Ponderings

The Ugly in Life and Death

That’s Just Ugly

I wanna start by saying that in no way do I believe my words are needed at this moment in time. It’s just that when you write your feelings, it’s next to impossible to process all that’s currently going on without at least trying to write something down. Anything, really. So, maybe count this post as simply my current stream of consciousness on this day only. Because, I’d be a fool to believe it couldn’t all change in the blink of my eyes tomorrow. Just peep this thing called 2020, if you doubt it.

But, this day. Well, I’m gonna be a bit ugly, today. Because ugly is exactly how I see the world with these two eyes of mine. Human beings can be so ugly. I can be impossibly ugly. None of us are immune to this, sadly. And I’m gonna go ahead and apologize upfront if you’re offended by that statement. But thinking we aren’t ever the ugly one, is part of our collectively ugly problem. Thinking, “I would never do that!” definitely is. Thinking we already have all the answers and don’t need to listen is, too. Thinking the proverbial “they” are the only real problem we face, is the face of the real problem.

And, you know?? I honestly imagined that if I looked at this ugly problem from a Christian worldview, it’d be easy enough to find some answers. I believed that for years before today, anyway. Because when you believe that each of us is born in the image of a perfect Creator, yet into a broken world, full of sin and brokenness ourselves, while saved out of a death we deserve by a sinless Savior named Jesus in order to live a life prepared in advanced for us by that same Jesus, with each of us having the same opportunity to live a life through Him… well, it all seems like we’d easily eliminate any divisions and discord and even every playing field.

Yet, here we all are. Ugly as the day is long, stuck in our proverbial corners and choosing our silly sides. Sorry, again.

And here I am struggling for weeks to make sense of my part in all of it. Where I went blind and which is my preferred corner and chosen side. Though, today, I think I’ve finally chosen something. Yep, today, I refuse to choose at all. From what’s being offered, at least. But before I explain, maybe let’s lay down a little context about the origins of all this ugly. To me, at least.

So, I believe our ugly issue is basically the result of two things: A super toxic cocktail made up of pride and a large splash of personal sin; And, the enemy of our souls. Groundbreaking, right?

Let’s look a little closer, though. First is our pride and personal sin cocktail. It is summer after all, and I love a good cocktail. Even if it’s only in a reference and a toxic one at that. I think 2020 can probably handle it.

Now sin is a condition humans are born into simply because we live in a world that, long ago, fell from the grace and the purpose for which it was originally intended. As a result, we are all born with a natural desire to sin (or, simply miss the mark of God’s perfection). And this innate penchant towards sin causes us to rebel against God daily and at nearly every turn. The actual need to sin itself can often feel like a hungry, demanding tyrant, hell bent on nourishment, regardless of the consequences.

But because pride is also a sin, and because sinning finds its source in feelings of pride, the two are deeply rooted and very intertwined (hence my toxic cocktail analogy). In fact, the forever jawing voice of pride continually tells us to ignore sin altogether because we know better than our Creator. That we actually are better than our Creator. And pride shouts loud its intention to not only understand all we see, but rule over it, as well. It leaves us thinking we’re better off creating not only our own ways of living, but man in our own image, instead of staying inside any of God’s confines and confidently trusting the good of all He’s created in His perfect image. And it persists in telling us that we are the true creators, deserving of our own worship and ultimate right to rule.

And, it’s this very cocktail of pride and sin, whether expressed or only thought about, that inevitably ends up producing two emotions, shame and fear, which we instinctively feel the need to cover-up. Because, well… you guessed it, pride and personal sin. And this need of a cover-up is essentially at the root of all other expressions of our sin: rage, abuse, addiction, arrogance, jealousy, lying, gossip, violence, judgmental attitudes, stealing, control, cheating, manipulation, gluttony, cynicism, laziness, etc. (More on that idea here.)

But then, and most unfortunately, we also have our second issue. The real and true enemy of our soul. The first to act out of his own pride, actually breaking up a decent relationship with God and taking some unsuspecting angels down with him. And this enemy hates God with a passionate, all-consuming hate because he was made beautifully, yet wanted to be the Maker, and even unseat his Maker. But he also hates us with this same passion, though not because of us exactly. It’s because he’s aiming directly at the heart of God. Because, we are the very heart of God. The apple of God’s Eye, even. And this enemy has a daily agenda to divide and conquer and destroy all that our Creator not only made, but called good.

And so, to me, this combination of factors make up the very foundation of most all that’s ugly in this world. All the hatred, divisions, greed, discord, lust, abuses of power, excessive appetites, and evil we see today. All factions and fractions and battles and wars, and all the ways humanity divides itself into groups and judges and blames and creates chaos, upheaval, and unrest. And it’s also the reason we lack desperately in areas of good, like justice, mercy, grace, and love.

