Two or three times a week, I will head out for a spot to take some sunset pictures. The other day the horizon was cloudless, which does not offer much variety for photos; nevertheless, the few minutes are still enjoyable, quiet, pleasant, and reflective.
As I watched the sun settle in the cloudless sky, I began to notice more of my surroundings. Usually am watching the sun interact with the clouds, but since it was a clear blue sky, my eyes began to stray. I noticed on this mountain ridge, the small fescue (native grass) began to shine from the low sunlight. Suddenly my focus was not on the sky but on the ground surrounding me. I had wanted a brilliant sunset, with rays of sunlight piercing the clouds, but had been missing something splendid just at my feet. The sun, low in the sky, gave the fescue an iridescent look to them as if some fairies had sprinkled some phosphorescent pixie dust. I had never noticed that before.
At times in our lives, given a change in circumstances, we begin to notice things we might not have otherwise. I don’t know about you, but as I go through my days, most often I look at things that need to change regarding people, but the reality is I need to be looking at what I need to change about myself. 1Samuel 16:7
Never easy, and never fun to do the heavy lifting on our own character. It’s always been much easier for me to point out others’ faults, especially if it is someone I don’t like. Yet, sometimes, after reflection, or some friends pointing out a different perspective, I come to a place that needs some work. Thankfully His grace is ever-flowing and never-ending. Ephesians 2:8. Someone once defined grace as getting what you don’t deserve and not getting what you do deserve. I have been hearing more about grace in the last few weeks, and I don’t think we can ever hear enough.
I think of Joseph’s story in scripture, where his brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph dreamed his brothers were bowing down to him and had the arrogance to share this with them, probably while wearing his daddy’s coat of many colors. Some theologians may disagree, but I think he may have been an arrogant little punk who enjoyed his father’s favor and relished the position of reporting on his older brothers.
When I was a boy, I remember catching my older brother drinking directly from the cough syrup bottle instead of pouring it onto a spoon. I threatened to tell on him, and he responded by raising the bottle over my head as if he would pour it over me. I was ‘an arrogant little punk’ and declared in all confidence he would not dare do that. Moments later, he left the kitchen and I had cough syrup dripping down the side of my head. I can’t help but wonder if Joseph had some of the same pride and swagger toward his brothers I did toward mine. Well, Joseph suddenly had the time and a change in circumstances to reflect on his character and to think deeply about God’s grace. Genesis 37:23-24
In the last few years, I’ve needed more work than I care to admit, but I have appreciated friends pointing out some areas I still need to improve. When things begin to change, for better or worse, I still need to reflect Christ in my life. I’ve heard it said that out of a hundred people, one would read the Bible, and ninety-nine will read you. I don’t want to imagine someone basing their opinion of Christianity on my character, my behavior, or especially my thoughts. What a disaster that would be, but for His grace.
I had an opportunity to chat with a couple of homeless men a few weeks ago. They were both believers, and what struck me as we conversed for over two hours is their admission to their guilt, God’s grace toward them, and their desire to change their lives. I think the deeper the hole we are saved from, the greater our appreciation for being rescued. These men showed me what deep appreciation is. In reality, we are all in a deep hole, an abyss really, and don’t realize that. Some believe their good deeds basically out weight their bad, and they will make it into heaven. They believe the hole they are in is really nothing more than a depression in the sidewalk. They can step out of it on their own.
With the proper perspective, just the right angle of light, people can see us for who we are, deeply flawed Christians immersed in His grace. I would rather people see the flaws in me surrounded by His grace than the pretend someone who has their life together taking pictures of the perfect sunset.
In the early part of the twentieth century, a well-known London newspaper asked the notable journalist, novelist, poet, and Christian apologist G. K. Chesterson the question “What is wrong with the world?” They probably expected a lengthy reply full of insight and wisdom. Chesterson replied with two words, “I am.”