Friday, March 25, 2011

The Lush Forest of Trust (2)

Yesterday I posted a short meditation on Jeremiah 17:5-8, which contrasts the cursed man (who trusts in man) and the blessed man (who trusts in God). The next verses allude to the complexity of the situation:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”
(Jer 17:9-10 ESV)

This text tells me, among other things, that these two men reside in the same heart. How can one heart be home to both trust and unbelief? (see the similar reasoning in James 3:1-12). This duplicity is one of the reasons why the heart is so deceitful and desperately sick. It reminds me not to try and see myself and my struggles in a black and white way, like “who will I be today, the cursed man or the blessed man?” (though sometimes that is a helpful question to ask). How much better to realize that both reside in me, and it’s only by grace that I ever choose the blessed path.

This also speaks loudly to God’s radical acceptance of me in Christ – that I will never be free in this life from the cursed man (my old self – Eph 4), and that the beauty of God’s love lies in the fact that Jesus died for me when all I knew was the cursed path of hating God and trusting in myself.

I say all this because it’s so easy to be discouraged that more of the “blessed” is not part of my actual experience. The same grace that transforms me from cursed to blessed is the grace that loves me where I am, both blessed and cursed. I am, as Luther so aptly said, simultaneously sinner and justified saint. Grace is mine the more I realize that my brokenness doesn’t exclude me from God’s favor; it actually puts me in a better position than the Pharisee because I begin to recognize the depth of my need. I have both Pharisee and tax collector in my heart, and Jesus accepts me as a duplicitous mess. Unless I realize this and accept it myself, I will never have the power to really change, to really grow into the blessed path.

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