Kate and I work on a creative writing prompt each evening together. She writes in the book while I work alongside her in a spiral notebook. The goal was to help her creative thinking and sentence structure while also getting a few minutes together without interruptions. Our prompt one night this week suggested we were astronauts who just discovered a new planet. Describe the planet. I wrote about a land that was a lot like earth. It had mountains, lakes, oceans, wildlife, trees and incredible skies. On this planet, the air is pure and people can breath more deeply. They feel young and more alive than ever. The fruit on the trees is sweeter than any fruit ever sampled here. When I finished reading my description to Kate, she smiled as she whispered, "Mom, that's Heaven". And she was right. I have been working through a bible study about Heaven by Randy Alcorn and been more than pleasantly surprised by all scripture says about it. The thing that's impressed upon me more than anything is how perfect it will be and how much I want everyone to be there. The reality in our culture though is to stifle the truth of Heaven in order to not offend. How much easier is it to instead believe what an astronaut might discover?
Following Christ and believing He died for us to have everlasting life is taboo. Faith that leads me to love all, serve others and seek ways to make my life on earth matter to those in around me is sadly not what most Christians choose to focus on either. There are rules to be followed, language to be used and facades of holy living to be maintained. Jesus himself spoke rather harshly against this religious act. He called them Pharisees and they exist today, stronger than ever. God's grace is what saves me, not anything I wear, say, do or declare on Facebook will change that. I am forgiven and am free.
I have been reading a book recently about a young woman who lost her mother at age 18 to cancer. It's hitting me hard as I am watching my friends navigate the loss of a father to cancer. This particular woman recounts the struggle to find the Lord after sisters in Christ sat her down to discuss her fashionable boots as being offensive to God, how showing her knees meant she could not love the Lord, and if she was truly seeking the Lord's favor, she would learn to be a better cook for her family. Again, she was 18 and her mother had just lost her battle with cancer. It's any wonder this woman loves the Lord at all in her 30's with the pain of those conversations about Christ lingering in her mind and heart. Sadly, I have heard many first hand accounts of such garbage from others. Listen, we are not in the position to declare anything about anyone's life disturbing God. Frankly, I am having enough trouble navigating my own life, I don't need to mettle in yours. However, I am happy to walk along side you, pray with you and help dust you off when life knocks you down because that is exactly what Jesus would do. I can't get away with pointing any fingers at anyone. It's not my job. There is no peace in it and I am exhausted just thinking about it. Who has time to run the lives of those they encounter? If you think you are entitled to tell someone what you think about the sin in their lives, I think you need to spend sometime meditating on God's word. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'let me take the speck out of your eye, ' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:3-5 We all too often mistake our opinion for God's word. I am a recovering Pharisee myself and perhaps that's why I am so sensitive to this topic of judgement.
The longer I walk with the Lord, the more my heart aches for others. It's sincere. There will still be times I step in something I shouldn't or say something in a manner I don't intend; but my heart and motives are good. I care deeply. The struggles of others pains me and I want to do anything I can to help. God has softened my heart to fill it with that love. I won't measure up to my pharisee friends who are tisk-tisking secular music, the arts and exposed knees. I can't. But I don't know if those friends accept God's grace was a gift for them either. God calls us to live a joyful life in Him. If I am miserable as I struggle to mark all the "good Christians would do this" tasks on some imaginary list, I am missing the point. God isn't concerned with how Christian I appear to others. He cares about my heart and motives. His grace saves me. And His grace saves everyone who seeks Him. Period. I am still learning and growing in this journey and certainly don't profess to have it all worked out but I am grieved by the hardened hearts around me due to the painful conversations or judgements made on behalf of the Lord.