On Getting Sick, Packing to Move, Penske Trucks, My Fleshliness, and the Righteousness of ChristMonday, August 29, 2005
Last week may well have been one of the worst weeks of my life, to speak of. Following the week-plus long struggle with gout, I picked up a cold while I was at the Desiring God Regional Conference. As a humorous sidenote, I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that my dear brother, Dave Cruver, had his house cold enough to hang meat in there!
Seriously, his wife is expecting their first, and you dads out there know what that's like! They've got internal heaters! And that means the A/C has got to come down to at least fifty degrees! It was funny that night...and I never did get a chance to share this with Dave (so here you go Dave!) but I had notebooks stuffed into the vent which was blocked with a couple pillows! But alas, I still picked up a bout of postnasal drip which unfortunately turned into a nasty cold. So the conference title on "When I Don't Desire God" was a much-needed resource the following week, wouldn't you say?
Last week, with the cold and all, I was wearied to the bone with packing box after box after box after....well, you get the picture. The cold turned into an infection which depleted my energy, and by Wednesday I near enough thought I would honestly drop from exhaustion. My boys and I prayed in the van that morning that the Lord would work contrary to nature and give me a massive supply of physical energy for the day. To my amazement He did. I'm not amazed because He did. After all, He is a gracious God who loves us and gave us His own Son. I'm amazed because of what it feels like to be about to drop from exhaustion at eight in the morning, knowing what lies ahead for the day, only to feel later in the morning like I was literally getting stronger. Does that count as a miracle?
But there's a big "however." Given the sickness and the packing and physical exhaustion, my heart was as weary as my body. Fleshliness seemed to abound last week perhaps more than at any other time I can remember (and I may have a short memory!). Snapping at kids and wife and dogs (including Chubby the stubborn Beagle) and cat only promoted an atmosphere where the gospel seemed to have little influence in the home (and animal kingdom).
It is amazing how walls of separation, hedges of anxiety, and barbed-wire fences of irritability can be built within just a few short minutes or within several hours! It was not until the weekend came and settled in that my wife and I were able to just to sit together for several hours on Friday and Saturday for a garage sale that we were both physically replenished with a little rest, as well as some much-needed time to recoup in our relationship. Real friendships are wonderful things - when the gospel is there, they seem to heal themselves, though we must always apply gospel-medicine (such as confession, forgiveness, self-denial, and service) to them to advance that healing.
So I preached my final sermon yesterday, a word given by the Spirit during a week when I had no time to get into the office and study. Revelation 3:14-22 was put on my heart and mind all day Friday and Saturday, and to no avail I was unable to get it out. So figuring it must be what the Spirit desired, I sat down at 8:00 pm and started praying and writing. Four hours and fourteen single-spaced 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper later (that's around A4 size for the rest of the world!) the sermon was finished. That in and of itself is a testimony to the Spirit's amazing work once again, especially given the weariness of mind and body from a full day of packing! My oh my! What wonders come when we trust in His goodness rather than fret! I'm a slow learner, and I'm finally getting it.
So tomorrow we pack the Penske truck. For those who move in the U.S. (and if you are a pastor and move often...[is that a redundant phrase?]) Penske is by far the best deal for the money. I'm getting a 25 footer for under $500. And I got just the same deal on just the same sized truck in 1996 when I moved to seminary. I like companies who don't let inflation bother them. Besides the fact that it boasts 4-7 miles per gallon (before it is packed), it drives great and my kids think they are big stuff when they are sitting up an extra 8 feet above all the rest of the peon naves on the interstate.
As I look forward tomorrow to very, very, very muggy and quite possibly rainy and windy day tomorrow (thanks to the easterly arms of Huricane Katrina) while trying to load a truck, I am reminded again of just how much I need Christ's righteousness. How do those two come together? Just like this.
I'll be having a wonderful day tomorrow when I'm with my friends packing, regardless of the weather. Honestly, when I'm with others in a hard-work, sweating environment, I seem to flourish. Life is good, friends are working hard, cracking jokes, practicing sanctified sarcasm with each other, talking theology, and sharing needs and concerns with each other, and foolishly eating pizza and drinking soda amid the humid conditions...in all of this there comes a tremendous sense of well-being. I'm crazy I know, but it just happens.
So tomorrow when I'm feeling good and holy and sanctified and whatever else...I still need the righteousness of Christ. And I think that forgetting that on the 'good' days is what makes me (I don't know about you) so pathetic sometimes.
On 'bad' days, or rather 'bad' weeks like the one I had last week, we feel our fleshliness in deep ways, don't we? And when we've gathered our spiritual senses about us, we then feel a desperate need for the righteousness of Christ, don't we? But for some reason, when the 'bad' days pass, and the 'good' days come, we're back to our good-ole, performance-oriented lifestyles where we are making God happy with us through our newly refreshed sanctified efforts.
Personally, I think we live too much of life through our emotions. We allow how we feel about our sin and fleshliness as well as our best efforts at holiness to affect our embrace of Christ's righteousness...far too much. And when I think I need it more on my 'bad' days than I do my 'good' days, I'm a pathetic person. I'm pathetic because then I think that on my 'good' or even 'best' days, I'm okay without Jesus. Oh, we'd never say such a horrid thing, would we!? But we act like that, for we don't give His righteousness a second's thought when things are going well for us. And that's where the renewal of the mind (Rom. 12:2) must take place.
We need Jesus on our best days as well as on our worst days. And that's what's so wonderful about His righteousness. It is NOT the caulk that fills in the cracks and holes of our sinful moments and days. It IS the covering that envelopes us at all times, regardless of what's going on underneath.
That means we must spend more time enjoying and treasuring and meditating and singing and preaching about that covering - about the person and work of Jesus Christ - more than (not necessarily instead of) what is underneath that covering. For a failure to do so will mean that we live our lives from day to day mingling Christ-righteousness with self-righteousness. And that's damnable, for it's what will send the average 'religious' person to hell when they die. No, for the Christian it must be all about Him, His grace, His love, His righteousness each and every day, regardless of what we may feel during that day.
Perhaps these ramblings of a struggling Christian, husband, father, and ex-pastor will help someone today to glory in the cross!