Foolishness: The New Wisdom

silhouette-boy-pointing-finger“But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.”  Romans 1:18-23 MSG

Remember in the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothes, how an entire kingdom of people got caught up in an important social figure’s delusion because those folks didn’t want to be judged in a negative way?  The pitch to this con was that, only the wise, intelligent people in the kingdom were able to see the clothes.  In wearing them, the emperor could separate the educated from the fools.  And out of fear for their reputations, their positions, the people pretended to see the imaginary fabric.  They went right along with the whole charade, and even applauded, ooh-ed and ahh-ed as their proud hero paraded down the street in nothing but his skivvies. It took an innocent little child to call out the absurdity of the situation...”But he’s not wearing any clothes!” If you’ve never read it, you should. The storyline is shockingly parallel to the hour in which we live.

We live in a 21st Century realtime version of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where no one wants to admit that the status quo is out of hand. How we want the acceptance of others, so we choke down any and all ridiculous demands that a few make in order to garner favor.  If you disagree, you might even be sued by your government and lose your business license.  The issues splattered across the headlines as we speak would be funny if they weren’t so tragic. Oh, it’s not popular to contradict the absurd ideals fabricated by our pop culture…no doubt I’ll be met with some shrapnel for saying so. But not even our culture sticks to its own ideologies for longer than a season or two, or until they get bored because it’s not obscene or unreasonable enough. Our appetite demands that our movies be increasingly filthier, our language coarser, our crimes more violent, our rights more invasive of other people’s rights. Our “emperor” of the modern world isn’t a man or woman; it’s the desire to dominate the majority; to win the argument, to create the illusion that our ideas are more relevant than truth itself. It’s a thought system and it stinks in our Creator’s eyes because we reject truth for a lie and we do it without batting an eyelid.

Today’s shameful headlines will be upstaged by tomorrow’s stunts by the popular and powerful, and folks will go right along with outright lies to keep from being labeled closed-minded, bigoted, or archaic. Just so you know, I’m not talking about prejudice, hate crimes, civil rights, or social injustice here…I’m talking about the most basic, common-sense standards that have been flipped on their ear. And the crowd cheers “Bravo! Beautiful! Amazing! Superior thinking!” Hey, if celebrities are touting these far-fetched ideals as relevant, true, and not to be questioned, surely it’s got to be right…right? The fabric is only invisible to the intellectually-inferior. Plus, if you won’t concede to their logic, then you’re not only an opposing view–you are now a bad person. You lose sponsors. Others sever ties out of fear of losing popularity or status. Businesses pull contracts and relocate to get away from association with you. You may even wind up in court or on the unemployment line.  This isn’t really a demand for respect, for acceptance…it’s our twisted society’s way of saying, “You WILL do what we want, and you WILL like it.  Or else.”  And it’s being endorsed by our leaders just so they can garner more votes.  There, I said it.

We don’t even realize we’re going along with it just to appease someone else’s demand for the last word, (and to save our own reputations from ridicule). We’ve gotten so good at playing along that we even think we see the emperor’s imaginary clothes. And somewhere off in the distance, the “spinner” of the imaginary covering is laughing all the way to the bank. Will it take another child, oblivious to modern society’s uber-relaxed ideas of propriety, to blurt out the truth and wake up the deluded masses?

Pray for our nation. There are no words to describe some of the things that have elevated themselves to even be issues among us. Said cautiously and with love…but as honestly as I know how. I’d be really faking it right now if I pretended not to see how embarrassingly exposed we have become as a people. God, please snap us out of our blinded condition. It’s beyond humiliating; it’s becoming dangerous.

File Thirteen: The 490 Principle

IMG_4775“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”  Matthew 18:21-22 (New Living Translation)

I’m going to share a personal insight on the above Scripture that may or may not get a round of applause from seasoned theologians; but for those of you who struggle in this area, it may be what you need to help set you free.

I went through an ordeal once where, for about 5 years, I was done terribly wrong by someone very close to me.  I was hung in an endless loop of hurt and self-permitted abuse, and one of the biggest tethers which had me bound was my own inability to let it go.

You see, often when we deal with a deep-seated or long-term hurt, it becomes as much our “friend” as it is our enemy.  Our hurt becomes our identity, something we nurse and justify and protect.  Without it, we no longer know who we are…why, what would we have to talk about with others if not for “it?”  Without it, on whom or what could we blame the weight gain, those pesky gray hairs, or that once-in-a-lifetime dream gone down the tubes?

