Monday, December 8, 2008

Preparing to receive and live in Christmas grace calls for radical repentance

JOHN THE BAPTIST AND OUR RODENT PROBLEM. I thought of my current battle with a few mice that have found their way into our kitchen drawers lately as I mulled over John the Baptist's call for folks to "prepare the way for the Lord." I know this is one giant leap, but hang with me and we’ll see if it works.

MORE STARTLING THAN HIS APPEARANCE. As Bob Marley-ish as his looks and lifestyle might have appeared, it was John the Forerunner’s words that garnered everyone’s attention. The stark and startling wilderness “voice” called for radical repentance. Repentance means, literally, to turn away from our current ways and turn to a new life orientation. John echoes the rich imagery of the Isaiah 40 prophesy: preparation for receiving the anticipated Messiah-King means calling a time-out on business as usual and giving utmost priority to going out to repair broken roadways and open a clear, welcoming route to our heart homeland.

CONFESS...BUT ALSO CHANGE. Repentance means not only to stop self-serving, self-defeating behavior, but to mend fences and restore right ways. Repentance is an invitation to abandon proven-frivolous and unfruitful ways to heart wholeness. Positively, it is a call to give our attention to what really restores and fuels our lives. Repentance also invites us to prevent parasitic vices and guard against life-sabotaging sources from gaining easy soul entry. That’s were my mouse story kicks in.

INSIDE DEFENSE OR OUTSIDE SEAL. After the first evidence of mice appeared, Becky suggested I go out in the cold and see if there was a hole in the exterior of the house where the critters might be getting in. My answer to our emerging mouse-in-the house problem was to set traps. So, I set six spring-loaded mouse traps and waited for the critters to enter and try to nibble away at our food. The first night, I caught one. The next day another. Then another and another. Each day, Becky would insist they were coming inside through an undisclosed hole on the outside. After removing the sixth trapped rodent, I yielded to her advice. Outside, under the kitchen window I found it: concrete had broken away from around a vent and left a gaping hole. I immediately filled the hole. We haven't had evidence of a visitor to our mouse traps since.

GUARD YOUR HEART. Repentance includes repair. Spiritually, we can either deal with soul-infecting distractions on the inside--acting defensively and counter-attacking in this direction then that. Or we can extend our repentance to include repairing the protective exterior of our soul. I'd rather seal off the easy access points than risk unnecessary exposure from unseen parasites that gain entry, then a foothold, then become an infestation.

CHOOSE YOUR BATTLEGROUND. How much spiritual energy that might otherwise be creatively and outwardly directed is spent fending off unnecessary inside nuisances simply because we unwittingly allow unwarranted entry and absent-mindedly disregard preventable problems? To some extent, we can choose our battleground. Preparation via repentance urges us to clear the inside, repair the outside, and set a guard on our heart. Let preparation be complete. Let repentance be extensive. Repair the crumbling paths. Make the crooked ways straight. When Messiah comes to fill the heart home, it will be a sound abode.

FILLING AND LEAKING. I recall hearing an anecdote that may be apropos to this: one saint is crying out in prayer: "Fill me, Jesus! Fill me, Jesus!" Another praying saint, overhearing the other's prayer and knowing his careless, unrepentant ways, calls out: "Don't do it, Jesus; he leaks!" Well, maybe we all leak and we all need filling. But it's worth considering why, how, and at what rate we leak. If God actually filled us to the measure of the fullness of Christ, could our lives bear but for a few moments, hours, or days that presence without deflating from disrepair and unreadiness? Hear John’s word: Prepare the way for the Lord!

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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