Wednesday, August 20, 2008

simplify

I have heard the Gospel - and it was foreign to me.
I have heard the Gospel and it was the gospel - good news.

The Lord has been giving me a word lately, over and over: simplify. I have believed these words were directly related to my materialism. I do love a good shopping spree. Not something the good Christian should admit to, I suppose. What I have realized is that He wasn't talking about those things at all. He was talking about my definition of my own salvation.

He sent a man to my family - my parents, my brother, Conor and I - this last week. A South African man who, along with his wife, has resided in the United States long enough to lose his lovely accent but, I suspect because the Lord appreciates a thing of beauty, still pronounces every syllable with the merry, lilting sound of someone entrenched in a world seas away. This is who brought me the Gospel. And it is on those terms that I hand it back to you. They aren't his terms, but rather the Father's, and so I am suprised after twenty-nine years alive to not have heard it before.

There are two stories here - both true. One involves me and a friend in a Starbuck's about a year ago. She is looking at me, knowing that I know she is seeing another woman, and tells me, plainly, as though stating a fact, "I know I could marry her. I know it would be all right. But something in me knows that if I were to marry a man, it'd be better." That is the beginning of one story. It is not over. But the second happened thousands of years ago and has long since been given its share of dust. Just like all other stories in Scripture, it holds truths that, were we to glimpse it clearly, would blow our minds.

This second story involves, ironically, two friends, as well. Two young men - one, the son of the king, Jonathan. The other, an aid to the king, and Jonathan's best friend: David. The king, a man named Saul, a man tormented by his own avarice and ambition, knows what many others are beginning to know: God has anointed this young man, this David, and is preparing him to rise in power. Power that leads directly to the throne. Saul determines to kill David. And so, in a field outside the palace walls, David and Jonathan weep together, knowing one will remain with a vengeful father while another must flee for his life. Jonathan reminds David of something that would bind their households together forever: a covenant made between them in friendship that said that the Lord was a witness between them in their commitment to each other, between not only David and Jonathan, but also their descendants - forever.

Later, when Jonathan, along with his father, is killed in battle, David is in anguish. He cries out for his friend, calling him a "dear brother" for whom he is "crushed" (2 Samuel 1:25). There is a great love between them that cannot be fully understood in words. A love that was entrenched in sacrifice and honor. And David is true to his word, true to the covenant he made with Jonathan. Because of his love for his friend, David asks, after years have passed, after he is the crowned king, whom in the house of Saul - whom in Jonathan's line - is still living that he may honor the covenant he made with kindness? There is someone. He's not a hero. His name is Mephibosheth. He is living in a land far from David, a land marked with barrenness and of no consequence. What's more, he's a man who has lost use of both of his feet. We can imagine how he approached the king when summoned, with great pain and tremendous humiliation: "Shuffling and stammering, not looking at David in the eye, Mephibosheth said, 'Who am I that you pay attention to a stray dog like me?'" (2 Samuel 9:8, The Message). David lifts his chin and tells him not to fear. From now on, he is one of the king's household. Royalty. He and his family will eat at the king's table and will never worry about provision again. Because David loved Jonathan, Mephibosheth's father.

But Mephibosheth is a man, not unlike his grandfather Saul, who is tormented. Perhaps it was his crippled feet. Perhaps it was the fact that his family once set plans to kill this good king. Perhaps it was shame over secrets in his past, or anger with the father David so dearly loved, or lack of faith in a God David so ardently worshiped. Whatever the reason, Mephibosheth is not a man who can understand David's offer. Imagine David incessantly bestowing favor upon this man and his family. Imagine how often he must have seen the bent body, hobbling from place to place, all but shouting out, "I don't feel worthy!" Imagine what it must have been like for David when, after years, Mephibosheth, as much a son to David as any of his children, looks into the aging king's eyes and says, "What right do I have to appeal to you?" Imagine the sorrow. The frustration. "Oh, Mephibosheth! Will you never understand? It's not about you! It's about Jonathan!"

