Friday, July 8, 2016

Many people have those epic family stories that they love to recite and retell.  Events, moments, experiences and encounters that are humorous or insightful or character-shaping or turning points or "ah-ha!" moments.
One of my family favorites occurred when I was too young to remember, perhaps even before I was born.  My older brother and sister had been outside playing and had inadvertently gotten into a patch of poison ivy.  My parents, O Wise Ones that they are, acted with lightening speed and brought my brother and sister in, had them strip out of their clothes and bathe.  Crisis averted!
An hour or so later, however, my sister was fine, but my brother was itchy and scratching himself--it was a mystery why one wasn't affected, but the other was--until my parents discovered my brother had simply redressed in the clothes he'd had on earlier.
Perhaps that's amusing, but we all do it--not with poison ivy, but with our preferred sins--we are guilty of some kind of brokenness, some kind of ego-laced attitude, some kind of sinkhole selfishness and in our spiritually lucid moments we, by the grace of God, strip ourselves of the sin-soaked outfit we've been parading around in and we are baptized in the cleansing mercy we are offered.  We cannot remain emotionally and spiritually naked, by virtue of our vulnerabilities and the nature of our human relationships and so we are reclothed.  Some of us are reclothed in a wardrobe of righteousness, some take on some armor to keep ourselves (pseudo) safe.  Most, if not all of us, however, eventually slip back into those exposed clothes we'd stripped out of and we find ourselves itchy and scratchy again.
The apostle Paul admits that he does what he does not want to do and what he wants to do, he doesn't.
For me, this is where I discover the rich nature of grace.  If I am able to manage my own righteousness then grace is simply cutting me some slack, but if sin is so pervasive that I cannot strip and re-dress on my own, then grace is that gift I most desperately need and for which I am most joyfully grateful.
Unquestionably, the latter is the case.

© 2016 Stephen Carl

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