Regular consumers of my humble ramblings (Bless your hearts!) know that I often find spiritual application from song lyrics both secular and sacred. Blame it on faulty brain wiring at the factory. This week I heard a snippet from Carly Simon’s haunting ballad “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” that triggered today’s musing. The song talks about the ideal of marriage. Her partner wants to marry and is convinced their union will be different. The lyrical response hit my heart.
You say we can keep our love alive
Babe – all I know is what I see –
She had seen too many marriages start with fairy tale dreams and end in sorrow. That sad topic is another blog. What hit me on this day was how that principle of believing only what you see is true for us as followers of Jesus. We tell people we have good news. We tell people we have an eternal hope. We tell people they need this Jesus we talk about. But what hurts my heart is that too many people echo Carly Simon’s response.
All I know is what I see.
I too often have not represented the freedom and grace that Jesus desires for me to experience. I began my book When Bad Christians Happen to Good People with this quote from Brennan Manning.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Ouch. If my friends, family, and workmates don’t see anything different in my life then why should they listen? Wait..don’t leave me yet! I am not talking about legalistic sin management and self-righteous “good” behavior. I am talking about unvarnished honesty about the radical grace of Jesus. What if I showed them that kind of grace?
What if I showed them grace that frees me to be wrong without shame and self-loathing? What if I demonstrated grace that gives me the courage to be vulnerable and let them see who I really am? What if I let them know I am a total train wreck that needs that grace every moment of everyday? What if I lived out of grace that compels me to run to hurting souls instead of retreating to a safe distance to observe and hope it all works out okay?
What if I quit agonizing about the uncertainty in the world and started sharing my belief that God is in control and He will always be with me (and you)? What if I genuinely showed gratitude for the small things as well as the big ones? What if I was consistently kind even when that action was inconvenient? What if I led instead of lamented about racial and other injustices? What if I acknowledged how much Jesus loves me by allowing that love flow to others? What if I shared that this relationship with Jesus isn’t based on performance or merit but 100 percent on unmerited Grace? What if I lived like God loves me on my worst day exactly the same as He loves me on my best day? What if I had this passage memorized and remembered it on the way out the door everyday?
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:12-17, NLT)
Famous theologian D.L.Moody wrote that “Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.”
That would be completely overwhelming if I tried to do it on my own. But thank God I don’t have to attempt that unassisted. Jesus promised to be with me and is there anyone better to have your back?
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (Ephesians 3:17, NLT)
If I can believe that I would guess this little light of mine would burn a few watts brighter. And maybe some skeptics would be willing to listen.