Sometimes the change that needs to happen is with me. Sometimes I am my problem. I have had moments when I desperately wanted to fix something because I was ashamed to ask for assistance. My pride didn't want me to admit and reveal my helplessness. Needless to say, that didn't work out too well for me. I either made it worse or saw no improvement at best.
I remember my grandmother telling me and my cousins not to touch the little heater she had in her office. Yep, I touched it. I guess I had to see if this lady was trustworthy. She was. Just as she said, I burned my finger. It hurt, really hurt, but I didn't want to say a thing. I was mortified to be caught in this helpless position. I needed help from the one who told me not to do what I did. What would she think of me now? She may banish me forever from all family functions, or worse, tell everyone what I had done. You know, like broadcast my shame everywhere she went. Eating dinner, which she had fixed for me, the abject failure I felt myself to be, she sees my finger. "This is how it ends for me", I thought. She asks if I had touched the stove. I readily admitted I did, it was obvious what I had done so there was no need to hide. She reiterates what she had told me, but in a tone I did not anticipate. Instead of anger, I heard in her voice the sound of pity. In a travesty of justice and a miracle of mercy, she gets up from her chair and puts some kind of glorious ointment on my finger that cooled the burn immediately, wraps my finger in a bandage, and asks if it feels better. That was not how I expected that to go! She should have told me how stupid I was, scolded me for not listening to her, and made sure I knew how angry she was that I would defy her authority. She did the opposite. The complete opposite. She showed me grace that night, and as I am typing this I am reliving that feeling again. Why did I wait so long to tell her? My fear of what I thought she would think, kept me from the peace I had longed for. Now I didn't have to avoid her, I didn't have to try to hide my finger any longer. She asked if I would do it again, with a grin of course. I promptly replied that I would not.
I had learned a valuable lesson. One that I have desperately try to pass on to my children and all those that the Lord gives me to pastor. Sometimes people tell us not to do things because of the pain we will endure. Sometimes people are actually longing to help us if we will just ask. Not everyone is out to embarrass me and expose my weaknesses in order to accentuate their perceived strengths and superiority. I could have blamed my grandmother for my pain because in my mind I created a scenario where she only wanted to bring me guilt and banishment. I could have endured days of pain all because I was too fearful of what my mind calculated she would do based on how this world unfortunately tends to work. Perform right and never fall into the terrible grip of judgement. Hide all faults so as not to be pounced upon like a wounded animal in the jungle. I found that when I reached out to the one who could help, she responded by not only helping me, but doing so with great love and affection.
Sometimes the reason people don't respond to your "message" about the Lord is because we live a very different message. We talk about God's righteousness as if we ourselves have attained some level of godhood on our own, as if we are now on the same level of perfection by behavior modification practices. When we as believers live our lives critical and judgmental of everyone around us, we are doing a great job of sharing our message. One that is completely contrary to the one He gave us. Everyone sees what we do and hears what we say and they decide to run far away from the God we claim. Is God holy? Absolutely. Is this world hopelessly lost and broken? Absolutely. Is it because they have abandoned and disobeyed the God of their creation? Absolutely. Did God so love the hopelessly lost and broken world that abandoned and disobeyed Him, so much so that He sent His own Son to save them? Absolutely. Did His Son, our Savior, die a gruesome death to buy our pardon? Absolutely. Does your life tell the story of a little boy that touched a stove and found mercy from the grandmother who he had disobeyed? Does your life tell the story of one who has experienced much mercy? Or does it tell the story of one who is still afraid to admit to God and man that you need more than help, you need grace? Unmerited favor, given to the most unfavorable of individuals. That is the story told by all who have encountered the grace and mercy of God. If that is what I have experienced from Him, should I not then go and share that with all those that come into my life?
Don't be afraid to be honest with God. He already knows. I suspect my grandmother knew about my finger before she ever confronted me. Just like my grandmother, God will not turn you away when you come to Him for help. I know we have it in our minds that we are responsible for perfecting our faith, but it just isn't true. I have tried many times, wasted many years trying to be a glowing example of total obedience to God. It just isn't possible. Just like my grandmother covered my burn with ointment and bandage, so God covers our sin with the the Blood of Jesus and wraps us in the salvation He promises and provides to us. Trust Him, come to Him, he will not cast you out. He will change you by His grace, not by HIs anger. You will walk in peace because of His goodness, not walk in fear because of His ability to annihilate you with a word. He loves you. At least that's what Jesus said. No matter what someone else says, Jesus said His Father loved us and He hasn't said any different. What message does your life give? See the world the way Jesus sees it; lost and in need of saving, not evil and in need of destroying. That day will come. Trust me, I know what God intends to do in regards to judgement. That's why I am trying to be faithful to share the Gospel the way Jesus did. To seek and to save that which is lost, while it is day, because night is coming and that work He gave us will be over. Fill you church with as many as you can. God will lead your pastor to deliver the Word to them and God will use His Word to do the work of salvation and restoration. Leave the purging up to Him, and pray that you aren't one that He would need to purge because of your lack of understanding of His mercy and grace. It is time for the lost to come home. Today is the day of salvation. Are you so focused on keeping the church "clean" that you would rather lie about your own need, in order to keep someone else out and keep yourself in? That is not the Gospel, and that is not ok. Sometimes the change that needs to happen is with us and not the other person. Sometimes I am my problem.