“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison”. [Matthew 5:23-25]
OK, so… “Imagine… if you will...” * insert best Rod Serling voice imitation here *
Let’s say you are an Elder of a “Liturgical Persuasion”, and this Little Monk comes to your monastery cell, taps gently on the door, and says… “Um, Senior Brother… got a spare moment for a Confession?” And, smiling, you come out, put a bookmark at the page you’d been reading of a really EXCELLENT mystery… and together we head to the Confessional. Or, depending on generation, we head for a quiet private spot in the Garden. (Both are fine…)
And my first words after the preliminaries are… “It’s not my FAULT! I just followed the CAT! Honest!”
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OK, so what in the WORLD am I babbling about, this time? Lol. Well, I have a confession to make, and it’s as well to make it here, to you, as anyone else. You are, after all, Holy and Royal Priest… as endowed as any brother or sister of Kingdom. And you may have guessed that in sharing an idea of spirit, especially of prayer, I’m much more dedicated to “laboratory” than to “lecture” format. The most convenient lab specimen I know… considering confidentiality and everything… is myself as guinea pig, so here we are.
Well, a few nights ago, I “blew it”. I “sinned”. (Lol, nothing unexpected there, but this makes a decent illustration for today.) You may recall, the standard to which I am held regarding sin is quite simple (as I can’t handle a lot of rules or complicated stuff). So, what did I do? I “treated something or someone God loves (thus holds in existence), as less than sacred.” I desecrated someone, treating them as less than sacred.
The Crime: No big deal… (well, it was “murder” actually, but we’ll get to that.). Group of guests in my living room, as we play a paper-and-pencil role playing game. (I am a player, not a game master.) We are facing a challenge, discussing our options, and one of our company proposes a thoroughly destructive, but simple solution, that would have devastating impact on the environment and innocent bystanders. I oppose this plan, simply, logically, and succinctly. Nothing complex about the response. First speaker nods, says, “OK”, and we all go back to pondering a workable solution. (So far so good.)
But, THEN, that first guy (we’ll call him “First Guy” for convenience)…. that First Guy comes back, and restates HIS ORIGINAL PROPOSAL… like he hadn’t even HEARD me! How DARE he! (see the little “pride worm” there? I didn’t.) And in a flash, in less than a breath… I turn to him. (like, *slowly I turned… step by step… inch by inch*…)
I say, “Which word was too long?” And the entire room is suddenly filled with the slightly smothered sound of a bunch of guys trying to suppress a laugh they know would be rude. While *I* just sit there with a gobsmacked, wide-eyed look of… “Are you KIDDING me? Really? REALLY?”
God is so GOOD! Gentle Reader. Even when I SO don’t deserve it. Like a flash, one of my young ministry friends, sitting alongside me, gently and discretely tapped my arm to break my “adrenalin moment”, and took over the conversation with SUCH grace… “First Guy, we’re saying that might not be our best plan because these things would happen, and then…, and then…, and that might not be good for us. OK?” as he explains the situation with better detail and clarity. And the evening moved on smoothly. But…
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The Outcome:I knew the rebuke of the Spirit from that on a few issues. One, it’s perfectly ok that my mind chases cats, and sometimes moves with a speed or in an unexpected direction. Everyone in the room had followed my reasoning, except First Guy. THAT was not out of order. That, is life. Where I moved out of order, was my sarcastic remark. He was asking a legitimate question, posing a legitimate thought. Rather than receiving that and responding, my words “ridiculed” him, implied that he was “a fool”. The Lord is extremely straight up on such things… that… is out of order…. that’s sin… and, in His Book… that’s the same as murder. [cf Matthew 5:22]
My words “devalued” my friend… took life FROM him… rather than giving life TO him. I am unreservedly grateful that my apprentice stepped in as he did, and moved the words along rapidly, so that First Guy never embraced my insult. He never took it in to himself, and was never harmed by it.
Needless to say, as soon as these realizations HIT my arrogant little heart, I apologized to First Guy, and to the room for my carelessness and lack of manners.
I love Mark Lowery’s disclosure on such moments… about “sassing his mother” and “backtalk in general”… that… “Something BRILLIANT would always pop into my mind, and be out my mouth, before I stop it!” I share that feeling so easily!
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So here we are, in our little “sacred space” as you hear this confession, and you agree with the Spirit, that my words and heart were out of order. Just to see my “defensiveness” blurt out! “But it’s not my FAULT! I was just chasing a suddenly jumping cat! And it was out my mouth before I could stop it!”
And as the Lord shakes His head calmly, with the comment, “No excuse, there…”
I find myself whining, “These cats… that YOU GAVE ME!” and I try to blame HIM, for my behavior, since He made me as I am!
+ Ever been there? Ever done that? It’s my most convenient excuse and whine. *
Then the Lord echoed this in my mind:
Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” [Genesis 3:9-12]
See it? See it? “Not MY fault, Lord! YOU gave me the woman! YOUR FAULT” Of course, it didn’t fly. Not for him, not for the woman when she tried to blame it on the Serpent. And not… for ME. My cats are a part of my life. I am big enough, old enough, and well-enough trained to refrain from jumping after them, or allowing my words to flow in a harmful way. It was not my “cat”, but my “pride” that poked my words from a wrong heart. The sooner I saw that, the wiser and more loving I would be.
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Together, you and I laugh at how silly such defensiveness is. We share that the Spirit doesn’t correct us, isn’t correcting us, to make us feel bad, or punish us. That my “fault”, my “failure”, my “sin”, isn’t so much an “affront at Holy God” as it is, and was, a “moment of missed sharing, missed love, missed relationship.” I could have drawn my friend “closer” to me in friendship that evening, rather than letting pride try to puff me up at his expense.
As it turned out, reconciling things and humbling myself to him, that closeness came anyway, and it edified our relationship. But I could have done the same thing without the embarrassment, if I’d gone with God’s “Plan A” direction at the fork of my temptation, rather than yielding to my own “Plan B” path of sarcasm, repentance, reconciliation! But it all ends up in the same place, because that’s how Grace works in This Family.
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So I thank you for your time and kind attention Elder brother monk. I appreciate you. Speaking with you, I see that such sarcasm, even leaping after a darting kitten, offends Love and devalues a sacred heart. That’s not why I am here. It is not how He, or you, or most any of Our Family treat me, nor how I want to be treated. I shall deal more gently with my brethren in future.
Thank you for your support. Pray for me always. We’re all in this together, and I too struggle not to make childish mistakes! Grace to thee!