We're officially in the Rocky Mountains now, and will be for the entire summer. I spent the summer here two years ago, and driving into Colorado made all these nostalgic feelings surface that I wasn't expecting.
I'm excited about spending two and a half months in the Rockies, but honestly the last summer I spent here sucked. Mainly because God brought a ton of not-so-fun-things to the surface that I had to deal with.
So when we drove into Estes Park I was surprised to feel a rush of, "I'm so glad to be back," feelings. I don't know what it is about this place, but God weaves His work into your soul in an undeniable way.
My husband and I are helping staff a 11-week leadership training program (LT) for college students up here. Our role is to coach a small group of these college students as they meet once a week for the summer and experience community and intentional evangelism - all while growing in Christ. We also will be teaching a few workshops and doing a ton of one-on-one mentorship.
When up here last I went through the program as a student. It was life-changing in a raw way. I remember equating my spiritual walk that summer to the mountains that surround Estes Park - rocky, rough, and hard to scale, but beautiful at the summit.
Now as a newlywed who is just beginning her foray into full-time ministry, I find God has brought me back here to do more of the same. Different and deeper areas that need refining, but the same Refiner's fire that was used two summers ago.
Recently God has taught me a lot about pride. In the New Testament Jesus makes no mistake about teaching the Pharisees a thing or two about authenticity and being so full of yourself that you miss God even when He's staring at you in the face.
I feel like saying, "I struggle with pride," is something that has received a wrist-slap and a wink in today's Christian walk. While people who are open with other struggles (addictions, sexual perversions, abuse, etc.) are shunned.
From someone who has come face to face with her inner-Pharisee, let me assure you it's not pretty. I could try and put into words how God feels about it, but I think I'll just let Him speak for Himself:
When he finished that talk, a Pharisee asked him to dinner. He entered his house and sat right down at the table. The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended when he saw that Jesus didn't wash up before the meal. But the Master said to him, "I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn't the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands.
"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God's love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.
"You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You love sitting at the head table at church dinners, love preening yourselves in the radiance of public flattery. Frauds! You're just like unmarked graves: People walk over that nice, grassy surface, never suspecting the rot and corruption that is six feet under."
One of the religion scholars spoke up: "Teacher, do you realize that in saying these things you're insulting us?"
He said, "Yes, and I can be even more explicit. You're hopeless, you religion scholars! You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help.
"You're hopeless! You build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed. The tombs you build are monuments to your murdering ancestors more than to the murdered prophets. That accounts for God's Wisdom saying, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, but they'll kill them and run them off.' What it means is that every drop of righteous blood ever spilled from the time earth began until now, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was struck down between altar and sanctuary, is on your heads. Yes, it's on the bill of this generation and this generation will pay.
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars! You took the key of knowledge, but instead of unlocking doors, you locked them. You won't go in yourself, and won't let anyone else in either."
- Luke 11:37-54 (The Message)
The truth of the matter is I was more comfortable being someone like Christ described above than being the person who openly struggles with lust, alcohol, physical abuse, homosexual desires, or acute depression yet knows their need for God in it's full totality. Someone who cherishes vulnerable brokenness over approval because they now only in the place of confessing their absolute need for God is their true healing.
A dirty cup will never be cleaned unless it comes to a place where it knows it's dirty... and admits it.
I confess that up until a few months ago I had no idea of the depths of my depravity. (Nor do I still have a full knowledge. I think mainly because God is good and knows that I would never be able to handle knowing how deep the roots of sin go.)
I have rarely had to really believe that God loves me. After all, why wouldn't He? I'm a leader in my church. I'm on staff for crying out loud. I have people tell me constantly how amazing I am and how wise and how I help them in their relationship with God so much.
Sparkly on the outside - maggoty on the inside.
I'm not one of those people who thinks that God sees us as vile, heinous sinners who are hanging on by a thin, thin thread that He will snap the second we mess up. The irony lies in that pride will land you right in that kind of mentality.
I'm learning that instead of a thin thread we are resting in the mighty, wonderful, drenched with healing, scarred hands of God, and far be it from me to take a flying leap off and think I can follow Christ without needing His grace.
Lord - how can I communicate this to you? I am in a state of hopelessness because of my refusal to see how desperate I am for you. Jesus all the words I long to speak have been spoken before in practiced and feigned holy humility and therefore feel tainted to use now.
"Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I've been;
my sins are staring me down.
You're the One I've violated, and you've seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I've been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.
Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice.
Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem's broken-down walls.
Then you'll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls they can heave onto your altar!" - Psalm 51 (The Message)
Make this true in my life, Lord Jesus. Amen.