We Are the Hem of His Garment

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“Having heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His robe. For she said, ‘If I can just touch His robes, I’ll be made well!'”

Mark 5:27-28 (HCSB)

I had a friend of mine share this scripture on Facebook yesterday (thanks, Kyla!), and I was struck by something that I never had even considered before. This woman was changed by an encounter with Jesus Christ, but this was no ordinary encounter. She had such faith in Jesus, that she believed that merely touching His robe might heal her.

And, of course, she was right.

But here’s the thing. What struck me is that she didn’t have to touch JESUS HIMSELF. She just touched something that was in CONTACT with Him.

Isn’t that US as Christians? Aren’t we the hem of his garment–constantly in contact (or we should be) with Him?

And shouldn’t people who we interact with on a daily basis be fundamentally changed through their contact with us, just as this woman was by touching the robe that Jesus wore?

If not, does that mean our connection to the Savior needs to be repaired, reinstated, or recharged?

The Commedia dell’Arte of My Church Persona


I learned a great deal from my high school drama teacher, Kathy Breeden. Boistrous, delightful, and sometimes fear-inducing (“Commit!!!”), she was a shining beacon at Chillicothe High School. Aside from being a wonderful Christian woman, she also had an unbelievable command of the history and traditions of the theatre. We spent much of the year in “Drama I” learning about the Greek and Roman roots of modern day theatre. Some of the concepts I learned from her that continue to endure in my mind are:

  • Hamartia is the Greek word for a “fatal flaw.” Generally protagonists in tragedies have a hamartia.
  • Hubris is the Greek word for extreme pride. In many cases, in a Greek tragedy, the protagonist’s hamartia is hubris.
  • Deus ex machina, or “God from the machine,” was a device at the end of some Greek plays where something “miraculous” would happen to “save the day.” Literally,  in some cases, a Greek god would descend to the stage from a crane-like machine and resolve the plot of the play.

English: Commedia dell'arte masks

In addition to these Greek theatrical terms, we also learned about Commedia dell’Arte. Obviously, you can do a quick Google or Wikipedia search and find out more about what Commedia dell’Arte is, but the nutshell version is that it was a primarily Italian theatrical motif that featured a great deal of improvisational humor that was performed by sometimes masked performers who represented caricatured characters. For instance, there would be a “bumbling elderly man,” “typically overblown heroic males,” and “crafty, conniving servants.”

The actors in a Commedia dell’Arte troupe had to be very versatile, able to play any of the stereotypical roles with equal adeptness.

My Christian “walk” had become a one-man Commedia dell’Arte (of sorts) and I had become an extremely versatile “player.” Did our church need someone to serve in the hospitality ministry? I just needed to don my hospitality mask and play the hospitable servant. Did our church need someone to go on mission to Panama? I could whip out the missionary mask and play the part of the humble, evangelical missionary. Did our church need someone to teach a class on Wednesday nights? Hold on…let me just dig out the teacher mask and play the part of the wise teacher who knows the Bible forwards and backwards–well, forwards at least.

Thirty years of experience playing the part of dutiful Christian. That’s what I had. And you better believe that the longer it went on, the degree of difficulty increased as well. I was a “chameleon,” changing my color when the situation called for it. I could transform at the drop of a hat into whatever was needed.

And boy, was I good at it.

Funny thing about my little private Commedia dell’Arte…it was neither comedy, nor art. In retrospect it was despicable. Jesus tell the church in Laodicea:

 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. —Revelation 3:15-16 (HCSB)

I don’t know about you, but that is one of the straight-up freakiest verses in the Bible.  I mean, think about it. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, says that if we straddle the fence and try to be “lukewarm” or indifferent instead of on fire or cold towards Him, he’s going to vomit us out of His mouth.

Truth was, during that 30-year stretch I went from warm to lukewarm to cool-ish to cold, all while maintaining an “on fire for Jesus” exterior. But no matter how talented a deceiver I was, everything would eventually collapse under the weight of all the lies and trickery I had devised.

And eventually, it did…

Keep coming back as I detail more of my journey from someone with a gleaming “religious resume” to someone who fell into the arms of the Savior, exposing my long period of deceit.

