Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ma Do it Ma-Self!!

Hello, my name is Sara and I am a sinner. Yes I’m a sinner. You don’t hear all that much about sin or holiness anymore. I was raised on hellfire and brimstone so maybe I’m hypersensitive to the shift. As a kid, the prevailing theme of my own faith was fear of the rapture and me being left behind. I don’t think I had five consecutive minutes in the 1970s when I wasn’t in a controlled panic about not “making it”. Some of you will relate to those heart stopping moments when it would suddenly seem that someone, my mom or dad for instance, was “gone”. “Gone” as in now the tribulation is starting and I’m stuck for seven years trying to duck the anti-Christ. Not to mention the constant vigilance to try to figure out who the current public figure that might be the anti-Christ was. Exhausting stuff for a seven year old. My relationship with Christ was fueled by fear and the knowledge that I was never perfect.
Frankly, I’m not really concerned with the rightness or wrongness of this approach and its impact. I did some major modifications in raising my kids pertaining to their concept of Christ. Of course, every generation does. I’m not entirely sure whether my fears and perceptions were internally or externally motivated. I’m grateful, approaching my thirty fifth year of Christianity that I was at least aware that I was in desperate need of forgiveness and this kept me from many destructive mistakes. I still made my share of errors mind you, but I’m thankful for a framework of faith that held my life in check. This saved me a lot of grief. So I’m not complaining. And I’ve moved past rapture fear and anti-Christ watches.
Back to my original statement though, I am a sinner. I think we need a reminder that sin is real. That was all that my pastor and Sunday School teachers were trying to tell me, I think. Sin is real and it hurts us. We don’t talk about sin much now. It isn’t politically correct or culturally sensitive to say the word, sin. Sin. But it’s real nonetheless. So on my personal blog platform, I’m humbly requesting a moment of your time to relate some truth about an unpopular subject. Sin.
As soon as you say “I’m a sinner”; people rush in to reassure you that you’re a good person. It’s a reaction driven from good intention but with skewed understanding. It’s not a tragedy that I identify myself as a sinner. It’s not because I hate myself or berate myself or think myself unlovable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When you take the idea of sin and follow it through to its conclusion, the sin story is a love story. I didn’t always understand the love story but if you enjoy a good romance, read Genesis.
We have Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and it’s all lovely and fabulous. Then Eve eats that fruit and it all goes to junk. And there is where we, human beings, have inserted the theory that God got mad and kicked our sorry butts out into the world for punishment. He’s been mad ever since, right? And just waiting for the next chance to tell us we’re bad, slap our wrists, let the anti-Christ write 666 on our foreheads with a sharpie. Bad human! It’s hell-fire, brimstone and premenstrual water retention for you! He hates us now, right? Because we ate a stinking piece of fruit. Unfair! Harsh!
Let me tell you, that’s all propaganda initiated by he with the sharpie. Here’s the real story...
God created us with purpose. He has intentions on your life. Remember the old days when a guy would be romancing a young lady and her family would ask him, “What are your intentions?” Ask yourself, what do you think God’s intention is for your life? Do you think He created mankind with the intention of setting us up to watch us fall? That would make Him pretty crazy, frankly. I don’t think God is crazy. So that theory is no good.
Theory number two, God’s intentions are good. And the notion of sin is necessary to get to the good part. Not just the notion, the reality. God told Adam and Eve, don’t be eating the fruit from that one tree, you can go nuts with the rest of it. Enter the serpent (talk about crazy) and Eve is quickly convinced that God’s intentions are bad. She goes with her own instinct. She eats it.
This reminds me of my son, Mac. Mac is now an amazing young man of God. I say now because Mac wasn’t always such a paragon of virtue. Mac had a favorite saying as a toddler, “ma do it ma-self!” The ma do it ma-self approach bought him stitches in his foot, a puncture wound to his head and multiple trips to restaurant bathrooms for a little hands on time with dad. Mac was convinced for a long time that the Mac approach was good and our intentions were crazy bad.
Why did we keep spanking him? Because left on his own, his plan would be destructive even though he didn’t realize it. He didn’t have our perspective, our insight, our wisdom or our power to guide his own little life in the right direction. Of course, we kept making those emergency room runs too, to have him stitched up, bandaged up and fixed.