You and I are Mephibosheth. A people - not Christians, but humans - who are marked by defect, caught up in our own web of shame and humiliation, bent over and broken down, unworthy and unable to bring anything to God to earn even a crumb from His table. And yet He invites us to be a part. To be His children. But just like Mephibosheth, we make that invitation about us. We decide it must hinge on our actions or our words or our ritual - be it baptism, or communion, or charitable services, or tithing, or praying, or reading the Bible, or going to church, or never cussing or smoking or drinking or lying or sleeping around or being gay. Because it doesn't make sense otherwise. The offer doesn't make sense. If we aren't good enough as we are, then surely we have to earn it? But it's not about us. It's about Jesus.

We are accepted because God made a covenant with His Son. And we can live in the freedom of that acceptance if we'll simply take Him at His Word. It's not about us. It's about Jesus.

So back to Starbuck's. What was it that this girl got that I didn't? How could someone who'd been living what everyone else around me would call a "fallen" life have an answer to a question I'd never thought to ask? How could God reveal the truth of Christ to me through her? The truth of Christ is this: we are free. My friend was right - she could marry her girlfriend. God would still love her if that's the choice she made. Why? Because it's not about her. It's about Jesus. And yet - does that mean just because it would be permissible it's automatically beneficial? No! Jesus came to set us free from right and wrong. We are not slaves to the law. We are not slaves to rules. We have been set free. But not so that we can bow to our human nature. Rather, so that we can listen to the quiet stirrings within us that point to something better. Something higher. Something holier. As Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Corinth: "Looking at it one way, you could say, 'Anything goes... But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well" (1 Cor. 10:23, The Message). My friend knew it. She knew there was something better. There was a way to live well! Not right! Well! Fuller, deeper, richer, more meaningful lives handed to us from the very Throne of Grace!

God has called me to simplify. This isn't about me. This isn't about my not being gay. This isn't about your not getting drunk - or whatever else we use to define our sense of self-righteousness. It's isn't about us at all. It's about Jesus.

26 comments:

Laurie said...

Thank you Boothe, this is beautiful and what I have had on my mind for some time now. And because it is not about us, but about Jesus, the freedom this brings makes me want to do better because the price was paid for me. I love you girl and have been thinking about you alot and praying for your family and that precious little baby girl you are carrying. May we all learn to simplify more and show people who Jesus really wants us to be, like Him.

Love, Laurie in Ca.

Abby said...

Boothe,

Thank you for this message. It is truth and it is beautiful.

I'm praying for you and your "yet to be born" little girl.

etrhodes said...

Wow- simplify...what a timely message for the world we live in today. In all of the rushing about that I tend to let occupy my life it reminds me to "be still" and bring Jesus back to my single focus. Thank you for allowing God to speak!
Trinity
http://journeyofgriefandhealing.blogspot.com/

Mary said...

Thank you for speaking a truth that I needed to hear.

Michelle said...

Wow! That was an incredible read. Your writing is such a blessing to all of us.

I have been following your blog for about a year. I have no idea how I stumbled across it, but am so thankful I did (possibly through Nate and Tricia's website?). I grieved with you when you lost Copeland and rejoiced with you when you shared the news of a healthy baby #3. We live just outside of Nashville as well!

Thanks again for sharing. I always love to read your writing.

Angela said...

Boothe,
Sometimes it is about me.. In the past week, I have following the story of David, Saul, Jonathan, and Mephibosheth. I have been reading about not being able to accept freely given love because we don't feel worthy. I have a gay friend who has given her life to Christ. I made friends with a man from South Africa today. I know it's not about me at all, but it's God doing what he does..showing how he is intricately involved in every aspect of my growth and yours. Your post really spoke to me tonight. Thank you.

mom22girls said...

As always powerful and leaving me with new things to ponder and having to reread this post just to absorb! Praying for that little one growing inside of you! Glad you posted again, I look forward to them and check everyday. You are such an inspiration to me in my walk!

These Three Kings said...

Amen sister!! In all we read, and do and see the number one questions should be "God, Show me JESUS"
Well said!

What an huge encouragement your blog has been. Cant wait to catch up and read more..


Nicole

Anonymous said...

I feel that a simple "Amen" is all that is necessary.

Still praying, Carly

Sun said...

WOW - so powerfully stirring and true! Sunshine

Two Moms and A Baby said...

I stumbled across your blog and have enjoyed your writing. I am so sorry forthe loss of your darling baby Copeland and am overjoyed that you are blessed again with a new baby!!

