November 16, 2009
The Gospel that saved my own soul, and that of so many others, was and is in many ways an "Ugly" Gospel. In other words, it shoved some stuff into my reality that I simply didn't appreciate or want there, initially. The stuff wasn't pretty. And it just didn't fit well in the scenes of my spiritual ideals.
I much preferred the Beautiful Gospel - the Gospel of that magnificent Cross abd that incomprehensible Resurrection. I am well aware that there is a Beautiful Gospel of forgiveness, and grace, and compassion, and mercy. But, I simply have never been able to separate this Beautiful Gospel from the realities of the Ugly Gospel.
For example, when I first encountered Christ through the Beautiful Gospel, the Ugly Gospel insisted on telling me that I was broken. What a hard pill to swallow. Nevertheless, it demanded that I admit to my own dark heart, and to the mess that I had made of my life. I didn't like that. But I could not actually deny that it was all true.
It was also this Ugly Gospel that told me that I could no longer direct my own life, sometimes even in the details. And I'm not the only one who has encountered this brazen and unapologetic insistence. All who encounter Christ encounter this same "unreasonable" demand.
What human being would ever want to give up their personal sovereignty? Who would ever be willing to surrender their hopes, their dreams, and their personal destiny to someone else? Well, wait. I guess - I would. And so would many others like me.
We are those who have simply realized our own limitations. We have seen our vulnerabilities. We understand the treacheries, the vicious randomness, and the unwieldiness of life. We are those who want a new destiny that works not only for now, but for later. We are those who have recognized our own frailty and our need of a security that is based in someone bigger than ourselves.
So, we have come to embrace this non-negotiable tenet of the Ugly Gospel that says we must completely humble ourselves before God by surrendering our personal sovereignty. But what most of us were not prepared for was the wonderful, elevating effect of this decision. Come to find out, the way up is down. The way to rise is to bow. What a wonderful surprise to find victory through surrender. It all seemed kind of ugly at first - but now - not so much.
Finally, this Ugly Gospel demanded that I must make a personal investment - and DAILY! of all things. I was perfectly happy with the gospel that said, "It's all on Jesus, there is nothing for you to do." But oh no, this Ugly Gospel just had to keep popping up with this serious personal investment idea. "Why?!" I thought. And then one day I got an answer...
"Because a vital relationship grows out of shared days, not occasional desperate moments. And your salvation is based only in a vital relationship with Me." Well, it wasn't really what I wanted to hear. But, as usual the Ugly Gospel didn't give me much choice. One thing about the homly Gospel, it can really torture your ears with the ring of truth.
So, here we go down the road of real investment. Obviously, this makes for an experience that is a good bit more complicated than the easier versions. But I have to say, What a hoot! after all.
To share with my Savior, the days of struggle, of laughter, of scrapping over the issues, of crying together, of sorting through the complexities of life has become my greatest pleasure.
And now, after a million conversations, tender moments, and deep insights; after a few momentary disagreements, and countless rescues of all sorts, lo and behold it's true! Relationship does grow out of many intimate days. And the reality of salvation grows out of that "process."
Oh I know. The idea of salvation as a process rather than just a momentary decision is a little hard to take for some. I guess that's part of the Ugly Gospel too. It demands that God be completely free to integrate Himself into all that you are - every day, and that you invest yourself in that long process.
But, be that as it may, by now, you probably see my dilemma. My Ugly Gospel is all mixed up with my Beautiful Gospel. So now, I can no longer tell the difference between the two. What is a boy to do?