Chosen Impotence

NOTE: Inspired by the beautiful Easter hymns I’ve been reading this week, I revised a “poem” I wrote a couple years ago. Just think of it as word-dabbling, not real poetry. I wrote this at Christmas time after I saw my first blown-up nylon Nativity scene.

Another lawn-nativity,

This one inflated,

Blown air shaping colored cloth

Into Mary and Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds.

Hmm,

I am reminded of the Michelin Man or Pillsbury Doughboy.

But distaste aside,

The smallest blob of puffed nylon,

Decked with a curved-line smile and dots for eyes,

Is still meant to represent

My Christ.

My Christ,

How incredibly helpless He chose to be,

in the form of a baby’s helpless body,

A feeble cry the only tool He had

To summon needs and desires.

How UN-omnipotent he seems.

 

Winter gives way to new spring.

A different icon dots church fronts, some yards,

Fewer places than the last.

And, generally, of sturdier material.

No nylon certainly.

Yet the central subject is the same,

But isn’t.

The infant flesh is grown, and

Covers a man’s sinews, bones and muscles

Carpenter-strong.

This Christ, though, is also frail, with

Only a thin line between Him and destruction.

He dangles from punctured wrists,

Pushes on destroyed ankles to get breath,

Bleeds from head and back and side.

 

Another image of impotence:

He cries,

He suffers,

He dies,

 

The Babe and the Crucified One,

These two,

Celebrated every year.

Is this what God desires?

Could He want monuments to His vulnerability?

These are not the statues human rulers would covet,

No depictions of parade glory and iron-fisted might.

These are moments when the fallen one

Must have breathed victory in the air,

Must have thought himself powerful in comparison.

Could God, with ways higher—and deeper—

Than our own

Be unconcerned with this display of humility?

Be willing to leave us to wonder and seek

This paradox God,

His strength perfected in weakness,

His justice satisfied with the sacrifice of Himself,

His revolution accomplished by love—

With no destruction other than

the single, willing life of its leader

And the symbolic ripping of a temple cloth?

 

A birth, a life, a death—

A chosen impotence

Accomplishing

The redemption of mankind.

Grovel or Go? Lessons from Isaiah

Yes, PJ IS standing in an open car window--at least it wasn't in motion! I'm amazed--and grateful--that we've only had ONE trip to the emergency room with our little daredevil. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Too often I tell God what I want Him to do with me and for me. I guess there’s an acknowledgement of weakness in these kinds of prayers—I am, after all, admitting that I can’t make these things happen—but there is also a sense of pride. I may not have the strength to carry this out, but I know what the best course of action is.

Today I discovered I even tell God what to do in regard to my sin. This morning I prayed, “Lord, reveal my sin to me. Help me to know the ways I am straying from you.”

I’m not knocking this kind of prayer, and I’m trusting that the Holy Spirit interprets it for me, but as I studied a passage in Isaiah today, I realized that this prayer is based on a lot of ignorance. If God really DID show me the depths of my sinfulness, I would be crushed, as Isaiah was when he was in the presence of God. Overwhelmed, his only understanding in that moment was of his own dirtiness in the presence of the completely clean and holy God. “Woe is me! For I am lost;” he said, “for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Regarding this passage, R.C. Sproul comments that this is a rare occurrence: God does not often crush us with a full picture of our sinfulness. Instead He reveals it bit by bit, in His own time and plan, as it is necessary and good for us.

That leads me to examine the motives behind my “Show me my sins” prayers. Am I asking, perhaps, out of a heart that still hopes to do penance, to somehow pay for my own sins, to show that I am truly sorry for them, and in this sorrow, to gain some acceptance?

Again, Isaiah’s example helps me. Isaiah was not asked to do penance for his sinfulness. Instead GOD sent an angel with a burning coal to purify Isaiah.

He did the same for me, with the death of Christ. I cannot accomplish my own purification, and therefore, He doesn’t ask me to. He did and does that Himself.

“…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Even knowing this, KNOWING that Christ paid for my sin, I have a tendency to grovel in it. I mistakenly think this is true sorrow, when it is really self-serving.

But that’s also not what Isaiah did. After God pronounced him clean, God immediately asked if Isaiah was ready to go to work. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

And Isaiah didn’t respond as I often do. “Hold on, Lord, I’m still processing how awful I am. I’m still overwhelmed with what I did (or said or thought).”

No, Isaiah IMMEDIATELY answers, “Here am I! Send me.”

This is not only a statement of willingness but of confidence. Sproul writes that if Isaiah had said “Here I am,” he would merely have been making a statement of readiness, but the inverted structure—“Here AM I!“—speaks of Isaiah’s new view of himself. The Lord had taken him through an understanding of Isaiah’s own unworthiness and the Lord’s grace, and Isaiah came out of that with a new sense of self-worth as a creation and servant of God.

Wow!

“Lord, I am Yours. Reveal to me what you want me to know, not so I can grovel but so that You may direct me in the ways You want me to go. Bottom line, Lord, here am I, Your creation, purified, qualified, and commissioned. Do Your will, Your best, with me.”