On Corners and Sides and Choosing Neither

So, back to choosing and why I’m not even gonna. At least not today. See, we humans can point to those people or this group or that leader or their policies as the problem all the flipping, live-long day and think we’re on the right side, yet still miss what’s truly going on… That it’s us humans, individually and on all sides, that are the true mess of pride and personal sin, plus targets of an enemy bent on our complete destruction since we mean so much to his own sworn enemy, Jesus Christ, our Savior. And while we can think that the way out of all this mess is political or through some perfect form of government or reformed policing, or more education or simple, good old-fashioned kindness (all of which do have their place, for the record), we must be very careful we don’t stay stuck thinking that’s the end all, be all of the answer and miss the actual beginning of it all.

Because the hard truth is, these man-created ideas will never change any of this mess in the long-term, since they can never replace what’s truly been broken down inside each one of us since the beginning. And acting like they will, does nothing but keep us imprisoned to a form of bondage that has no good ending for any of us. Because there is an end coming, my Friends. An end to whatever it is this world is eventually trying to become. One way or the other.

But forever blaming others, instead of looking deep at ourselves , is exactly the kind of thing that began all this and is exactly what may blow up in our faces in the end of it all. Blaming the others on any side of a matter only serves to maintain the existence of all these arbitrary, man-made sides that don’t really even matter. Not a bit. Certainly, not in the end.

Life and Death

Because, there really are only two sides – in the end – that will ever truly matter: The side of LIFE and the side of death.

The side of Life. Ahhhhh, yes. So life, itself, is sourced, cultivated, and nurtured by a Real and True Creator. And life is breathed into us by the same Creator. (Breathe in deep now and enjoy. Masks are optional! You feel better, right??) And all of life is this breathed upon, created gift. ALL life. Each and every life. Life in the womb. Life in a prison cell. Life alone on an island. Life on a battle field. Life one breath away from death. And all the other stuff in between that makes life worth living. It all comes from the same Hands and Breath. Bottom line: We have all been given life and were created to live that LIFE.

Death. Death on the other hand, was never created. Death called out and demanded to be known. Death was chosen. Separation from the perfect, forever fellowship from God was chosen. Death in this physical body came because humans lost a crucial battle against pride and our enemy, wanting instead to know what God knows. In essence, our pride chose the side of the enemy of our souls, instead of choosing our soul’s one, true Lover and The Giver of this one good life we get to live.

And, you know what else? We were created to live this one life forever. And, we still will. We won’t just die and be no more. We’ll live forever somewhere. But it won’t be on this earth. Have you ever wondered about that? If this earth is forever? Humanity could never handle the enormous responsibility of that task. Clearly. The Bible says it won’t have to, anyway. Thankfully. That a new heaven and new earth will eventually come. I’m down for that. Seems as good an ending as any other options, honestly, although I’m not here to talk endings now. Our now is too much by itself. Our today holds enough problems on its own. The Bible tells us that, too.

And, today sure is holding a bunch of big, ugly trouble. Like, to the core. Maybe you see it. But, to be fair, and keep it really real, our today also carries with it some fantastic beauty. Like, the grace to see LOVE. The grace to breathe LOVE. The grace to live LOVE. The grace to give LOVE. In all we do.

Maybe you see that, too?

I hope so. Because we can’t see to really LOVE until we truly meet and know the source of all LOVE. And we can’t truly meet and know the Source of all LOVE until we see our true need of this Love. Until we see all the ways we are the unloving and unlovable and in need of forever Love. How we, ourselves, are the ugly ones so much of the time. All the ways our own pride and personal sin, along with the enemy, have been diametrically opposed to us seeing the Love of our Creator – The Source of us all – and giving that same love to His Creation.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 14:12

And while this isn’t at all about beating our ugly selves up and living like we’re nothing, worthy of nothing. It’s also important not to have an attitude like I had for a long time, either. An attitude that sounds something like this, “I already know I’m a sinner, but now I’m saved by God’s grace and free to live however I want, so everyone else should just get right with God and do the same thing.” Or, that looks a little like this: *digging my heels into a certain position, believing I’ve got nothing new to learn anymore and no more sin left to uncover in myself and no more repenting to do.*

We don’t want to see sin, though. I get it. Not in ourselves, especially. But, neither in our respective sides and corners. And we certainly don’t want to see death. In any form. We, as humans, don’t want to face that. Not ever. We weren’t created to. We don’t want to see physical death, of course. But, neither do we want to see a death of any dreams, devotion, desires, comfort, hope, love, nor any thing else we think is good and right and working. Even if it really hasn’t worked well in ages. Even if it’s dying a slow death right before our very own eyes. Heck, way too often, we won’t even put to death those sinful things we know should’ve died long ago. Maybe because we were created to see, give, and live life? We just have to be careful not to live that life to death.

The Good News

Because, there’s always good news!

