eventually you fall and are picked up by medics hoping to deal with your pain in the same manner you were just dealing with the patient’s minutes before. Eventually, all who come to the hospital, in pain and agony will succumb to their pains, but it’s their decision on just how they deal with the pain. They can push away those people who are there to help, perceiving the help given as a poor attempt at control, or they can accept the help and realize although they don’t understand everything which is happening, they will trust in the help given.
Imagine again, life is like this hospital, and the sickness incurred is the sin we gladly accept into our choices and allow to stain our souls. As we begin to move more and more away from the will of God, we become more reliant on anything to fix our problems except the one truth, God. One part of my discussion with my Mother-in-law was our inability to see sin for what it is, a true sickness on our soul. Imagine walking through the hospital ward, seeing people writhing in pain, and being unaffected by this display of pain and the need for compassion. Would we really walk by someone in need of our charity and love and tell them no, especially if we could see the sores exposed for all the world to see? The answer is if we have a human bone in our body, we would probably bend over backwards to help this person as much as possible. Our discussions pertained to the actions by which we perceived either an evil action or an action with so much malice behind an action it was perceived as evil. Though the real question should have always been, is he dealing with more than we know? Is there something which is he is dealing with, which requires patience and understanding more than my anger? If he was sitting in the medical ward, with sores all over his body, writhing in pain due to the sin and influences he was dealing with, would I be more compassionate to him? This is how I think God sees us, not as our sin a rapacious causality to our choices and behaviors which keeps Him away from us, but instead, sees us with love, and sees these sores and pains which cover the landscape of our soul as a matter of the need to be healed. God’s compassion for us, is one which lovingly holds us with care, and wills us to be nursed to health by His will alone and our decision to accept His help. This creates another analogous paradigm, which manifests the most bizarre perspective of all, because we writhe in pain, we don’t realize it, because our conventional understanding of pain isn’t exhibited, so when God offers to heal our sickness, we push God away and insist we can do it all our own.
I would also, point out, accepting sin as a sickness, much like I described, isn’t too far off the mark. We can’t see the true form of sin, because we lie to ourselves, we fool ourselves into thinking what we do isn’t all too bad, especially since no one was hurt. Though, at the end of the day, our sins are there no matter how noble they may appear to us, care no nobility whatsoever, they are what they are, sins, and those sins push us away from God. With each sin, if we can only imagine the wound we inflict on our own body due to the sin we choose. Some sins, may be small in the larger estimation of our actions, but if we think about any time we’ve run through a wooded area, and thorns were everywhere, while running we may have been aware of a thorn here and there cutting us up, but when we stop and we look our entire body over, we see more wounds than we could have previously imagined. In this we can determine, even our actions, seemingly innocent by our estimation, could still cut us, because in the objective truth, a sin has been committed.
Ok, getting back to my mother-in-law, where is she at pertaining to the hurt inside? Well good news, she is much better than ever before, she seems to have forgiven the man who hurt her deeply, she seems to have moved past the pain, and realized the one truth, God, and placed God before her in everything she does. In our discussions together, we both agreed, looking at people who we deem to be sinners including ourselves requires our sympathetic perception of pain before anything else. We should be looking on those, especially the ones who touch our lives, as a matter of a doctor dealing the medicine of love to those who seek relief, even if they don’t know they do.
Our sin is a lot like a sickness in many ways, if we spend too much time around it, it can affect us. It truly creates derision in everyone causing a ripping or tearing of the fabric of love. In doing so, we see exactly what we are seeing today, less people willing to make decision of faith, or more people willing to ridicule and criticize those who attempt to go through life looking for the light of God. The sickness is the darkness of sin, and the only way to rid one’s self of darkness is to be presented and exist in the light of God. It cures our soul of the sickness we feel, or don’t feel, but we allow to reside in us. The damnable quality of sin is just when we think you’ve got a handle on it, or just when we think we’ve overcome the sin we’ve struggled with, we become mired in its grasp and search for God is as if we never knew him.
Being a husband and a father has been the most challenging things I’ve ever associated myself with, in my life. I’ve never not loved my kids or my wife, but I chose to love my wants and needs more. I chose to put something before my very God, and I confess to all of you, I am like Peter in my abandonment, and I have wept bitterly because of it. The sickness grew inside me so much, the sin took over, and I said to myself, “what’s the point now, I can never be the perfect child I saw myself to be, I’m stained with this sin forever?”. This was the devil trying to influence my thoughts and make me feel worthless, and it almost worked. It was “Screwtape” trying to capitalize on my mediocrity of life and decision, and in my lack of enthusiasm and fire, I almost let go. I didn’t know, even when I wanted to loosen my grip on the life I thought I lost, there was a hand over the top of my very own hand. This hand in its strength, in its silence spoke to me, or rather spoke to my heart. It said, “no, don’t go, I’m still here and I love you!”. It was as if I had a thousand stones lifted off my chest, and I could breath once more, I could think about something other than myself.
So, what was I missing? Fire! I was missing the fire of the Holy Spirit. The only topic in my life which ever seemed worthy of my attention was the study of God, and the actions according to my faith, so when I failed my friends and family, I thought I covered the fire over with the dirt of sin. I was so very wrong. The one thing the devil doesn’t want you to know, is God’s forgiveness is the medicine we all need, we are all looking for redemption from our failures. Some people have more than others, but this doesn’t negate the powerful forgiveness of God. His love extended to a man, a man who chose to love us so much, he would die for us. Love hung on the cross, love bled for us, love died for us, love conquered death for us.
Men if you have something in your life holding you back, and you know without the recognition of this sin and the wiping away of sinful behavior you can never walk one step closer to God, then stop now. I would tell you, right your wrongs, ask forgiveness of those who’ve hurt you. Be men! Be strong! Be the example, your children can look up to. If you yelled at your wife, because she hurt you or angered you in some way, apologize to her, hold her, tell her how much she truly means to you. You are one with her, you are bound to her within a covenant put together by God, so treat her as such. I will be the first to admit, I’m no saint when it comes to anger or treating people the way I should, but I will say, the rush of emotion when you do ask for forgiveness is God’s gift to you, it’s God’s way of saying, “I love you!”. What is more powerful, is when you do ask/beg the forgiveness of the wounded party and they forgive you, there is nothing more powerful in this world than someone who is truly hurt by your actions, willing to accept you for who you are, a bond of unconditional love is formed.
Sickness wishes to ruin this, spoil this holiness, sin wishes to tear apart the bonds which bind us lovingly. It takes many years to forge a path of love in pursuit of God’s will, but it takes only seconds to obliterate the very path we seek. What is so wonderful, is God doesn’t deride us for destroying the path, but forgives us, and wishes to give us light so that we may see the path once more. Sickness is darkness, and in darkness, how can a father ever show his children the way or be the reflective light his spouse so desperately needs when she is in her own mire of sin as well. I know this seems almost too much to burden any one person with, but I assure you, life was never meant to be easy, it was always intended to purify and create lovers. God’s beauty is the weapon of love, of righteousness, of hope, and of faith. The Saints are our examples of this beauty, their lives are examples of the sin we fall into, but the faith which will carry us out of our own willingness to walk away from God.
I pray, within our own sickness we can realize, sin isn’t a matter of disobeying a rule set forth by God, but rather sin is our way of pushing the hand of God away from us when we are sick, and all God wishes to do is make us better. I pray we can accept the forgiveness of other, but also be willing to forgive those who writhe in pain because of their choices in sin. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!