Eve was the first ma do it ma-selfer. I’ll make my own decisions, thank you very much. What that really means is, “God, I think your intentions are crazy bad.” Let’s follow that thread to its honest root, “God, I think you are crazy bad. You are not to be trusted.”
That piece of fruit, from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What the heck kind of tree was that? Why did God put that sucker right there within reach? I have wondered for years about that tree. But it wasn’t the tree, it wasn’t the genus-species of the thing that triggered the birth of sin. It was the idea of ma do it ma-self that birthed sin. It was the decision to know what God says and choose something different. Sin is not in the hands, it is in the heart. It is the unspoken statement that God isn’t trustable. That He won’t be given God-status in my life. That is sin.
The only reason I defy God is that I think I know better than He does. Or I think He’s not real. Let’s just put it out there. Of course, this is not generally a spoken or acknowledged attitude but there it is. That’s pretty much what the serpent told Eve, God’s a liar. Try it, you won’t die. So is that what I think when I sin? Yup. I can pull it off. My wisdom usurps God’s. Or He’s not real.
Sin is real. Sin separates us. Not the fruit, not the thing of it, the decision that I will be my own God. My intentions are good, His are bad. He’s crazy.
My understanding of sin has matured. I used to think you could write a list of dos and don’ts and if you kept to the list, you’d make it. It’s not that hard or that easy. Yeah, there’s definitely a list in the Bible. In fact, most of the world still abides by some of the obvious ones. Most of us agree that murder is bad. A vast majority prefer people who don’t steal. Of course, remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy? God isn’t smart enough to decide that one, you decide for yourself. He goes overboard sometimes.
What is holiness? Opposite of sin? Yeah. I think holiness is really knowing and saying out loud, God you are my God. I believe you are smarter and bigger and more powerful than me. I believe you have intentions and they are good. I’ll let you drive this life of mine. I trust you. Holiness, righteousness, right-standing with God. All old-fashioned words, just like sin. Holiness is important too. It puts us back in the Garden spiritually. Back in fellowship, back in the grip of His good intentions. I don’t like the way sin feels. It’s gross to my soul. It’s heavy and ugly. It makes me, like Adam and Eve, run and hide in shame. It pushes me deeper into the underbrush.
You want a scripture to back it up? Here ya go...
“Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6. The Sermon on the Mount. The words of Jesus.
I don’t like emptiness, I want to be full. It is good to feel the ugliness of sin because when I realize I’m empty, I want to be full. I want righteousness. It makes sense that if I want to be righteous, I don’t want sin. That makes sin real. If being right with God is real, being wrong with Him is real too.
The Genesis love story is that God let us know that His intentions can be sidelined by our decisions. Why didn’t I let Mac do it all himself? He would’ve made too many mistakes that would’ve been permanent. He would’ve run into the street and we would’ve lost him. I refused to lose my son. I was not tolerant of his rebellion against me because the cost was too high. God refuses to lose me. If He let me make my own decisions, to refuse His instructions, to sin; the cost will be too high. It’s a love story.
I’m going to get personal here. I’m glad you’re still reading because this part is important. You are a sinner too. You have made decisions that didn’t line up with God’s instructions. You have trusted your own intentions and silently decided that God’s purposes are crazy bad.
But you’re the key character in a love story. In Genesis, the propaganda mongoring serpent sets Eve up and then when she’s ashamed and afraid, who’s left? He’s gone gone baby. The only one coming to find her in her shame is God. The one with good intentions. The one who fixes it so His purpose can continue. Does sin change things? Yeah. It does. It hurts us, leaves scars and alters our lives. The quickest fix is God. He set up His purpose for your life to include a road back to Eden. I know this has been long but I’m wrapping it up now. You’re in a love story and the next line is yours.

“Father, Forgive me. I am a sinner. But your intentions are greater than my sin. Put me back in Eden with you, where I belong. I don’t want to do it myself anymore. I trust you. Thank you. Amen.”

If you made that decision, I’d love to know about it so I can pray for you. The road of your life just opened up. Join the rest of us sinners, saved by grace. Let’s get this party started.

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