As I continue to write this blog each week, I am receiving conformation that it is being read by a growing audience of men. So each week I wonder what I should I write that will help men. Much prayer and thought go into these words. So today I am taking a “leap into the blue.” I have a strong sense that I should write about the struggle all we men have with the latent power of sin in our hearts. Paul expresses this delimna well, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it. I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the best of me every time” (Rom 7:19-20 – The Message). We will carry our “fallen” nature to the grave. Growth on the journey is having a realistic view of our “falling” enabling us to learn from our “falls.”
Recently I came across these helpful words from Bernard of Clarivaux and Julian of Norwich. First from Bernard. “The just fall into the hand of God and in a marvelous manner, even sin itself works for them towards righeousness. ‘We know that for those who love God all things work together for good’ (Rom 8:28). Does not a fall work for us for good if we become more humble and more careful because of it?” Our falling is into the hands of God, not out of the hands of God. So the question is not will we fall, but how we respond to the falling. If we humbly acknowledge our sin and look to God for mercy, only good can come out an incident of falling. But if we pull away in shame, rebellion or blame we move further from God. Remember men, God’s love is not conditioned by our behavior. He loves you unconditionally, period. In your falling, you fall into the arms of love. This is a reality we accept by faith. Trust me when I say, it takes some getting used to the idea of falling into the hands of love when we fall.
Then Julian of Norwich wrote this about our sinning. “We shall see in heaven for all eternity that though we have sinned grievously in this life, we were never hurt in God’s love, nor were we ever of less value in God’s sight. This falling is a test by which we shall have a high and marvelous knowing of love in God forever. That love [of God] is hard and marvelous that cannot and will not be broken for [our] trespasses.” In other words, our sins, which we offer to God in repentance, are good in that they remove our complacency and self-reliance, forcing us to rely not on our effort to stop falling but on the mercy of God. Michael Casey put it this way. “To believe that somehow God is not absent or dismayed by our grievous failures is a giant stride in the right direction. It means that we have transcended all those inner voices of self-reproach that we have accumulated in a lifetime and have begun to accept as true the Good News that Jesus brought us.”
A good spiritual practice in confession of our sin, is the use of Psalm 51. There we have David’s heartfelt confession before God. He begins with a declaration of God’s love. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (v 1). He concludes with his confession with praise. “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declar your praise” (v15). He ends up by declaring that what God looks for is not our effort at self improvement or the justifcation of our station in life, but a humble heart. Here is the way The Message puts it, “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice” (vs16-17). Accepting fully the reality of your “falling” in the presence of God, will produce in you a humble heart, that is grateful for the mercy of God.