The earth spins, the seasons turn, the arctic tern traverses the globe only to return to its northern nest. What goes up must come down. What goes around comes back to bite you. It seems like we all move in circles. I find myself in the same pit again, falling back into the same mental ruts, the same wrongs, the same left turns. I am caught up with myself again. I wish I could escape, but I am writing about myself again, in hopes that in turning inward I see myself for what I am.
All it took was the appearance of a friend. He was decorated with awards and celebrated by friends. His pen was gilded, and his countenance charming, unassuming, even humble. He had kind eyes, the kind that drew people to you, to support you and cheer you on. He loved the Lord, effortlessly, it seemed. He wrote – various things – all of them beautiful. He was consistently published, he was accomplished, he was something, and I was not. Insignificance, and fear, was my first reaction. How quickly shame follows fear!
First, the shame that I had failed to celebrate what is worthy of celebration, in a selfish, petulant reluctance to acknowledge what was good, as if to speak its goodness would somehow confirm my obscurity, and plunge me further into the pit of insignificance. Second, the shame of deepening failure, that not only have I failed to be a worthy person, I have also failed to be a decent person. Third, the worst of all, the shame of sin – since when did I start caring again about my status, my success, my decorations, my esteem? I thought I had left that all behind, behind the cross, behind the hill of Calvary. How did I walk in a circle, or perhaps I never left? Where was the freedom to live in the only unfailing love, before which all accolades are mere tinsel and chaff?
Shame upon shame. Fear upon fear. Alternating like blades of a turbine, catching the wind, the rotor spins around and around, churning my soul. How small do I feel! Like a child once again, like a little boy clutching at the hem of his father’s shirt. Things go in circles. The windmill turns, the sun sets and rises again, the wheels on the bus go round and round, little children come home. I come back to Calvary.
I confessed that I envy the successful, the disciplined, the focused, the esteemed. I confessed that I am have loved other crowns. I confessed that I want to be loved and praised by people, and have my worked admired. I confessed that I have distrusted God and feared wasting my time, wasting my talents, wasting my resources. I confessed that I have acted shamefully. I asked for forgiveness.
The path ahead is narrow, it falls off on either side. On one side, the fall is pride. How many things could I boast in, if I do not boast in the cross? If I work and strive and persist and succeed – and fail to do so all in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the Kingdom, what do I succeed in but sin? On the other side, the fall is indolence and despair. Should I not strive, just because I know I am loved? I will strive all the more, I will work much harder, I will sacrifice more and I will better discipline myself, because I know I am loved, because I know my master approves of me. Oh how I long for your praise, Lord, oh how I long for your blessing, oh how I long to be obedient to you. Refine me, purify me, let my work pass through the fire and into the Kingdom.
One thing I know: things go in circles. The Father knows what I need. The path ahead leads back to the cross.
I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled, and died for me
I see his wounds, his hands, his feet,
My savior on, that cursed tree.
My wealth is in the cross
There’s nothing more I want
Than just to know His love
My heart is set on Christ
And I will count all else as loss
The greatest of my crowns
Mean nothing to me now
For I counted up the cost
And all my wealth is in the cross