Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them,
the Lord, who remains faithful forever.
He upholds the causes of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free.
I have a problem.
A big one.
A really big one.
It is, as Steve Moakler so eloquently sings, to do with my crooked heart.
I’m just trying to walk a straight line with a crooked heart inside. I don’t do what I want to, but I want to all the time.
I think we’ve all got one, a crooked heart that is.
And a problem. Because of it.
We know the good we should do, the good that sometimes burns within us to be done, the good that convicts us when we read news stories, or hear real stories, or have something placed directly in front of our eyes… But yet we somehow just, can’t, quite, get, around, to, doing, it.
We have this Almighty God, who is moved by the stories and the brokenness of the poor and the oppressed and excluded. He who is the Maker of everything. He who holds all things together. He who is both Creator and Redeemer.
He whose eternal-fire-blazing-heart longs to set people free and raise the broken from the forgotten places.
And me? Well, my fallen-solid-broken-crooked-heart prevents me so, so often from truly engaging with other people.
Or as Jesus put it, ‘My neighbour’.
Not just the ones I like, the ones who I choose to live next door to and the ones whose behaviour I approve of.
But the ones who are far away, the ones who are unknown, and sometimes unlikeable, and whose behaviour I often just can’t stomach.
Feeling uncomfortable yet? Because I am.
You know, a couple of weeks ago I realised something.
I’m pretty weak.
I’m talking about physically for a moment.
A few years ago I had really good upper body strength for a tiny-girl and could actually lift… stuff. But now, after 9 months of living in Japan and doing no more than running a couple of times a week, I’m a weedy-weakling-who-struggles-to-carry-her-own-Taylor-through-town.
My fitness is okay. But my strength, is pathetic.
So I had this realisation, and decided that I should probably do something about it before my muscles gave up the ghost completely and I actually struggled to lift my venti-Starbucks-each-day (first-world-problems).
My solution? To reintegrate press-ups into my daily routine. Not the weedy-girly-press-ups, but the real-life-man-press-ups that I used to be able to do about 50 of no problem.
Mmmm… How do I say this?
I can’t do 50 anymore.
In fact, two weeks ago, I am ashamed to admit that I struggled to do 10 press-ups.
It. Was. So. Incredibly. Painful.
For my body. For my pride. For everything.
But I started with 10. Every day. And then 20. Every day. And now… It’s getting a bit better.
So that’s my body.
My crooked heart is a way bigger problem.
And sometimes it hits me suddenly that my spiritual strength is… Pretty pathetic. Now please understand me. I’m all for grace. I’m putting my whole future on the fact that grace is real and true and everything, and I’m confident that Jesus loves me and is moved by me, and us, even in our weakness.
But, that doesn’t justify my laziness. It doesn’t justify our deliberate laziness.
Grace is costly stuff.
So for me, it often looks a bit like this.
I’d rather have mindless-fun with my friends than have meaningful-conversations with my friends (I don’t, but the way, think either is mutually exclusive ;)).
I’m more moved by watching ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ than I am by the stories of real-life young people.
In fact, sometimes I’d rather watch movies than pray.
I mean, I considered that it was possible I got more excited about the new Avengers movie than a prayer meeting.
I’d rather spend my money on clothes than helping the poor.
I’m very-regularly more concerned with dwelling on my own regrets, or selfish-hopes, or ‘stuff’ than I am thinking about other people.
Sometimes I’d rather worry about anything at all, rather than trust the God who has already made all the promises.
I consider the appearance of my face more than the appearance of my heart.
I find it easier to value temporary things over eternal things.
I want to live for Jesus but I also want to have enough money, a comfortable house, a stable job, a pension, and for everyone to like me all the time.
So I have a problem.
And I’m a hypocrite.
This blog is entitled wrongly. I’m speaking to myself as much as I am you.
We have a problem, this humanity of ours.
Maybe for you it looks different. Maybe you love baseball and beer more than Jesus. Maybe you find your happiness in bars. Or your identity in relationships. Maybe you want to spend your money on fast cars and new technology. Maybe you care more about having a beautiful house than the people who will come in and unbeautify it. Maybe you would rather video-game away your days than speak to Holy Spirit and consider the plight of the poor… Maybe, maybe, maybe 110 different things…
How do I say this?
It’s not okay if we do nothing.
Like, not-just-a-little-bit-not-okay, but darn-flipping-completely-not-okay-in-any-sense-of-the-word.
Like, can you pray that Holy Spirit takes the book of James and actually slaps both you and I around the head with it with enough force to actually knock us out of our complacency, and our sinfulness and our preoccupation with all the wrong things.
And means we do something tangible with this faith of ours.
That we pray, that we give, that we speak, that we campaign, that we go, that we support-those-who’ve-gone, that we are obedient to whatever piece of the puzzle God is asking us to slot into.
I read an article right before I went to sleep last night. It was about teenage girls being prostituted in Tokyo.
One of them was quoted as saying, ‘I was so depressed at the time that I didn’t mind (being raped) if that’s what a guy needed me for.’
Those words haunted my dreams last night.
Because I can put faces to those quotes. Like the girl who told me last month that she was worthless already so selling herself would be no big deal. Like the friend who told me that every day she wrestles with wanting to die. Like the young man who told me his life was nothing but too busy and too bitter and that he had no hope for the future. Like the kid I met who hated herself so much she tried to slit her own throat.
It’s not okay that we do nothing.
It’s not okay that we pretend these individuals don’t exist.
Because behind all the shocking-for-a-moment statistics, are the shocking-for-an-eternity names of people that Jesus died for.
I want to be challenged in the depths of my being by people.
Because in this journey of learning to love God with everything I am, I have to learn how to love them with everything I am.
People, it’s not okay for us to do nothing. It’s not okay for us to sit safely in our churches and pretend that these issues are not pillaging our world. It’s not okay for us to be selfish with our finances, and our time, and our prayers, whilst Jesus sits on the outside of the city with the outcasts and calls us to join Him.
And so Jesus, today we pray that you would shake us. From our complacency. From our selfishness. From our preoccupation with all the wrong things. From our love of the safe and the normal and the world. And instead, let our souls breathe in Your love. Let us come alive in Your love, and through falling in love with You, fall more in love with others. Make us brave. Let us shine in this dark world. Father, hold us. Jesus, lead us. Holy Spirit, empower us. We need You. Amen.