Monday, April 15, 2013

Throwing Rocks

When I was a kid, I lived out in the country.  I didn’t really have a lot of other kids to play with, but there were two particular playmates that I will never forget because these two kids left a mark on my heart.

Brother and sister, a couple of years younger than me, they were a little bit of a neighborhood enigma.  Their family moved into the ‘big’ house on my tired country road, the one with the terraced front yard and cool modern staircase, the one brick dot on a map of trailers and old farmhouses.  They didn’t live there long, maybe a year, and they didn’t go to public school.  I can’t tell you one thing about their parents, not one single thing- what they looked like, where they worked- nothing except that they were religious.  

We, however, were not.  We went to church for weddings and funerals.  We said grace at Thanksgiving.  We breezed past Jesus on the way to see Santa Claus, but that’s about it. 

One good thing, though, about my churchless upbringing is that The Hymnbook for Christian Worship was totally lost on me.  As a child, this ignorance would nearly condemn me, but today I love traditional hymns.  They're new to me.  Their simple worship makes my striving heart stand down.  This is one of my favorites:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Man, I feel those words in my soul.  Me - made right with the One who set the sun in the sky, bathed in the balm of merciful love and made whole - all of it done amidst the spite of 6 year old Pharisees and their misguided exhortations. 

Back then, I didn’t know church songs, didn’t know Bible stories, didn’t know about rainbows or talking donkeys or the belly of any fish; and I certainly didn’t know about the drenching grace of a savior who loves me.

I wasn’t about to learn it from these kids either.

One summer afternoon, they decided to evangelize me.  Right there at the end of my dusty driveway, two barefoot prophets ate Squirrel Nut Zippers and preached hell-fire and damnation to a freckle-faced little sinner.

“Is your dad a Christian?  Our dad says you’re not Christians.”

“Um, yeah, my dad’s a Christian.”

“Are you saved?”

“I don’t know.  I guess so.”

“If you had Jesus in your heart, you would know it.  Do you go to church?”

“No, we don’t go to church.”

“Why don't you go to church?  Do you even know the words to Amazing Grace?”


“Well, then you're not a Christian.  You need to go to church and get saved.  If you don’t repent, you’ll go to hell.”

Well, I let them know exactly how un-sanctified I was with a few choice words about shutting up and kissing my butt, surely heathen words if ever I’ve said any.  Then I ran home.  And they threw rocks at me.

Yep.  They stoned me because I didn’t know grace.

30-some odd years later, I know that if I were the only person on Earth who couldn’t sing Amazing Grace, Jesus still would have died for me.  No rejection I could suffer was not first suffered by him.  I know that he KNOWS and it’s ok.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3
Sadly, though, some lessons are too soon forgotten.

I’m still a freckle-faced sinner, but now all grown up and full of myself in Jesus’ name.  I play nice with the other mommies at the park until it comes to the one who can’t sing grace - you know the one, twice divorced with wild kids and a worn out heart.  When it comes to that mom, I'm likely as not to eat up all my mercy like sticky, sweet candy and throw rocks at her instead.  

It lays my heart open raw to think of some of the hurt I’ve judged into being.  Some things I can go back and apologize for.  Some things I can fix.  But some things are too far gone.

Jesus please fix the hearts I’ve broken and bind up their wounds too.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

When we put our sins at the foot of the cross, it’s not just for our own atonement.  We give them to Jesus so he can make all things right.  All things.  

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

He still claims me.  He pries open my self-righteous fists and lets the rocks fall to the ground.  And then he washes my dirty hands clean.

I can clean the mud you sling just as surely as I have cleaned you, He says.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.