Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sinning, Salvation, and Shaving

Each year I approach Lent with intent. I move into it knowing that for a little over 40 days I will spend a great deal of time considering what my savior has done for me, and what He expects of me. It is a time to consider my sin and my salvation.

It is the Spring of the Spiritual Year for me. Lent is the warm up lap for Easter. So I consider what I will do to keep me mindful.

I choose something that will be a daily reminder, some task or something I will forgo that I may be reminded to pray. This year I shaved daily. I had that beard for 33 years.

Easter morning

Every morning I shaved before going off to work. During that time of personal grooming I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, adding a few personal thoughts.

Throughout the day, every time I felt the wind on my deforested cheeks, I thanked Him for what He did for me.

When I exhaled and felt the odd sensation of my breath on my upper lip, I smiled at being startled by what is a common experience for most people, and remembered why my facial landscape was naked.

Shaving, and the sensations it brought, was a constant reminder of Lent.

Monday morning

When Easter passed I stopped the morning ritual. My face quickly began to look a touch fuzzy, it was rough to the touch. I wondered... why do we have such a custom? It is a little bizarre to scrape the face, changing it to please some social fashion (my Lord didn't). The Romans shaved. Why did they do it? Probably because the Greeks shaved. Why did they do it? I don’t know. There weren’t any nearby cultures which shaved, certainly no indigenous beardless peoples. If I were to guess, I might say because it made them look younger. They did idolized youth. Folks said I looked younger without the beard.

Aside from stopping the morning ritual, not much changed that first day after Easter. I said a quick prayer as I got into the shower because I missed the morning ritual, but it wasn’t the same. I stopped by Zion Memorial Cemetery on my way to work, to walk and pray. A couple of people at work noticed the shadow appearing on my cheeks.

Tuesday morning

Lent brought me insights: who I am, what I want to do for my Lord. I wondered if my resolve to remain close to Him this coming year would hold against temptations and laziness. Would I persist in holding true?

I am not going to be a man who does mighty things. I will not be an astronaut, though it was my driving fantasy in 6th grade. I am not going to be a great theoretical physicist, demonstrating how the four forces of the universe are truly one by writing an elegant equation, I haven’t the mathematical aptitude. I will not be president, or a biblical archaeologist, or provide humanity with miraculous cures for terrible diseases. I am not going to be such a man.

I don’t desire those things anyway. Not any more. I will be most happy to live my life, exhaling my last breath in the company of angels who wend me homeward, so I might hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Oh... if I can achieve that...

Wednesday morning

Ever walk any distance with your eyes closed? Just to see if you can go straight? I do, often. Sometimes when I walk in the mornings I shut my eyes while I pray, the better to concentrate on the sounds of an awakening world, the better to hear my own voice praying to my Lord.

But I must flick my eyes open every so often so I don’t veer off the path around the cemetery. I cannot walk straight for very long.

How long can I walk spiritually straight after Lent?

Not very long. I am a weak man. I get tempted by many things. I can’t by sheer will power hold true. I need to keep glancing at Him to correct my path.

Thursday morning

What must it have been like for Adam? He didn’t have the temptations I do. There wasn’t the ice cream in the fridge crying out his name when he lay down to sleep. There wasn’t any television providing prurient images to draw his eyes away from Eve. There weren’t any liquor stores. He wasn’t tempted by greed, he didn’t covet his neighbor’s possessions. There wasn’t any porn or temptations for murder or drugs or theft or envy. Couldn’t I do much better if I wasn’t always so tempted, so surrounded by the ready excesses of a fallen world?

Friday morning

What a strange dichotomy stirs within my beating heart! I have passion for my Lord... yet I crave things He forbids.

Ah, but so did Adam.

Even without the steady blitz of the temptations of my world, my time, Adam fell to just one small temptation, the desire, the curiosity, to taste what he never had. A single sin. One small bite.

This man who walked beside the Lord God on a daily basis, who communed with Him in ways no man has since (excepting our Lord), couldn’t keep himself from sinking his teeth into a pleasant-looking piece of fruit!

