“The Christian does not think that God will love us because we’re good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
It didn’t seem spiritual. Certainly, the last thing on my mind when I opened the e-mail and read the hello followed by niceties followed by SEWAGE.... BASEMENT.... LEAK.... the last thing on my mind was apostolic devotion. PIPE.... CRACKED.... That didn’t help. And neither did: $1500.00
“Give or take.”
OW.... I experienced thoughts - black, dark, sinister - which clenched my jaw. My jaw muscles - the masseters - eclipsed the bite-force of a hyena and would've ripped, I believe, through a railroad tie. Fifteen-hundred is the Book on my beater, my quarterly net, so I considered retrenchment (no more balmy 60-degree living room; no more buttering BOTH pieces of bread...) and of course the necessity of “diversifying” Top Ramen.
Top Ramen with mayo... Top Ramen au gratin...
Not good. I live in Nashville, and the rental house - which pre-dates verbal cinema - is 3000 miles away, so fixing it with timeless standards - duct tape, duct tape, MORE DUCT TAPE - was impossible. That said, it crossed my mind that for $1500 I could catch the red-eye, land, hail a cab (“Hardware store!”), apply adhesive, hail another cab (“Muni!"), play nine, grab a bite, and get home for a thou.
Still (stay with me), I wanted estimates. Pitting plumber against plumber in an escalating war of shrinking bids seemed prudent. So, I called a friend, a Duct Taper, who expressed concern over my diet, then asked... Ruh-roh... ABOUT other bids.
I had to lie. It behooved me to LIE, to dish a low figure, and hope, in seeking the job, he'd visit the hourly of a Craig's list hack. A moment like the scene from Animal House in which Angel and Devil appear to Pinto occurred. Truth worked against me. My pulse pounded.
Because I knew better. Because I'm not me, I’m a Christian---born again. And unlike many of the faith (not “judging," it’s true) I’d managed, post-conversion, to read the Bible. A lot. And so recognized deviance---which, in turn, begot guilt, which, in turn, begot tension, which, in turn, clenched my jaw like a spotted hyena!!
God: "Are you serious?"
Satan: "It's small!"
God: "What's important?"
Satan: "SAVE DOUGH!"
And, ultimately, the question of importance prevailed. Was the price Jesus paid, the piercing and scourging, not worth rejection of petty, selfish sin?
The voice telling me to lie, that the lie was trivial, met another which corrected, admonished, and rebuked.
"Fifteen-hundred," I told my friend. And it hit me:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.
~2 Corinthians 5:17
WOW, I thought, the old me would’ve lied. The old me wouldn’t have sweat it in the first place. The old me would have dismissed it as trivial.
But the old me had never read from Matthew 16:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his own soul?”
That’s why I broke a sweat. That’s why my heart raced. The devil wanted that lie! But scripture is armor and harbor against Satan. I was able to resist because I read the Bible, because I'm "in the Word," and because, through scripture, I recognize corruption.
Christianity is work---no, we're not "saved by works," we're saved by grace, but grace, like fire, requires tending. Twice I'd drifted from God, believing that faith is self-tending, requiring no effort, only to find myself darkly consumed.
Take it from a "one-and-doner" who converted in zeal, sold on self-renewing "easy faith"---you must work. Without work - i.e., actually opening, reading, and learning the Bible - there's stagnancy. Ignorance. And it doesn’t matter that you profess to love God, doesn't matter that you give to charity, tithe, and play Santa each December for Children's Leukemia, because scripture - its Subject - in the abstract grows cold. To be a Christian is to WANT knowledge. To SEEK "armor."
Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12 -- For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
In verse 13, he writes: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
The shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the breastplate of righteousness---these are provided Christians through the Holy Word. If you don't read, you don't grow. You are not "in Christ." You will not withstand evil.
And you'll miss out!
I know, because after resisting that lie - that tiny peccadillo! - I hung up and prayed and burst into tears.... The "peace that passes all understanding" washed over me. Because I told the truth to a plumber???
I laughed and cried simultaneously. I'd never done that - EVER! - and it was quite an experience.
Indeed, Christianity is an experience for the Ages. An experience that transcends.
An experience, based in truth, love, and piety, that evades the old---but not the New Man.
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