A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
- Isaiah 40:3-5
“Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are ‘rich’ in this sense to enter the Kingdom.
”It is very different for the nasty people – the little, low, timid, warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensitive, unbalanced people. If they make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them. It is taking up the cross and following – or else despair. They are the lost sheep; He came specially to find them. They are (in one very terrible and real sense) the ‘poor’: He blessed them. They are the ‘awful set’ He goes about with – and of course the Pharisees say still, as they said from the first, ‘If there were anything in Christianity those people would not be Christians.’”
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
As a side note from the chapter of Mere Christianity that I have been on for the past two days, let’s look at Dick Firkin’s plight from a deeper perspective.
There once was a tale of two brothers. Both were ‘good boys.’ The older had charisma and style. He was an athlete and all the girls swooned. Okay, many girls swooned. His younger brother was simply there. The older brother became a pastor. The younger struggled to find any reason to accept Jesus as his Savior. Although the girls did not swoon, he knew that he was ‘good,’ and he was ‘rich’ in that aspect of life. Yet, when he wanted Joy, his self-satisfaction was shattered. C. S. Lewis is right in that regard. Only when my ‘goodness’ was exposed as a sham did Jesus have any good fortune at getting my attention. He was knocking, but I was not listening. Even then, I preferred arguing rather than accepting, only accepting when the arguments were gone.
Yet, each of us, when looking back, can see some of those nasty qualities that Lewis mentions. My sense of humor is profoundly warped. I am sensitive and passionate, leading to arguments that were not needed, in fact, unwanted. ‘Thin-blooded’ refers to being quick to anger. If that were literal, I’d be a hemophiliac. On occasion, I have been timid, especially when telling people about Jesus, face-to-face.
The thought of being ‘little’ is strange. I was a little less than six feet tall when graduating high school, a marker that my grandfather was always wanting from one of his grandchildren to eclipse – alas not, but great-grandchildren was another story after his passing. I was about 150 pounds when I graduated from high school. So, I was not quite tall and decidedly skinny. I always felt small, insignificant, and perfectly satisfied as the wallflower in the corner who did not have to speak, for no one noticed. I was average weight when I graduated college and was commissioned as an Army officer. You’d think I might feel large at that point, but I still felt small, even smaller thinking of myself as a leader. A leader? Come on! Even with my thyroid destroyed and the subsequent weight gain, I still feel small, while others have said that they were intimidated by my size. Me? Intimidating?
Do we hold to the myths about ourselves based on poor self-image at an early age, or is God working within us? Does God keep our inner thought regarding size as low so that we can realize that we can only be large through His strength?
I am so grateful to God for sticking with me through the years that I struggled with letting go of control of my sinking ship, even though for more than a year I knew it was sinking – so that I could soar once Jesus was in my heart. When we go to someone’s house and knock on the door, we wait for a reasonable time. If no one answers, we move on. But God is different. God continues to knock. He is faithful. He does not give up on us.
Why did I choose this Scripture above from Isaiah, of course repeated in Luke 3, regarding John the Baptist? Maybe, just maybe, Isaiah wasn’t talking about valleys and mountains and crooked, rough roads. Maybe John the Baptist was preparing our hearts. For those who are timid, He’ll fill in that valley. For those who are arrogant, they shall be chopped down to size. For those who are just a little bit, or highly, crooked, He’ll show them the straight and narrow path. And for the grumpy bear that wants to simply be left alone, Jesus can smooth out those rough edges.
You see, Jesus has a lot of work to do. Mr. Firkin, the non-believer from yesterday’s post might think that he is the definition of ‘nice’, but once he is made low, he finds he is nothing compared to Jesus. As Lewis suggests above, it is a hard sell, for even the nice guy’s friends continue to bolster his opinion of himself. They might even praise him as being a good Christian.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.