Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hope Beneath the Rope

A man sat broken in the pew next to me last night after church. A stranger, yet a brother. He spilled his life out to me in raw clarity. Anger, hurt, emptiness, and regrets outlined his life.

He described himself as barely clinging to a knot at the end of his rope. Ever been there? Yeah. Me too.

He talked of how things used to be. Things used to be great. At one time he was walking with God and had even enrolled in a Bible institute with plans of becoming a preacher of the gospel.

Life took an unpredictable bounce. Bad news left a bad taste in his mouth. Like Job, this man's religious friends laid a load of blame and guilt on him. The bad taste left his mouth and settled in his attitude. His attitude toward God, the church, and life grew worse and worse.

He has spent years living on poisonous bitterness and rebellion. Every time he drove by our church, he felt drawn to go inside. Last night, the arguments against walking into a church house filled with strangers lost out to a deep desire to come home to God.

I told him to let go of the knot. He looked up at me with fear. "As long as you're holding onto that knot, you're not giving God control of your life," I said.
"Let go. God will catch you before you know you're falling."

The man released his grip on the knot and landed instantly in the grip of God's grace.

After repentance came regret. He looked at me and said,
"I wish I could go back to where I the way I once felt."

With that statement, he had no idea how much we had in common. Regrets have a certain flavor to them that lay long on the tongue of our memory. Yet, as much as we'd like to go back and do things better or different, we can't.

We can't travel back in time. People named Garmin or Tom-Tom may adjust easily to your wrong turns, but others won't. Board games may let you go back ten spaces, but life doesn't.

There is one exception. God has allowed one moment in history to which we can all go back. The cross.

We can all go back to that moment on Calvary's hill when the Son of God hung on the cross to pay the bill for our sin, guilt, and regrets. The outstretched arms of Christ are infinite. They stretch around the world and across human history. They reach to the beginning and end of time and cover the sins of us all. Forgiveness drips from the cross.

We sat together on that pew last night equal in God's eyes. Equally sinners. Equally forgiven. Peace covered us because our pasts are covered.

It was pretty awesome to see a man who was at the end of his rope only moments before, take his first steps toward a new beginning. That's what God does...when we let Him.

I look forward to seeing my new friend Sunday and introducing him to his new family and his new future.

"We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand --- out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise...
"Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready...God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him"
(Romans 5:1-2, 5-6, The Message).

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