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Y’all, as odd and frightening and uncertain as this time and place we’re all living in right now is, this life we’re living is still good because it’s still all about what it’s always been about. Jesus. And, regardless of the ending, it will always and forever stay about Jesus being The Only Way in every area that looks like there is no way. It’s about still seeing and loving like Jesus even when it appears the dark is winning. About still seeking Jesus in all of the pages of Scripture and trusting His Words because He is The Word. About calling out the truth of the darkness that resides all around us, and inside us, then bringing all that into the Light of the Life of God Who still is- even now – residing all around us, and yet, also inside us, despite what we may see with our eyes. And, it’s still about continually making the choice daily to take every bit of every thing we see, hear, feel, and do, straight to the feet of Jesus, in repentance and hope and faith, without any ounce of the shame or fear or pride shouting loudly to cover-up and ignore it.

And Y’all, some more really good news is: This choice, is our only real choice! The choice of whether or not to see Jesus, still. See Him still on the throne and still in control. And this choice is crucial, because this one choice effects so many other choices we’ll need to make from here on out. Choices that don’t always seem that clear. To me, at least. Choices like, “How is the best way to love someone?” “How does true change really happen?” “What is our purpose on this earth?” “How do I love God and bring Him glory?” “What does true freedom look like and how is it achieved?” Oh, and given that we’re currently in an election year (yippee!), I’ll throw this one out, “What is the best way to govern a nation, exactly?”

See, we’re ultimately all just looking for the same things; to be known, loved, and to love others well. We’re all looking to live this one life, well. But answers vary on the best ways to do this. Extraordinarily so. Even among Christians. Especially lately. Loving and living best can look so different for everyone. In parenting, governing, marriage, friendships, acquaintances, and community. The golden rule should apply (based on a Bible verse, too, in case you didn’t know), except we’re all so individual and so are our needs and what I may want for myself won’t necessarily be want you’d want, making any consensus so hard to achieve. And it’s these very types of questions that have left me feeling the need to choose from those arbitrary, man-made sides, each with their own rules of etiquette and relationship-splitting divides. Because, humanity just seems to enjoy splitting itself up into ever, over-lapping groups and camps and cultural corners. Christians included. It’s all so exhausting. I’m so exhausted!

Choose Life

So much so, that on this day, as a Jesus loving [yet forever pressing harder to follow and love Him and others better] human, I feel this strong pull to refuse to choose and simply rest! To stop trying to find a side altogether, and instead fall on the side of Life. Always and in all its forms. Life when the loving is easy and when it’s hard. Life in my relationships. Life in the understanding and the misunderstanding. Life in community. Life nationally and internationally. Life in color and in black and white. Life in both the hard choices and easier ones. Life at the border, fringe, and edge. Life when all around me is breaking down and I’m barely enduring. Life during the boring, the blessed, and the bitter. Life in confusion. Life in the uncomfortable. Life in anger. Life in all the frustration, disagreement, resentment, pain, and punishment. Life with intention. Life on the fly. Life when it appears on the verge of flying away. Life in the great divide and in the open wide.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Life that says the only side I must ever really choose is the side of Jesus, The Christ, Who still resides at the right hand of His Father’s very own side, interceding on behalf of His very own, as the enemy forever condemns and accuses and spews lies designed to destroy His own.

Life that’s lived in and through the Holy Spirit, free from fear, shame and death. Life focused on The Great Commission and greatest commandments and our privileged call as sons and daughters of the Most High God. Life lived out loud in action, yet spoken in gentleness and grace. Life that boasts in nothing, but the Cross. Life that keeps choosing to love God first, then trying my best to love others as myself. Life that rejects hatred in all forms. Life that resists defending because Jesus needs no defending. Life that relies on God’s Words, Justice, Mercy and Jesus’ Perfect Life. Life that can say boldly, and without shame, that I don’t have all the answers, but here, let’s look to the One Who does and find them together. Life that sees The Creator of ALL as The Unending Source and Sustainer of all. Life that seeks to build up others and countries and communities, but first, God’s Kingdom. Life that is guided in every choice by prayer, abiding faith, and trust. Life that sees all that’s ugly, repents of my roll, accepts all forgiveness offered, then chooses to walk out that newness of life in a new way towards all I’m graced to come in contact with that day.

Life that starts and ends with no ultimate allegiance, but to Jesus.

And the next day, I hope to choose life, again. Not sides. Not corners. Not idols, strongholds, principles, morals, ideas, nor even ideals. I will choose the life given to me by The Creator and I will choose to see that the same life is offered to all others in His Creation. I will choose to use my words to offer that life and hope and love to anyone doubting its existence. I will choose to honestly see the ugly of life through the eyes of the only One Who sees perfectly all of this life and has chosen me to walk alongside.

And on the day after next, I hope to get up and choose the same life all over again. I have a very long way to go! Why don’t you join me? I’d love the company ❤

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3

6 thoughts on “The Ugly in Life and Death”

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