Now some may say that it was Eve who tempted Adam, that it was all her fault. I don’t buy it. Neither did God.

Sure, that was the excuse he offered, but it didn’t fool the Almighty.

Adam was standing there watching his wife debate the matter with the serpent; he said nothing. Nothing! Perhaps that was his first sin. He failed her as a husband. Did she glance over at him, asking him what to do?

He failed to lead.

So if Adam could fail, if he could sin, with no more temptation than the sibilant whispering of a fellow creature, another thing made by the Lord, what hope have I of staying true to what I want to be, want to do?

Saturday morning

There is a piece of music I love to listen to when I am in the prayer room or writing a post: Arvo Part: Te Deum with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

It is beautiful, inspiring. It makes me feel uplifted, closer to Him. Much of the paintings I have done have been to this music. Much of what I have written this past year was while this played over headphones, or on my iPod, or blasting from a CD player.

It helps me imagine rolling vistas of ethereal eternity, sweeping buildings of gold and ivory which pierce rolling thunderheads as they reach ever upward toward some ultimate throne that shines light on all creation, the glow of glory, of salvation.

But, after one hour, the CD stops, I put away my paints, or close my Bible, or get up off my knees, and I go home, or go to work, or go do something that is wholly of this world, and not holy for the next.

And with new tasks, I change. I go back to being a mere man who thinks about temptations, and fails to obey the speed limit, and says edgy comments when I should keep my mouth shut.

I can’t seem to keep my path straight.

Sunday morning

My beard grew back rather quickly. Just as the lessons of Lent quickly became things I have done and not things I am doing.

My face once again sports a beard that is rapidly becoming more salt than pepper. I begin to look on the outside much as I did before. Have I changed any on the inside?

Monday morning

A week after Easter passed, before I went to work, I looked in the mirror and saw my beard had fully grown back. If I shaved the cheeks, the throat, I would look clean cut, professional: a respectful and respected member of society.

I wet my face, lathered up the areas I was going to scrape, and went to work. I began to pray.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name...”

I know I will continue to fail. I will continue to sin. I will never be all that I spiritually hope to be, just as I will never be an astronaut. I cannot walk in a straight line with closed eyes for very long. But if I keep glancing up, if I keep orienting myself to the ultimate throne that shines light on all creation, the glow of glory, of salvation, I will do ok.


annie said...

What a wonderful, thought-provoking post.

Jim said...

Thought provoking indeed! Thanks.

Lighter now; Mrs. Jim is responsible for my beard, just like 'the woman made me do it.'
We were on a long vacation one time and she forgot to pack my electric razor. That was it, 12 years ago and ever since.
She doesn't feel any guilt whatsoever.

Judas Hate said...

Thanks for checking on me my wonderful Brother.

I am well. More concerned about how you are doing than how I am though.

Although you are a handsome man indeed (:-), your eyes don't look as happy as I wish they could be.

Sorry I sang off key for your B-Day song:-) It was most heart felt though.

I will try to be short with this, but wish to tell you on a matter of thanks.

In this past year, you have been one of few who looked past my front of stand-offish words. You have been kind and loving. You have overlooked my rough abrasive edges and offered me your friendship and caring.

Since a very young age, I have visited churches of all denominations. I have listened, read and studied.

I focused on a minister who truly loved the lord as you do. His sermons were so beautiful, a deaf man could benefit from them.

When he openly admited falling from grace for his love for a woman to the congregation, he was turned upon by all. The people he visited in times of weakness and sickness, prayed over, loved, counseled, wept for; they all abandoned him.

After reading the bible, sunday school and summer bible camp, everything I had learned came crashing in on me.

You are the first person since then that has given me any sort of hope in faith and religion.

Simply, honestly,...thank you!

Love, respect, honor, admiration, hope, belief.


Ame said...

The words of a humble, simple man . . . penned from the heart . . .

"Do you want to be first?" Jesus asked. "Then you must be last; you must be the servant; you must wash feet." (Ame's version)

"I am not going to be a man who does mighty things." you said.

I disagree.

