Monday, 23 October 2017

Day 4: Why all the Mud?

My blog was originally named "Letters from the Mud" and I changed it to "Ordinary Time" a while later.  Blog subscribers will know that already because the posts always have that original title in the subject.  Inside knowledge like that is just one of the benefits of being a subscriber by email -- you can sign up too, over on the right if you're on a desktop, or at the bottom is you're on a mobile device. Go ahead, I'll just wait for you...

I've never written about my blog's title, but the story behind it holds a lot of significance.  It's because I feel this story is so dear to me that I've hesitated to share it publicly before.  It stemmed from a dream unlike any dream I'd ever had before or since.   I'm not into dream interpretation and I don't tend to give dreams much credence, even though I love trying to recall the ones I am able to remember -- who doesn't? But, this one, well, it was different.

Frankly,  I have always considered this dream to be an important message for me.  I don't say that lightly, in fact I say it quite squirmingly, knowing how flaky it may sound. I certainly don't want to just share this for the sake of getting attention for myself.  I did share it with a few trusted others at the time,  hoping for insight and guidance, but mostly I've kept it guarded in my own heart.  

One of the things about writing somewhat publicly like this (especially after Brandon Vogt created a 300-fold increase in my blog traffic by sharing my review of his book -- thanks Brandon), is that you have to be really cautious about sharing consolations -- or perceived consolations -- you've experienced.  I think the standard sage advice is that any consolation (along with any gift at all) you've received is always meant for the good, the love of others, however that doesn't always mean you explicitly share what happened, even though the fruits that are borne of the insights gained and the virtues deepened are definitely for God to use for the good of others.  

As for dreams... well, yes, the Bible shows that God most certainly has been known to send messengers via dreams from time to time.  So, was this dream a message from God? Honestly, I feel it is -- though that sounds so alarmingly haughty- but I don't trust myself to say that with authority.  In any case, for whatever reason, I had an astounding dream that definitely impacted me and which I've found to be an ongoing source of wisdom and insight.  By contrast, most of my dreams are just wonky, oddball things, involving lost shoes and sitting the wrong exam and trying to answer a ringing payphone when it's actually the alarm clock sounding.   Do I dare call my dream a message from God? A consolation received? I'm still undecided about that, but yes, it was something radically different.  In any case, I do know with certainty that God can use anything and everything for our good, so my odd dream must at least fall into that category, if nothing else.

I've had two dear friends both implore me recently, in almost identical words -- of which this will be a terrible paraphrase -- to share the light of Christ through my writing and both alluded to my own messiness as hope for others.  As I read their beautiful letters, especially the second one I received which reiterated so much that the first one had said, my mind immediately went to that old dream and I felt yeah, I think it's time to write about it.

So after the longest preamble ever, here's the dream!

I was standing at the foot of the cross, on dusty ground.
My eyes were at the height of Christ's chest.  
I couldn't see his face, but I could see his torso, his arms, and his legs.  I was close enough to touch Him.
I stood there begging for forgiveness and mercy and the water from His side began to gush forth, showering me with a torrent.
I remember feeling so joyful, so hopeful, thinking how clean, how white as snow I'd surely become washed in this font.
But I looked down, and to my chagrin, I realized that somehow the dust from the ground was mixing with the flood of water and instead of being washed clean I was being completely splattered, no, utterly covered in grey-brown mud. 
And I wanted it to stop! 
"No, Jesus! Please," I was begging him, "clean me!" 
Why is this happening? I don't want to be muddy! Wash away my sins, don't make them more obvious!
The water is supposed to wash my white as snow! Why is it making me dirtier?
And it was as if I was made to understand that the path by which I would work out my salvation, the one ordained for me, was going to involve being brutally real about the mess I am, about the mess I've been, that wretch. 
I always cringe at my own failure, my swollen, battered pride always urges me to move on and cut ties after I've screwed up. I want to start again; make some good first impressions, leave behind those who know me at my worst.  
I long to put on a shiny new garment over the old, dirty rag and hope no one notices it peeking out from under the hem.  
But Scripture reminds us that, "...there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light." (Luke 8:17)  which has helped me to more willingly try to discard the masks and cover ups now while I still have the chance

I understood that my mud would somehow, amazingly to me, be light in the darkness to others, that through my humiliating messiness others, who saw themselves being just as muddy, would find great hope in Christ.  
I understood that humiliation, weakness, embarrassment would be planks in the cross I was being asked to carry.
Over time I've come to discover with joy some other things this dream means:
I understand now that God doesn't just forget our repented sins, but in His merciful love He truly uses them to weave them into a tale even more beautiful, glorious.
I understand now that salvation is never a solitary manner, we are saved for others, and others for us. God will use all we offer Him for the good of others, for their salvation.
I understand that what's impressive and useful to me is not what counts to God, what is externally impressive to me is not what He sees. holiness doesn't look like you've got it all together, it looks like you've given it all to Him.
But most of all, I understood that I was not alone in this mud, I only needed to look up to see Him right there in front of me, with me in every moment, carrying me.

So why am I sharing this?
Well, maybe you're thinking you're way too far gone.
Maybe you're thinking Christ isn't for you, but for those normal looking people over there.
Maybe you can't see a way out of the mess you're in.
Maybe you think you can't approach Him until you're finally good enough.

Well, you're not too far gone as long as you have air in those lungs.
He is for you, completely.
Christ can see the way, because He is the Way.
And no. You'll never be good enough. No one will ever be good enough...not even those beautiful, normal, successful people over there. But He is good, and that is enough.

Don't be afraid to surrender, He loves you and wants to scoop you up from the ditch and carry you. No matter how crusty and gross your mud is, no matter how convoluted and twisted and wretched your story is, your mess,  He loves you, he wants to liberate you from all those ties that bind you and bring you into His radiant, glorious, beautiful, liberating life.

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