There are 2 benchmark events in my life that confirmed something I had tried to keep quiet, crammed into the back of my mind for years, but now must admit: I am getting old.
The first came unexpectedly when Barb and I were driving down the highway with the sun to my side, perfectly silhouetting my profile to Barb. Suddenly she started laughing. Actually it started as a chuckle, then escalated into a laugh, and suddenly I realized she was laughing AT me.
"Honey, I don't want to be cruel, but you have a hair sticking straight up on the tip of your nose", she managed through her giggles. I thought no big deal, what harm is a little "peach fuzz", I am a mammal after all. That image was quickly shattered by her reply, trying to be as gentle as possible: "No honey, you look like a Rhinoceros." Horrified, I gently brought my right index finger to hover over the top of my nose and sure enough, like some weed that had escaped the chopping blade, stood a hair straight and tall.
To me I had a giant redwood on the tip of my nose. I forget where we were going but it was a public meeting, and suddenly I felt like a teenager just before a date and a giant pimple suddenly pops up for all to see.
The second event was when I was getting my haircut - a lady named Viva is where Chris and I go to get our haircuts here in town. She is always kind to Chris, who loves her car magazines in the waiting area, and she always allows him to take one home. When my haircut was nearly complete, Viva asked:
"Would you like me to trim your eyebrows?"
That did it. I am now officially old. Rhino hairs, eyebrows needing trimmed like an overgrown yard, the last facade of telling myself I was still young crumbled like a house of cards. What's next, ear hairs? Nope, too late, I'd been dealing with those for years. I am old!
OK John, now that I'm grossed out, where are you going with this?
I'm 57 as I write this. I've known the Father and Lord since I was 16. When I was 16 it seemed like the highway of holiness was an 8 lane super highway with rubber guard rails - and I wandered at times from one side to the other of that super highway of grace. Today, forty plus years later, it seems the highway of holiness is a footpath on a high mountain ridge with 1,000 foot (304m) drops on both sides.
The major character issues were worked out long ago, but the fine tuning never stops. Like hair popping up in places I don't think hair should grow, the Father is always revealing something growing in my heart for me to tame, shave off, or pluck out by the roots. Like rhino hair they are minor things that usually only He and I would notice (and Barb too for some reason, lol), but tiny as they are, once pointed out they get my full attention and seem SO huge.
About that 8 lane superhighway with rubber guard rails
I shared last week that in context, 'taking up your cross' according to Jesus, is putting to death man's thoughts in favor of thinking God's thoughts about a given person or situation. Taking up your cross is not a hardship or pressure of circumstances; rather it is the killing of old thoughts in favor of making God's thoughts your own.
What are the first earth-thoughts after a person is born again and venturing on that 8 lane superhighway of grace that should be killed in favor of thinking God's thoughts? The earth-thoughts are "No one loves me unconditionally just as I am" and replaced with the revelation from the Father you are unconditionally loved, and He has a purpose fueled by grace for your life.
IF a Christian goes on to other revelations BEFORE knowing by revelation direct from Him that they are unconditionally loved, they will have a flawed foundation and will often become performance based always trying to please the Ogre God in the sky, rather than grace based walking in peace with their Father.
But many Christians are like a man who focuses on his own spiritual 'rhino hair'
...while forgetting the larger need to shave their face in the morning. They focus on one doctrine after the other to the point their theology is as confused as my eyebrows growing all over the place, while forgetting the larger need to comb their hair. They major on the minor things so that all they see is the minor, and are blind to the major things.
When I was born again and then Spirit-filled in the charismatic renewal of the 1970's, there were as many teachings and goofy manifestations of the Spirit (so called) you could ever want. As a result, many people became 'specialists' in things like personal prophecy, deliverance, shepherding others, inner healing, etc.
But in each case of people that I knew personally, they had not slowed down long enough to kill their thoughts of self-dislike or insecurities to replace those thoughts with the Father's thoughts about them.
They never received that revelation before skipping ahead to 'deep' things. As a result we now have millions of Christians who don't know their Father, yet can tell you all about their specific field of spiritual study - inner healing, Messianic, end times - pick a teaching and they know THAT but not the Father, at least not well.
They need to slow down, and with all their heart get to know the Father by focusing on Him and talking to Him, allowing His revelation of His great love to become so real it replaces their own thoughts of themselves.
For me, after my dad left when I was 11, telling us "I'm divorcing your mother and I'm divorcing you kids. There won't be any birthdays, holiday, ball games, nothing.", any healthy love of self I had wilted like newly planted sapling in the heat of summer.
By the time I was 16 and my friend Janny told me she knew the God behind the Sunday morning liturgy, I didn't love myself, didn't think I'd be good at anything, didn't care about school or life. I entered and then dropped out of everything because I just didn't care anymore about them or myself any longer.
The highest command is to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. It is impossible to love your neighbor as yourself if you don't love yourself. That means loving yourself because you are unconditionally loved is essential to growing in Christ.
These are often the first thoughts a person must put to death on their own personal cross:
I hate myself, I am unworthy, I have no purpose, no one loves me unconditionally, God loves me but doesn't like me. It took me about a year of constant time with the Father, study in the Word looking for every instance in the New Testament of the Father being the Source of Love with a Plan, before His thoughts about me became my thoughts. I did it by every time my thoughts would turn inward against myself, I answered right back with what I knew the Father had said about me and thought about me.
That battle to crucify those thoughts required (for me anyway) the whole width of that 8 lane super highway. Those thoughts did not go easily into the night, but I kept coming back to scriptures to force myself to think God's thoughts, and caught myself each time I started to think how I hated myself. Here is one passage that helped kill my earth thoughts on that cross:
"For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He would give you...to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in your inner man...that you being rooted and grounded in (unconditional, agape') love may be able to comprehend with all the saints the width, length, depth and height and to know the love of Christ which is beyond knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
You must be "rooted and grounded in unconditional love" BEFORE you can know that which is beyond knowing by natural means, the love of Christ. IF you know that love you can be filled with all the fullness of God! Isn't that what we want, to have all we can have of Him?!
And I'll pick it up there next week, until then, blessings,