“Meteor Shower” by Owl City

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Yes, that’s right. I’m posting an Owl City song on “The REboot” journal. For those of you who don’t know, Adam Young, the man behind Owl City, is a Christian, and while he doesn’t necessarily write a lot of songs with overt Christ-centered messages in them, he does record some on occasion. And, along with my posting of 2 Corinthians 5:17 today, this song follows the theme perfectly of a “new creation in Christ.”

The Terrifying Aesthetic of Grace


The concept of “grace” is something—in all my academic splendor—I can’t really wrap my head around. It certainly is not something I come by naturally. I rarely find myself tending towards treating others with grace as a matter of habit or instinct.

Perhaps I was born without a “grace gene,” which would explain my inability to fully comprehend it. I don’t know. Or maybe everyone else in the world finds it as perplexing as I do.

I’ve heard it explained many times, and frequently, those explanations satisfy the turmoil in my brain when it comes to understanding grace. My favorite definition is that, while “mercy” is being saved from a punishment we do deserve, “grace” is receiving something (good) that we don’t deserve.

Grace has a certain appeal on a conscious, intellectual level. I mean, who doesn’t want to receive a gift that they never earned? Heck, I love that kind of stuff. When friends offer to pay for a meal for no particular reason other than “because they want to,” I eat that stuff up (pun intended).

But when we allow grace to sink down into the fertile soil of the soul, there is a mortifying flip-side to grace. Deep within ourselves, we suspect that we are deserving of some form of punishment for all the bad that we do. We can’t help ourselves (literally). The road we’ve traveled to get where we are today is marred by horrifying lapses in judgment, missteps of the grandest kind, and repetitive sins that defy any rational explanation. As Paul said in Romans 7:24a: “What a wretched man I am!”

But amazing grace saved a wretch like me. And while this makes for a “sweet sounding” verse, it is shocking and a bit terror-inducing.

Why, you might ask?

Because grace of that magnitude requires a response. Grace forces a crossroads point in life multiple times over.

First, in recognizing the grace of Jesus Christ, we are forced with a decision to accept it or reject it. Fortunately, this is not a “one and done” type of decision, and those who have chosen to reject the grace of Jesus can, at any time before death, change and choose to accept it. Of course, the unpredictability of life makes that a bit of a gamble, one whose consequences stretch over the never-ending continuum of Eternity.

Second, upon accepting the gracious, free gift of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, we are faced with a powerful call to action. Over and over in the Bible, after people’s lives were radically changed when their paths intersected with Jesus Christ, we find them subsequently running through the streets to proclaim their encounter with the Son of God. When our lives collide with incomparable beauty of grace, our reaction should be similar.

But that’s scary, isn’t it?

The grace of God is one of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful spiritual truths in the Universe. God’s love for us prompted Him to extend grace to billions of people who could not possibly do anything to deserve it, all through the undeserved suffering of His own Son.

But the flip-side of the beauty is the terrifying aesthetic of grace—a horrifying and weighty responsibility that comes with that grace.

We now carry that grace within us, and we are responsible for sharing it and extending it to others, neither of which is easy.

But it is truth, and truth is rarely easy to swallow.

So, I stand before you (digitally speaking) and share with you, throughout the course of this journal, my story. It is my responsibility to share. I am motivated to share. I am held accountable to share. And parts of my story are ugly, shameful, and downright disgusting.

Scary?

Yes.

Necessary?

Of course.

It’s the terrifying aesthetic of a life that has accepted the gift of grace.

Dealing with a Crack Problem


I’m not an overly emotional guy. I’m really not.

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How can you NOT love those little smiles?

As horrible a daddy as this makes me, I didn’t cry when my kids were born. Don’t get me wrong; I was absolutely overjoyed, but I didn’t cry. I’ve had male friends who cried at their own weddings. I cannot count myself among them. I mean, I love my wife, and I was overwhelmed with boundless joy when we were married. But I didn’t cry.

That’s just not me.

(To be fair, I DO cry at funerals of loved ones. Pretty sure anyone who doesn’t is a hollow shell of a person.)

