Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sin


It was cold, somewhere in the 20s, and the fire didn’t want to burn.

We sat around it, bundled in our coats and long underwear, and heaped frozen wood on reluctant flames.

As the wood thawed and the flames grew bolder, our hearts warmed as well.

It was our monthly Moon Howlin’ last night.

Something about a fire connects to something primal in men’s hearts.

As the yellows and oranges and reds crept around frozen chunks of split oak, our conversation crept around the edges of our lives: music, politics, movies. About the time there was a solid bed of glowing coals we had also reached the center of our own personal fuels, asking each other tough questions.

We spoke of death. Those we have watched die. We shared about those times when people died well.

Not well as is in a John Wayne sort of death, a last stand against impossible odds. But well as when it seems an edge of a curtain parts enough so we see a glimpse of something wonderful, something mysterious and holy, of flesh dropping away and eternity opens like some interdimensional flower.

One of us shared about musical thanatologists, those who come to the dying and play beautiful music on harps and such, creating an environment open to possibilities beyond the corporeal. He shared about those who meet death with the reading of psalms and prayers and full hearts aching with the changes wrought of living in a mortal world.

Another of us shared about a near death experience, when he waited patiently for death, payment for sins he had committed. He shared about the experience of redemption and love flooding across him as he lay waiting for a just consequence.

The coals glowed brightly as the Johnny Cash music ended in the adjoining shed.

In the previous post I wrote about the struggle within us. How the divine beckons us, encourages us, while the base, the animal, the evil within our hearts threatens and cajoles and barters, demanding we relish the self-centered instead of the divine.

I have made new year’s resolutions. Ones which I know I cannot keep. It is my nature to throw aside what is true, to ignore what is right, to take delight in what I should not. It is tempting to take the path of most resolutions and say that once broken they can be abandoned. But such whispers are not from my Lord. I am determined to persevere in attempting what I cannot achieve... to love my Lord God with all of my heart.

Last night, as the wood changed from dark and frozen pieces dragged from a damp wood pile to glowing coals under the gaze of four middle aged men, we began to ask tougher questions.

What is the nature of sin? What is sin?

It seems to me that the answer is simple. It is the pulling away from God. It is saying: I am important. It is saying that I want what I want, and that is what matters.

So...

So, if sin is what is not God... what is God?

God is the opposite of that pulling away.

...Perhaps God...

Perhaps God is...

Perhaps God is: not self... not “me” not “I”...

He told Moses “I Am”... Yahweh. He is not a single entity. A lone being. In Genesis He is “Elohim,” God in plurality... a “we” and not an “I.” God is love. God is outward focussed, not inward.

In His very nature He is a relationship: The Trinity.


We sat looking at the coals.

We tend to think of God as The Number One. The Creator, the one with all authority. The main guy, numero uno, top banana. We want to be that. We want to be in charge, to have that sort of authority.

And there it is.

Sin.

Isn’t that what Satan told the first man? "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)

Like all superb lies, this lie was filled with truth.

In our sin we make the claim of being number one, knowing what we would not otherwise know.

In sinning we make ourselves number one. We push aside what is about love, about others, and replace it with our own sense of being, about ourselves, about being number one.

That isn't the way of our Lord.

“...but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-9

If God in flesh could focus His existence to the service of others, to the service of His own creation... being God is not about being number one. It is about love.


A tornado of flame spun beneath a glowing chunk of wood, curling around and upward. Where it leapt from coals and bent around the wood it was a pearlescent green, changing to yellow and then orange as it turned to point flickering tongues at the stars.

Could it be that the whole point is about love? That the outward flow of the spark of divinity within us is most shown when we love each other?

I looked at my friends.

“I think I am closest to God when I am not thinking about myself.”

Eyes flicked from the embers to me, huddled beneath a hooded coat.

“I think there is something divine in those moments when I pull Jeremiah close to me, when I don’t say anything at all, and I simply lean my head against his.”

The fire crackled.

Then one of us asked the tough question.

“What is the chief sin in your life?”

We shared. We told secrets. We laid out the parts of us that are about being self-centered. The parts of our lives of when we do what we want to do because we want to do it.

We talked about placing what is hidden out in the open, confessing we are less than we want others to believe.

We talked about how good things, things He created for us, can be perverted.

We talked about the beauty of our wives. How the bodies of women are that way so we can draw close to our mates.

We talked about how sex is less than it should be when we are focussed on our own pleasure, but it is true and right and good when it is a part of the union of spirits God created for us, when it is about the merging of hearts and not simple pleasures of flesh.

