Saturday, February 26, 2011

Inconsistency Reflected In A Greenhouse ~

The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.  Matthew 26:41

This weekend we'll be looking at Chapter 26 in Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith. And if you're wondering what the title means, I'll explain as I go. We've all had the experience which LaGard describes in the beginning of this chapter: you return to a much-loved place, usually a house where you lived years ago that contained happy memories, to find that it isn't the same as you'd remembered. You're disappointed, filled with great loss as the memories were precious to you, and had been so vividly real when you'd recalled them all these years.
And so it was with LaGard as he returned one year to his beloved Buckland in the Cotswolds of England and struck out on a walk to the top of a hill, where he could look out over the beautiful little town and countryside. But this time, instead of looking down on the beautiful village, he was shocked to be looking down on a new greenhouse the size of two city blocks! All the protests by letter and phone from the community had not worked and the greenhouse had been constructed. The massive greenhouse--a sea of glass within the green fields--stole the view from the village. Anger and outrage seemed a mild response to such a vulgar creation--one which "profaned one of the last truly unspoiled pockets of beauty in the English countryside." So what is his point in regard to a parable that we can understand? The greenhouse reflects an inconsistent presence on the landscape, which indeed reflects inconsistency in our obedience to God.
The point is that perhaps God looks down on me and sees how often His glorious plan for my life is profaned. Is God's call to purity blasphemed by my sin? Does it spoil the spiritual landscape? Yes, part of my life is submissive to God's will, but what about that other part? The part that is dark and ugly. Even though I see that it's totally inconsistent with the rest of my character, I accept it as a part of myself--it's just who I am. Like LaGard, I agree with the apostle Paul that saw "another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." 

How do you want to live your life before God? Are you able to accomplish what you plan? Again, I can speak for myself when I say that I agree with LaGard and with Paul that, "What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do....I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Hmmm...I wonder if God is angry and outraged at my poor showing. But surely's only one small part of my life that's in rebellion. But am I deceiving myself? Am I justifying myself by thinking that so small a dark spot can be overlooked? I reassure myself with the knowledge that no one is perfect. And I also reassure myself with the knowledge that the grace of God is promised to all of us humans because we are so imperfect. Being inconsistent is in the very make-up of mankind. And I'm definitely inconsistent in how I think and how I act. 

Listen to what Paul said about excuses for sin: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Even if I can hide my sin from you, sin is always glaring to God. Saying that my sin is simply "inconsistent" with the other part of my being isn't good enough. It doesn't begin to describe how God sees my rebellion. So why is it so hard for me to see my sin for what it really is? Why can't I see that my sin mars my walk with God...that my sin is reflected like a mirror of glass for everyone to see? Like the greenhouse, my life reflects my beliefs. Shouldn't I be incensed and outraged at my own sin? Like the neighbors of the greenhouse, shouldn't I be protesting and writing letters to change the result? 
But there is another way...perhaps not easier, but more effective. You and I can decide to dismantle that part of ourselves which is ugly and out of place. After allowing this dark and ugly part of our character to remain for so long, it will be quite a project to take on. But it must be done. And as LaGard says, "Pain by pain, if necessary." A thoughtful image. Tomorrow I'll give you more on the dismantling process in which God and Jesus give us help. 

Have a great weekend with Spring peeping through just a little...just enough to tease our spirits. But we'll take it!



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