The soul has to face the moral problem of growing surrender to the holy- by effort, concentration, and obedience towards the Creating Source [of our true being].
P.T. Forsyth The Justification of God
There’s a city park I especially love because it feels like its in the backwaters. I used to take Kira there when she was little to feed the ducks. There’s a long rectangular board walk through woods leading to the river, and folks can go round and round it for exercise or just to enjoy the woods.
Coming around a bend, even though I had my ear phones in (yes it was a WALKMAN CASSETTE) I could still hear the shrill voice. In just a moment the person owning the voice came into view-a very weary looking wife/mother railing at her children and/or her bedraggled husband who was humped over the stroller. He looked like a badly beaten work horse. I may have it all wrong. He may be a lazy lump and deserved to be called out, but I don’t think anyone could be helped to improve by the grating buzz saw voice.
As I came close enough for eyes to meet I was thinking of all the things that might be contributing to her rage-body chemistry imbalance, mental illness, horrible diet, family conflict (that much was obvious), the emotional weight of our current cultural insanity, any or some or all of it. But as we came about ten feet from each other, she instantly went silent- like going from 100 mph to full stop. She then put on a placid persona. I smiled at the baby in the stroller and the toddler The baby was the only one of the foursome who was engaging. He seemed to be very happy to see another smiling face. The toddler was on her way to internalizing the parents’ atmosphere.
As soon as they were fully passed me the wife zoomed back full throttle. After twenty minutes or so I had managed to put them out of my mind when they came around again, and she was still at it, a bit less shrill mainly from physical loss of energy maybe? But still intense. Again, she went silent for the same ten seconds needed to pass me, then resumed her screaming lecture. This time I recalled a few other such diatribes in other settings, sometimes men, sometimes women…..sometimes ME. I couldn’t help but think of folks Mary and I have tried to help who had come to learn just enough about brian chemistry and chemical imbalances etc. to use that as an excuse to just keep doing whatever damaging behavior they were doing. And, again, I thought of myself too-how over and over I had given vent to my anger or whatever other negative emotion I was feeling. I have certainly grown in grace. But I remember what I was like, and am not so apt to judge others so quickly.
This lady was truly ‘out of control’ except that….she WASN’T out of control. She could stop raging the moment she became concerned about what message she was sending to a stranger. She had the power to stop whenever she truly needed to. And she truly needed to all the time, but just refused to see that fact. I don’t have any idea what their world is like related to Jesus. But let’s not be so naïve as to think they were not faithful church members somewhere ‘because it is obvious isn’t it, by the way she was behaving.’ No it is not obvious by the way she was behaving that she must not be a Christian. That’s the point of this story-she was acting as I have acted before. And rather than look down at her, I looked over at her and she was a mirror to me.
See she could stop. She just choose not to until it suited her. Regardless of brain chemistry, fatigue, or other outward pressures, she could choose to not rage when she wanted to.
And what I wish someone had gotten through to me much earlier in my life, is the vitally important truth that in order to become more and more like Jesus we must, yes, trust His grace to save us; but trusting that grace is not a mere momentary legal transaction that settles a judicial case in our favor. Trusting His grace means learning (step by step with many slips and falls but always getting up and moving ahead with Him) that grace is the power given to us to then choose what is right and act on it. Grace is far more than ‘unmerited favor.’ It is the power for good which is given in and to us that helps us to choose to make good what has previously not been good. This is not ‘salvation by works.” It is salvation AT WORK.
And every time we choose for good that good grows in us. And this will work in us more and more until we become truly like Jesus.
He Who has begin a good work in us will complete it…Philippians 1:6