As our minds turned to the warm beds awaiting us in our homes we noticed how the coals had diminished to the soft and safe glow prophesying its own slow death in the chill of the night when we had all crawled into those beds.

We bid each other good night, and cleaned up the couple of beer bottles and empty cocoa cups, the half eaten bag of peanuts and cookies.

I drove home.

I crawled into bed.

My wife pulled me close. She pressed my cold feet against her warm legs, taking the chill away. We drifted off to sleep.


27 comments:

Coco said...

Sin...it hurts!

Please keep my husband and I in your prayers...
our marriage (8 years) is in trouble. (talk about sin!)

I'm trying to forgive, and it's very difficult...

Blessings to you and your loved ones.

Take Care!

ps
i didn't mention my husband in my post...
our families don't know what is happening.

wanting more said...

I heard someone talking about their walk with God...and she spoke of how she hated her sin, hated her compromise...but she knew that it was HE alone who could make her whole. Her part was to reach up, with her feeble hand, and grab onto His, if even this was just a glance in His direction, He would catch it. The beauty of our Savior is that He is well acquainted with the nature of our flesh, and He longs to have us anyway. We do not suprise Him. In His love for us, because of His love, He is pained, He is hurt when we do sin because He knows what the consequences will bring. I think transparency is a sign of walking in the right direction, and I so long to have women to share with like your friends do. Thanks for sharing this. We can all use a little bit of humility, huh?

Anonymous said...

I've heard more than once that 'pride' is at the heart of all sin. In many respects that is what you are saying here.

Here are some interesting thoughts by Madeliene L'Engle that you might find interesting. I recently reread the book and a friend posted some excerpts from reading it on her blog. I will share them here: When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves. ...

The moment that humility becomes self-conscious, it becomes hubris. One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time. ... Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.

... the moment you wonder whether or not you can do it, you can’t.

Creativity is an act of discovery. ....

In true love, the lover’s pleasure comes in giving himself wholly to the loved one.

When we can play with the unself-conscious concentration of a child, this is: art: prayer: love.

We can only be grateful that the work itself knocks self-consciousness out of the way, for it is only thus that the work can be done.

A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle
Part one: sections 2-4



I don't have it in me at the moment for a deep commentary so I will move on. But with one last thought. Your wife warming you up reminds me of James Harriet talking about his wife warming him up when he returned from midnight veterinary calls. That is love.

Ame said...

"Like all superb lies, this lie was filled with truth."

very, very true.

thank you for sharing from such intimacy ... you give me a glimpse into "healthy" and "normal" men ... God is good.

thank you, again, on behalf of your wife and kids, for being the kind of man you are - not because you simply are, but because you aren't, because none of us is naturally that kind of man or woman, and you make conscious choices to turn to God so you can be

never give up your moon howlin buddies - this is a group that satan hates and God loves

God, please fill Coco with Your wisdom and strength and truth.

Carol said...

What a wonderful sharing. :-)

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post CS, truly thought provoking. My heart softens when I hear about or read something about Faith, sin, God's love,etc. written by a man. For some reason, I find myself gazing in wonder when I see a man enter a church, sign himself and go down on his knees.
...and as for your wife warming your cold feet, I'd say she's heroic!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Will.

Back at ya:-)

Anonymous said...

This was so good....Thanks....

curious servant said...

Coco:
Thank you for sharing. I realize that this post may have caused you pain. I'm sorry. You must be hurting quite a bit. Of course I will pray for you. Realize that when you are feeling such pain that Satan is whispering to you, encouraging you to pull away from God, to sink into deep hurtful places. Be strong my friend. I will pray for such strength for you.

Wanting More:
That is the strange thing about our sin... Our Lord isn't surprised at it, he knows us very well. But we do our best to hide it, just as Adam & Eve did. And in hiding it away we nurture our sin, help it to grow. It is our "precious" (see previous post). We need to take ownership of our sin, admit who we are, and not gloss it over with softer terms (I made a bad judgement call... It was a mistake... I fell short on that one...) and call it for what it is. A sin. Drag the ugly thing into the light, let it flop on the floor, take ownership and then disown it. Thank for the comment.

Me:
This was one of the best commentaries I have read about sin. Thank you for sharing it. By the way, I hope you know how much I appreciate your visits, readership, and commentaries. I'm glad you find something worth your time here.

Ame:
I admire all you do for your children, especially the one who is so sweet in the midst of such diffulty. As for being a normal man, I am just as sinful as anyone else. I may not be in prison for hoorible crimes, but I think it is a man thing to evaluate sins the way we do. All sin ispulling us away from God and I am just as full of that as anyone else who every walked this world. But thank you for seeing good in me. We should all be like you, seeing the best in people. God bless.