I believe that you are an incredible man doing very mighty things and having a powerful impact on your world.

You may not hold a Pulitzer Prize or a Congressional Medal of Honor or . . . . .

. . . but when you stand before Jesus and He sets fire to your life . . . and all the straw and hay has turned to ashes . . . you will look up, with tears in your eyes and see your Savior smiling at you because of the treasures still laid at your feet.

Thank you for being a man who actively stands up against prurient images, greed, coveting, porn, murder, drugs, theft and envy. My ex could not; my father could not. You give me hope that there are men who make the choices to put themselves in positions where they can actively choose God over all of the above.

jel said...

morning CS!

hope you have a great week!

cool beard, I love it when my husband grows his beard in the wintertime!

Jada's Gigi said...

Oh yes! Keep on glancing at Him! May we each challenge ourselves and each other to do so in any way we can think of....there is no possibility that we can stay on the path with out gazing upon His face continually... but beware...soon the clean shaven face will become will no longer have the power to remind you to look to Him...keep changing your "reminder"...that is one way to keep touch with HIm in a fresh way...
We do things like this in our church on a regular week its lights...when we turn on a light switch we turn to week its trees, when we see a lone tree, we turn to Him...another week it will be the fridge...when we open that door we will remember HIm and turn to HIm for our true food...simple exercises really...but very powerful...especially if done corporately. :)
I do like the beard...

Me said...

You are truly an inspiration. And that's what it takes to be a great man. God bless you and yours!

MrJ said...

That was great. Now I can put a face to Curious Servant. It would take me a year to grow a beard. It reminds me that we all sanctify differently.

Peace Bro,

David said...

Stopping by to catch up my friend. Another deep thought provoking post. I too am a weak man, much weaker than you are.

Kind of like the no beard look. LOL

Seeker said...

Straight. And narrow. And, you are right that we need to keep looking to Jesus. That way we won't be turning to the left or to the right.
Good post.

wilsonian said...

:) Your transparency always ministers to me. Jesus never asked you to be perfect... He asked you to follow. You do that well.

Christopher said...

itch. scratch.

seriously, what comment by Judas hate, glad we all can read your posts.

Live, Love, Laugh said...

awesome post! I love it!

Judas Hate said...

First and foremost, thank you!

Second, you can relax. The point of view was that of a child thirty years ago. As far as being let down then, that was my fault. I took everything I had learned too literally. It doesn’t always work that way. The biggest let down to me was that they let Reverend Adams down. Not that I personally was let down. It was however an impacting life lesson.

As far as my expectations of you or anyone else, again, relax. I have very high expectations of myself. Not so much of anyone else. The only one who can fail me is me. My trust lies with a handful of people. My wife and children are the guardians of my faith and spirituality.

With all that you deal with in your life, I certainly did not mean to place any feeling of pressure or responsibility on your shoulders. As I often do, I spoke before thinking. The gist is more or less that people like you are rare these days and you are appreciated. Does that mean that I expect more of you? Certainly not. It just means I am quite pleasantly surprised and thankful when I discover people like you still exist!

Lastly, Thank You:-)

Mark D said...

You are not a failure if you fall, you are a failure when you refuse to get back up.

Good post.

Christopher said...

i meant "what a comment by Judas hate" . . . sorry i forgot the "a" . . . is sounded mean when i went back a read it. i meant it as a compliment.

jollybeggar said...

hey CS

although this post is a week or so old and you have already left so thoughtful commentary there, there is some new dialogue in the comment box that would benefit from your perspective...

curious servant said...

Interesting discussion going on over there!

Michael Pendleton said...

The last paragraph!........OH MY!

It's Me!

I hope you will find time one day to stop by Deeper Truth. I think your insight on the study of Ecclesiastes would be great!

~Alexaon~ said...

Hey there CS! I have some catching up to do...just wanted to let everyone know I was back...I'm back!
God bless!

Lillee said...

My beard seems to be more salt and peper also these days......


But seriously, I have been finding several grays lately..where do they come from so suddenly?

eternity said...

a honest, straight from the heart article

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