If God revealed the extent of our sinfulness to us all at once, I doubt whether we would be able to scrape ourselves up from off of the floor. He does so gently. I remember Rob Bell in 'Velvet Elvis' describing how on reading about Lazarus, he got caught up with the word 'stinketh'; in fact he tells the story quite amusingly; he literally couldn't stop thinking about the word stinketh all week. Anyway, I stink! My sinfulness stinks. God is very gently revealing this to me. At our church prayer day on Saturday, I sat in a pool of sunlight, how warming it was and beautiful, but it was a light that was purging, it was a light that was highlighting my own darkness by comparison. There was a break in the music and I was suddenly aware of the phrase 'strive to enter' - what is this all about? Then I was taken to the word strive and herein lies the problem - I am striving - why? What for? I can't strive to enter, it is only by God's grace that I enter. After the gap in the music, at the point when I came to this revelation, the music started up again with exactly those words - 'by grace we enter.' Oh Lord! Something started to sink in but as is usual with me, the Lord needs to shout it's almost as if because I'm an unsubtle person, the only way the Lord can deal with me is by being equally unsubtle. He can't hint at something or whisper it, I don't hear it - he has to shout and shout and the amazing thing is, he never stops shouting. I'm bleating far, far out in the fields, totally lost, in fact I've almost given up and he's there, crook ready for me, searching and searching desperately to bring me back into the fold. That crook around my neck is painful and I'm totally resistant and still straining desperately in the opposite direction but he gently draws me in and back and closer to where I belong. Thank you Lord.
Tonight at our prayer group I had to lead on John Stott's 'The Sermon on the mount study book' and as I read 'Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.' Lord, I hear you loud and clear. I had to pause after this; to catch my breath. Lord, you're shouting and through the thick wadded layers of ego and pride, I can just about hear you. How can I come to you, indeed and offer you my gift, before I am reconciled with my brother?
I'm very sorry, sorry that I hurt you and sorry that I was cowardly. I wish I had had the decency and courage to approach you with my thoughts and concerns, to address you directly, to share my stance on these issues respectfully and gently, with more tact and subtlety. I wish I could live better in a world of plurality. The orchestra actually plays a sweeter symphony because each instrument sings with its own voice. We won't all think the same way.