Carol:
You are welcome.

Forget Me not:
It is a sad thing that most of the spiritual instruction children receive is from their mothers. It is clear in the scriptures that it is a man's duty to be the spiritual head of his house. I don't think Satan worries over much about American men. We do a fine job of not needing his promptings.

Judas Hate:
Thanks again, Justin. Always glad to see that weird little icon of your visits in the comment box. I have wondered if there is a story behind the picture.

BJK:
Thank you for you your visit. And, you are most welcome.

And all of you:
I appreciate your kind words of encouragement in this strange little online journal. Joy to all of you!

Ame said...

"Excuse my drifting off like that."

tehehehe - i always laugh when someone makes a similar comment on my blog b/c i am the worst, sometimes, at "drifting off!"

sometimes ... facing reality causes pain ... often pain gives us opportunity to make changes ... then we get to choose what kind of changes we need and are best ... God has had to use "pain" on me, more than once, to redirect me to where He wants me to go b/c i'm SO hard-headed!!!

this post is very encouraging to me b/c it doesn't dismiss either sin or redemption from sin; it doesn't dismiss our constant struggle with sin; you set it out there as a reality that needs to be dealt with head on rather than haphazardly. you give hope that not only is it possible to be agressive and offensive with sin, especially sin that involves purity, but you show us an intimate example, without details we don't need, of how four men are doing just that.

once again ... set adrift ;)

Jada's Gigi said...

what a lovely post! and what a blessing to have such friends and such an opportunity.

Lynn Donovan said...

In His very nature He is a relationship: The Trinity.

Thank you for this. I have not thought about it this way. He is relationship, perfected. Wonderful.

I loved this story. I will pass it along to my unbelieving husband. Hope he will stop in for a read.

You always bless me when I visit. I am grateful. :)

Anonymous said...

Good post. I meant to post that yesterday, but the conversation that triggered my post interrupted. Indeed, our pride destroys everythign in our lives. If there's one sin that's continually been revealed to me that I have to work at, it's pride. Occasionally there will be other things I have to deal with, but always, always the root is pride. And, as you noted here, it was pride the caused the fall both of men and angels... that and the arrogance to think that it was knowledge or power alone that made God God. I was very much struck by the notion that a very significant part of His Godhood is derived from the fact that He is relational in and of Himself. Indeed, one of the things that has struck me as I've been studying Islam (I'm reading the Qur'an right now, actually) is that Allah does not have that sort of relationship without those he created, nor can he. He needs us for his relational needs to be fulfilled. God, in contrast, has no need for us, but He delights in us - and that concept awes me. Indeed, in that I see a far greater transcendence than that ascribed to Allah by the Muslim.

I also like the notion of your "moon-howling;" it's something I'd like to do with some of my friends at some point, because I think it would be immensely good for us all.

As for your comments on my blog, thank you. It's always a blessing to know that I've brought some encouragement to someone. As far as the science end goes, there's nothing at all wrong with Scientific American. I'd be happy to recommend some fabulous reading on the topic of physics, as well, that I've found encouraging as I take it back to a God-centered perspective (it's written as pure science, with no bias either for or against God in the text, regardless of what the author believes); and the books are written to an audience with little mathematical background or aptitude. Also, you'd probably enjoy Reasons to Believe, which is run by a Christian who has a degree in astrophysics from Caltech - very sharp guy, but very readable stuff.

I'd love to hear your thoughts as you've wrestled with that conundrum, though, seeing as the notion of not being able to truly explore and come to know everything I want to know about everything - which is everything - is one that has at times been a frustration to me, though I've found that there is a great deal of peace simply in knowing that one is doing what God called one to, rather than what one wants. Which, of course, brings me right back to my post from a few days ago where I noted my own lack of understanding of where God is taking me. All I know is that it will be for His good purposes and His glory.

You should be encouraged that, strong background in physics or no, you are very much an encouragement, and your posts I very much look forward to reading, as there is always a great deal of spiritual insight to be gleaned from them. Your own gifting is very much a blessing to the body. God bless, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Hi Curious,
It was a hindu school in India. I am from India, just sojourning in the US with my husband.

Also, looking at your site I am amazed at the beautiful way in which you weave words, I wish I could do that.

-Godzheart.

Kitty Cheng said...

Dear CS, it's good to be back to read your blog. I haven't been in here for ages now.

