No Apology Apologetic

Yesterday a Facebook memory pop-up showed a quote I’d posted several years ago by world renowned Christian Apologetic, Ravi Zacharias. He was one that encouraged and challenged me in my faith and the many natural (and also the not-so-natural-OCD-induced) doubts that arise. To hear the news of his exposed dark secrets was startling and heavy. It felt so disappointing and not so much because I expected perfection as a leader, but because I feel betrayed by someone that I thought was living a challenging life while holding tightly to the grace of God. He never gave me a sneaky, prosperity gospel feel. He seemed humble. Little did many people know, he was covered in darkness and temptation. Did he feel remorse, guilt, shame? Who knows. He died before making any sort of confession or repentance. You may not be one that believes in this sort of thing, but I feel that evil is permeating through this world and this is a prime example. Evil oozes and creeps about much like a broken jar of molasses.

When a public failure occurs from a Christian, it tends to give doubtful people more ammo to disregard any inkling of curiosity about the faith in Christ. I certainly don’t blame that tendency. It’s often how I feel when heartache occurs through cancer, accidents, etc. When a well-known, often mocked leader of the faith fails in tacky ways, I feel such an annoyance that they’re damaging the reputation of the core of the Gospel; the truth that we are all failing on a daily basis in some way or another, that we are hopeless without grace, and that Jesus Christ provides that love and mercy at the start of every day for those that faithfully trust in Him. That trust may look like a drunk donkey or a toddler just learning to walk, but He loves us no matter what. When Ravi’s reputation crashed and burned, it felt different, like a punch in the gut; similar to how I felt when our beloved Cliff Huxtable, AKA Bill Cosby, fell from his lovable spot in America’s hearts.

Why am I even writing about this disappointment? I don’t know. I don’t do it in defense of anyone or the faith to which I’m clinging. I reckon it’s just a way to remind us that pain, failure, temptations, bad habits, and sadness are inevitable on this side of heaven. It’s a fact. It’s a reminder of the benefit of honest friendships, accountability from our trusted relationships, and hopefully, a opportunity to remember that we can share our failures and temptations in those safe, loving spaces. I’m praying right now that you, dear reader, find such a space.

“While it is fair to call out Christians for hypocrisy, the hypocrisy in no way negates Christianity, but rather establishes it. In the same way that it would make zero sense to call Beethoven a substandard composer because a six-year-old plays a Beethoven piece sloppily and out of tune at a piano recital, it makes zero sense to call Jesus a substandard Savior because his followers imitate him poorly.” – Scott Sauls, A Gentle Answer

Cry Baby

Last week I had the privilege of presenting the 8th grade awards to my students that are graduating and moving on to high school. As is the case with most graduations, especially at a small school, there are adorable and sentimental photos put together in a video with tender music. I knew this was coming and I tend to get a bit choked up over things like this, even if I’ve never seen the kid in my life. One of the songs chosen was the “I may need to go in the corner and ugly cry” song by Nicole Nordeman called Slow Down, and it’s been sweeping social media to make all mothers everywhere cry and hug their kids. So, there I went…thinking about my sweet children (one who had just earned his awards for 2nd grade and moving on to be a big 3rd grader), feeling the tears, and trying to hush them because, guess what? I was up next to speak!

I was not expecting to cry even a little bit as I presented these awards. It was my first year teaching at this school and there were many others who have been there to watch these great kids grow from tiny toddlers to teenagers. I expected tears from them for sure, but I thought I’d be safe! As I got to the end of the awards, I reinforced what a teacher in the elementary school had shared in her awards presentation, and that was the truth that we are not able to be perfect. We will make mistakes and what served as an extra special reminder for my students is that they may not be able to have perfection with their grades. I then began to share one of my favorite bible verses from Zephaniah 3:17 that says: 

The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.

As soon as I started reading it, I had a great deal of difficulty getting the words out over my crying and after reflecting on it, I think it was because I felt as though I were really reading it to my own heart; to know that He feels that way about me, too. I reminded those kids (and myself it seems) that He is proud of them and that they are a delight to Him. 

Sometimes (quite often really), I struggle with believing He finds joy in me and is proud of me. I tend to beat up on myself more than I’d like and feel like a disappointment, but I do try to work on it. My counselor has shared that most mornings he wakes up and says to God, “I love you, too”. Just saying that can reinforce what is true about the way God views his children; that He loves us very much. Verses like the one mentioned above are gentle, sweet reminders that He loves us despite our inability to do everything right. Here’s another one that encourages me:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:11-14

The last line is my favorite. It’s important to remember that we are big, fat sinners and have absolutely no shot at being perfect, but He knows that. He has compassion on us and knows we can’t help it. He despises sin, but doesn’t despise us. That doesn’t mean he gives us free reign or encourages us to YOLO with our sin and not repent and confess it. It’s encouraging to know that He is pleased when I aim to glorify Him with my actions, but when I don’t and then I recognize that, He’s not shaking His head in shame or disappointment. I’d like to think He’s lifting my chin in tenderness. So, although I feel a bit embarrassed that I lost my ability to keep it together on stage in front of the audience, it was a sweeping reminder to me that we are all loved way more than we can comprehend. I hope I can keep reminding myself of this when I really need to hear it. It blows my mind really and that can tap dance in doubt some over how crazy it seems that each tiny little human matters to Him. But, that’s what faith is. It’s trusting in something much bigger than us and holding tight to His promises.