During this season of my life, I was faced with a crossroads and not much time in which to choose.  On the one hand, I had a lifetime ahead of me to continue carrying that overloaded briefcase of offenses, stuffed haphazardly with the file folders of my memory.  I might be humpbacked from straining and dragging it behind me, but at least I’d never be alone as long as I had my hurt!  I’d never have to reinvent myself because at least I recognized and had learned to co-exist with the long, pitiful face staring back at me in the mirror!

On the other hand, there was a clean slate and a pure conscience; there was love and opportunity and peace of mind waiting through a narrow passage…only I couldn’t squeeze through that passage with my knapsack stuffed with past hurts.  What if I got to the other side and missed being able to thumb through the pages and pages of things gone wrong?  What would I have left if no one else were made to remember the martyr I’d been for having gone through all that hurt?  What glory was there in people suddenly forgetting my sacrifices and longsuffering?  What IF?!!!

Perhaps I’m being overly illustrative, but I truly was struggling and I wanted desperately to do the right thing.  Deep in my heart, I was tired of being sad, and tired of having an excuse for not rising above that series of incidents which kept me stuck in first gear.  It was at this point that in my prayer time, God began to not only edge me toward a new level of maturity, but He also began to reveal something simple yet profound enough to help me actually want to be free.  He’s a really merciful Father…He loves us too much to allow us to stay the way we are!

I had read the Scripture many times about forgiving 490 times in a day, and had a whole different idea of what it meant.  Although my offender at times came pretty close to meeting quota by my estimation (smile), I never actually had to release 490 separate sins committed against me in one day EVER.  But, this Scripture came to life and began to grow with greater revelation when I suddenly made the course-altering move to speak the words that very first time, “I choose to forgive.”

I had thought all my life that, once you forgive someone, you forgive…and the forget part comes automatically.  Well, eventually perhaps, but not always.  For situations like what I overcame, and what you’re getting ready to become free from, there comes “File 13.”

Beginning today, I want you to set a goal to get out from under that one hurt you’ve babied and protected.  Jesus had your situation in mind when He commanded to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven–or–as often as it comes to your mind.  Our memory can be pretty active when it comes to instant replay, and unless we discipline ourselves to shut that button off, we can consume entire days with reliving hurts over and over.  What a waste of a perfectly good life!

Get serious about this thing, because not only is it toxic to your spirit and to your physical body, but if you want to receive forgiveness from the Lord, you’re going to have to learn how to dish it out.  Right now, say out loud with me, “I choose to forgive __________ (name).”  That person can be dead or alive…doesn’t matter…you’re doing this in obedience to God, and you’re doing it for YOU.  You need to let him or her off the hook more than your offender needs to be let off!

It will feel almost like a self-betrayal at first–and your carnal side is going to kick and scream for retribution and that proverbial pound of flesh–but stick to your guns!  Oops, you just now thought of it again…so say it again:  “I choose to forgive _________.”  Don’t be surprised that, since thoughts seem to travel at warp speed, you may have the occasion to forgive the memory of one act 490 times in a day.  Your mental trashcan will probably have wadded up papers flowing out on all sides.  Keep confessing forgiveness and tossing the offense into the garbage.

Know this:  if you have to re-do the act of forgiveness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t truly forgive in the first place.  That doesn’t make you a failure any more than having to die to sin each new day makes you unsaved.  Don’t give up and say, “I just can’t forgive!”  You CAN—with work.  It’s as much a process as it is an action, and sometimes you have to speak with your mouth and then let your attitude follow your intention.  The power of life and death is in the tongue, and you’re in a battle for the quality of your life!  You may not even feel your heart 100% in what you’re saying, but keep saying it anyway.  Trust me when I tell you that for every time you say it with as much faith as you can muster, that hurt has less and less a hold on you.  Eventually the day will come when you really will forget to hurt!  You may not forget the incident, but you will forget to let it control your life. That’s freedom indeed.

I’ll never forget an object lesson Debra Catron taught on a Wednesday night at our church several years ago, when she recounted a difficult season in her own life.  She said, “There’s a little trunk of painful memories in the attic of my mind.  Now, I can open that trunk and go through the contents at any time, or I can leave it locked.  I simply choose not to go there anymore.”

©2011  Lisa Crum.

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