Your new year’s resolution about loving the Lord God with all of your heart is wonderful. That's my heart too. I agree that it's hard to keep, but I am determined to join you in persevering in attempting what we cannot achieve (but in His strength we can).

Anonymous said...

What a very thought provoking post...a bit different than my salad post but believe me I have a lot of ramblings going on in my head that need to be written down in proper order. Thanks for a good thoughtful read.

joanne said...

I love your journal it is so inspiring
keep up the good work
God bless 'joanne

Live, Love, Laugh said...

Incredible post, I love the way you write, I can feel the presence of God, such transparency but willing also to talk about sin and call it what it is. So many times I have brothers and sisters who want to dismiss sin and not talk about it. I think in sharing and talking we identify with each other and encourage one another to strive to listen to the whisper of God's voice as you state in an earlier post. Thanks so much for sharing, I love to come here, I feel the peace of the Lord as I read your posts.

curious servant said...

Ame:
drift away.

Jada's Gigi:
I m very forunate to have found such friends. Once a month we get together like that. Once a week we meet in the prayer room at church before work.

Lynn Donovan:
That is very kind of you. I'm glad you found it good for you.

Chris:
Thank you for your encouragement. I already read Reasons to Believe in addition to Scientific Amercan. I'm glad to read your posts as well.

Godzheart:
Welcome to this part of the globe! I hope to read more of your posts in the future. Thank you for stopping by.

Kitty Cheng:
Glad to have you visit again, all the way from down under! I hope all has been well with you. Happy new year! I suppose it is summer there. Ah... It is below freezing here.

Kathleen Marie:
Salad posts are good too! After all, a blog is an online personal journal. We are all just reading over each others' shoulders!

Joanne:
Nice to meet you. I popped over to your blog and confirmed that you are new to me. I am pleased to meet you and glad that you found something worthwhile here. God bless.

Live, love, laugh:
I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm just jotting down a few thoughts, but glad it can serve others.

To all of you:
I encourage you to find friends that you can be honest with, get down to real trtuths in your lives.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

Anonymous said...

Aha! You are the first to ask. I've been blogging since '04. I've started over a couple times, but always used the same art. The artist is J. O'Barr. The character is Eric Draven. The story (from comic book to movie) is "The Crow" directed by Alex Proyas. It is a dark tale, but if you can look beyond that part of it, it is a story about true love. A love that goes beyond the grave.
Brandon Lee (Eric Draven / Bruce Lee's son) is killed during the making of this film.
The story of my connection with the movie, the story, Eric and Brandon would take up too much room in your comment window. I'll tell you all about it when we finaly have that beer:-)

Thanks Will.

Justin

T. F. Stern said...

A wonderful and insightful piece of writing; thank you. The idea of forgetting yourself in the service of others is based in scripture; but the way you put your thoughts down this time approaches a divine gift.

Anonymous said...

Dear Curious,

Oh to know the heart of a man...who is open and transparent. I always wonder what goes on behind the facade that is presented to the world. It often seems impenetrable. I guess with out the heat from the Son…it the heart is often hard.

Blessings...Susan

Anonymous said...

Hi Curious Servant ~~Quite a story there. Thanks for your visits and glad
you get a smile when you do. Take care,
Cheers, Merle.

WomanHonorThyself said...

Wow CS...I wasnt prepared for the "intensity" that provoked...Bless u and yours! :)

Terry said...

Dear Curious Servant...Just want to wish you a glorious Lord's Day.
I haven't been able to read your posting yet. I am behind in reading my friend, Susan's too.. I will be looking forward to reading you both when I come home this afternoon.
Please take care now, you and your wife, Brenda and your son....Love Terry

Terry said...

Dear Curious Servant. I don't know what it is about your postings but they always leave me in tears....Happy tears...Tears that come from a touched heart...
Your writings are so full of common life and so easy to put myself into.
They are honest and they are sympathetic, and so full of GOD!
So full of His love to us, even though we are sinners!

My favorite line in here is..."I think I am closest to God when I am not thinking about myself."
I had a little chuckle when I read this. After listening to your friends whe were talking such deep thoughts, this child-like sentence just pops out of your mouth...Pure and sweet, innocent revelation!...As if you are surprised that you had found the answer!
And found the answer you have dear Curious Servant...You are a man after God's own heart..
Thank you for a great posting!!....From Terry

And now I must go anad see Susan who is a woman after God's own heart!
Such up-lifting postings she puts in!

Jim said...

Hi C.S. I've been halfway quiet in the blogging world lately.
Your post here is great, if makes me think about things worth thinking about.

I couldn't 'moon howl' if I wanted to because I don't have a nice support group like you do.
..