My wife is exactly the opposite. She cries at Jell-O commercials—even when she’s not pregnant. If there’s a heart-string a marketing agency is trying to pull, chances are my wife has it.

We make a pretty good team, you know. She’s the highly emotional sentimental, and I’m the stoic.

Funny people, stoics. It’s not that we don’t have feelings, per se. It’s just that we like to “stuff ’em.” (At this point, Seinfeld fans can utter the line, “You can stuff your sorries in a sack, mister.”)

But every once in a while, the cracks can form in the stoic’s stony emotional exterior.

***

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The church in Cuernavaca, Panama.

I went to Panama in 2009 and 2010. The first year, we went to the Darien Jungle near the border with Colombia to a little village called Yaviza. While the village had a few amenities of a modern city, for the most part it was quite primitive.

However, nothing could quite prepare me for the summer of 2010, when we ventured into the mountainous region that was home to the Ngobe people. When I say these people had almost nothing, it’s not an exaggeration. These people have almost N-O-T-H-I-N-G. And yet, they live their lives, relatively content. And when they get together to worship Jesus, there’s nothing like it.

On the first full day we were there, we were beginning to set up for a week of ministry. My wife was getting some things ready for the women of the village, and in walked a short woman—well, I say woman, but she was more like a girl of 14 or 15 years of age—with her baby. She told us that she was from a neighboring village and that she’d heard we were coming. She hiked the hour or so with her infant child in tow just to spend some time with us.

Crrrrack.

There have been a handful of times at CrossRidge Church when someone has come forward during the invitation with such a strong urge for salvation that they pray to receive Christ with one of our ministers, and then want to make it public by immediately being baptized. One Sunday in particularly, we had nearly a dozen impromptu baptisms in one service as the Spirit moved in tremendous power.

Crrrrrrrrrack.

My daughter, Eleanor, was baptized about six months ago after her profession of faith at Vacation Bible School. Pastor Marc Farnell baptized her as her mother and I watched with great elation.

Crrrrrrrrack!

You see, in spite of the fact that I had struggled with doubt and a horribly disconnected feeling from Christ, whom I professed as my Savior, and in spite of the fact that I was quite adept at putting on a pretty steely facade, moments did present themselves where I felt small cracks in the stone wall that guarded my hardened heart.

It was those times that I would feel a tremendous conviction that something was fundamentally amiss. But in every one of those cases—and many others—I was able to apply a bit of existential spackle and move on with my life.

And the deception would continue, until…

***

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Eventually, masks get old and crack…

…I cried in the car last Wednesday (don’t worry, I’ve already mailed back my man-card to the Texas Bureau of Masculine Affairs for that admission). My wife and I were driving back from an appointment. My physical body was oppressed by the sleep I was losing over the heaviness in my spirit—the cause of which was the increasingly apparent realization that my relationship with Jesus Christ was at best fouled up and lying in complete shambles, and at worst, completely non-existent.

During a conversation on our drive back home, I felt I could hold it no longer. Tears collected at the corners of my eyes, and when I was able to gain enough composure, I just blurted it out.

To say that my wife was shocked would perhaps be one of the great understatements of all time. And yet, hidden in her countenance was something I wasn’t quite able to put my finger on. Then she said it:

“I’ve been praying for something like this for so long.”

Apparently, with her tremendous gift for discernment, she had sensed a deep heaviness in my soul, and had been praying for God to help me get it worked out.

Crrrrrrrack. Crrrrrumble. If my heart had been ancient Jericho at that moment, then my wife’s words were Joshua and the nation of Israel marching with their trumpets blaring.

***

My wife would be the first to tell you that prayer is a worthwhile pursuit. I’m not sure she can remember exactly how long she has been praying for me, but it’s been quite some time. And her patience and perseverance in her petition to the Lord finally paid off.

So, the take-home point is this: if you are praying for someone’s salvation, don’t ever ever ever EVER give up. You never know when the result of those prayers will begin to form a crack in the walls of stubbornness, pride, and indifference in the lives of those you pray for.

“Pray without ceasing.” —1 Thess 5:17 (NASB)