But . . . I have learned some things in the afternoons, switching between talk shows like Dr. Phil and, a while back, Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey . . . with a little That ‘70s Show and Jeopardy spliced in during commercial breaks. The collective, subjective, highly-suspect and often conflicting wisdom delivered by those in search of ratings and reactions could tie a brain in knots and split a heart into a million pieces and send the soul on an endless search for satisfaction. Or, we can make sexual confusion a clever punch line and laugh it off entirely. So many opinions to weigh and people to please. We may not always be a captive audience, but we’re a certainly thirsty one, taking full advantage of the the technology and the glitz . . . and the messages of the hosts and guests, all carefully edited and sharpened to a point.
Cut! It’s a wrap..
Generally what you learn from the talkies is that glitz and guts count more than truth and glory when it comes to deciding what is right and wrong for us. For most who have been on the white-knuckle express a few times, this get-after-it-and-get-it-done message is meaningless and only a slow way of meandering back to square one. So is the other prevailing identity-discovery message: “know who you are and be true to yourself.” What about knowing who He -- that would be God -- says you are and then being true to Him. In other words, in the midst of cultural chaos, why not pattern yourself after something that never changes. Like a rock instead of a rock star.
The Oprah audience Ooohed and aahed over Ricky like he had suddenly pried open a door of wisdom, not released a new CD, called, appropriately enough, "Me,” which works well in the world, where we are told it is all about “me.” As if he is sharing a treasured belief reflecting the Creator's grand design, he read a poignant passage from his book, applauding himself for coming out and making the path clear for his children to grow up in a world of acceptance and be good to all their lovers. From a practiced choir, the chorus of "Awwws" swept over him, his perfect smile beaming equally to the Oprah-proud studio audience hoping to win a surprise gift from the zillionaire host, and out to all the broken people sitting behind televisions in their afternoon easy chairs of solitude or pounding out calories on their treadmills of hope: "Just be like me. Free to be."
And then Ricky sings his new song. Buy the CD. Get the book. There ain't nothing wrong with you that a little idol worship can't fix. The men and women in the culture-gilded mansions -- the Elton Johns, the Doogie Howsers, the Ellen Degeneres and the Ricky Martins -- say so; the God who builds your mansion says . . . "no."
If the do-what-makes-you-feel-good-and-you’ll-finally-really-like-yourself bunch thinks there is no need to change – just swing with what life brung you -- then what else matters? Who needs a bible when you can turn to an autobiography for the truth? Who needs to dig in and get a Word from God when you can get it intra-cranially from the boob tube? Go with the flow. Love ya . . . peck, peck., hug, hug. Just . . . feel the love.
There's the love.
Come . . .
Most important? "Let's settle the matter."
Why are we so unsettled about settling the matter?
Why do we dig deep for justification when truth lies in plain sight?
Why do we build mansions to hide in when true joy comes when the walls fall down?
Why do we look for others' words to lift us out of darkness when He said "I am the light?"
Why do we look for others to lead us out of that darkness when He said "I am the Way?"
Why do we hasten to hidden places instead of hiding His word in our hearts?
Why do we cry out to be known when He tells us He has always known us?
Why do we seek other voices when He said "listen?"
Why do we rush from door-to-door when He said His would open if we would but knock?
Why do we run toward cliffs of uncertainty when He said "come" . . . "now" to the calmness of certainty, the satisfaction of settling?
We're filling the void with the wrong voices pushing the wrong choices. We can read . . . we can hear . . . we can speak . . . we can share. We could care . . . if we'd dare.
Dare to love and look for those who do. For real. Not like Ricky on a sound stage, or Elton behind diamond-studded glasses, or Ellen dancing around in tennis shoes laughing, or Neal Patrick Harris in a sitcom, or Oprah in adoration-fueled self-celebration. True love is not rated by a Nielsen meter. True love is measured by the heart-wrenching moments that lay the stones for a safe crossing from where we find ourselves to where we long to be . . . and where we long to not arrive alone.
In a world frightfully flinging itself along to no-where, Jesus proves the patience of love and says "Come." "Now." He is always ready, always waiting.
And the Help of the helpless says . . . help others.
Did I hear that right? If I love Jesus, I will feed his sheep? But, hey . . . what about me? I’m hungry too . . . but it’s when I forget to turn to You.
As Christians we're out of tune on the sexual brokenness issue, gonging and clanging, offering headaches for heartaches . . . and the mute button is getting a workout. We often don't know religious from righteous, Christianity from churchianity; hope from a hole-in-the-ground, mercy from meanness, forgiveness from forget it, love from leave. We teach restoration, redemption and rescue. And then we run from the reaching.
"But do not have love?" There's the rub. All those polished words we preach are but the cymbals from which the clanging erupts. We're not real in voice or deed. We memorize the verses and know the applications, but not enough of us really love. Yes, some do . . . but the church is a collective, a body. We believers are not requiring much of each other, even as we demand a great deal from the broken who would love . . .love? . . . to join us and share in what we say we have. Peace. Mercy. Grace. Wholeness. More often, we have a detailed list, directed repentance and an eagle eye.
I'm not lamenting the lack of love demonstrated towards me when I was hiding in the church like a broken boat towed into harbor, weighted with guilt from an out-of-control obsession with a love-me temptation that had twisted itself into a use-me fixation. I know now the need for them to see true confession and real repentance, to know for sure this was actually a sheep . . . and not in wolf's clothing. Actually, the lack of love I experienced makes the need to share it so clear now. A calling from the falling. In its own way, that vacuum was a blessing.
Do we love Christ? Then why are the sheep so hungry? Will they find what we are withholding somewhere out there in the welcoming wilderness among the wolves who . . . want them . . . in ways Jesus never intended for His sheep to be devoured in their weaknesses?
If someone comes to the pantry door, weak and thin, hand outstretched, not feigning faintness, but near to falling, we fill their cup. The sexually-broken are no different. They are weak, fading, fearing, losing feeling, so-often falling they might not know which way is up . . . fill the cup. Don't sound the gong. Don't send them to drink from the stagnant creek of a cackling culture instead of the living water of an endless river of grace.
Jesus bore the debt and bore the burden, yet too many Christians can barely bear the sight. If the sexual sin of others repulses you in a way that your sins don't, pray for forgiveness for your lack of forbearance and God will give you strength.
If you yourself are among the homosexual, the pornography-addicted, the adulterer, the lust-bound, then keep your courage and keep coming. In the body of the church are the hands and feet of the faithful who will love you and walk with you and speak truth into your lives, catching you with compassion when you fall until you finally stand and live beyond the chains. They may be too few, but they are better than the "it gets better" bunch.
There really is a way out, but it takes a double-dare. One dares to seek. Another dares to care. Both dare to love. In the absence of cymbals they hear each other; truth wins a battle and sin slithers away in darkness.
Jesus said "Come." The world is watching to see if we agree with Him . . . and not with them.