I've never felt compelled to comment before now. But I'm confused, are you saying it is okay that we are gay or are you saying that by choosing to live straight - (because we don't choose to be gay, we are what we are) - if we choose to live straight then we've chosen the right way? I'm gay and I'm a Catholic. I believe that God made me this way by his choice. I'm living as me - heart and soul. God doesn't love me any less. In fact I think being who I am has made me a champion for showing people how Jesus lived his life. He accepted and loved everyone. And I do too. He didn't let people's hatred and fear of him stop him from spreading his message. And I don't either. Being "different" has made me even less judging and more accepting.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comment, Two Moms and a Baby. I am in agreement with you. After having friends that are gay, and who are more in tune with God than anyone else I have ever met, I had to change my way of thinking. I don't believe people choose to be gay. They are who they are. To live otherwise would be fake. I don't believe God would want someone to pretend to be someone they are not. There is an excellent paper written by an 80 year old man at my church. He wrote this as a response to his own soul searching about the subject. I don't share this to change anyone's mind on the subject, just to show that there are incredible people of God who see things quite differently. You can read his work at www.godmademegay.com

Two Moms and A Baby said...

Boothe, I can't thank you enough for that website. I have scanned it briefly but plan to give it some serious study this weekend. But it is already bringing tears to my eyes. I remembered how I found your blog, I linked from Angie's blog. A friend of mine reads it and we have both struggled with infertility and a miscarriage this past year. You and Angie have inspired me to reach back out to God. I have always kept my faith, but have lost my desire to go to church since our new Pope has spoken out against homosexuals. We have a new pastor and I have been afraid to give him a chance. Since I've been reading your blogs, I've really felt a calling to go back. And now I've just found out I'm pregnant again. And it is truly through the Grace of God because I did pray to Him and talk to Him and I put it completely in His hands and at His will. I want my children to know and love God too. Thank you Boothe for being such an inspiration! - Martha

redeemedintohope said...

can't tell you what this means to me today sweet sister. thank you for continuing to write and allow Christ to live and breathe life through those words. much love

lisalyn said...

Thank you for reminding us that it is and always has been just about HIM!
Lisa

Olivia Grace Moon said...

In response to one of the comments, I guess people are right when they say "I can't help it, that's the way I was born." As I sit and read this blog and it's comments, God's given me a change of heart. We are all born as sinners, thanks to Adam. So, since we are all born sinners, it actually stands to reason, that homosexuals are actually born that way. Just as I was born a liar, a cheater, an adulterer, and the list could go on. The big difference I guess, is that since I am a Christian, I struggle daily to not live in my sin. I make a choice daily to say today, I will live for Christ, I will do things that honor Him, since Boothe so sweetly reminded me that it is about Him. So, I guess I'm trying to say that sin, although born in us and ingrained in us, is a choice, regardless of how it looks.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to clarify..I don't think that comment in response to two moms an a baby was boothe. I think it was just an anonymous person. She posted another comment on the newest post stating that it was her. I just didn't want someone to get confused and think it was her. I hope this makes sense.

Mar said...

I haven't posted a comment before, but I was greatly blessed by your most recent post. The point is, we are Mephibosheth...we are the tax collector and sinner. But when Christ comes into our life, He doesn't plan to leave us as He found us. He plans to transform us from our "how we were born" condition. Don't believe the lie that you are unchangeable in any area -- He has all power!

daniella said...

My soul is in tears reading this post. I have a dear friend who is gay and I pray for him always, that God would reveal Himself to my friend and lead me into helping me just LOVE him the way He loves him because maybe through that he'd understand the love and mercy of our Saviour. THANK YOU for this post. You put into words something I longed to hear for a long time.

I love your blog (we've never met) and I found it on Angie Smith's (hope you don't mind :-). I adore your words of wisdom and can sincerely sympathize with the need for a good shopping splurge.

Daniella in Vienna, VA

Kristin said...

What a testimony to a God centered view as opposed to a man centered view, which seems to be everywhere these days!

Also, I'm praying for your healthy pregnancy!

Kristin
(Jonathan Jared's Mom)

annb said...

What a beautiful post on a subject some may shy away from! I read each of the comments and have to agree with Olivia Grace Moon - maybe "being born" gay is a true statement. I don't know, but the truth is - we make choices every day of our lives about the way we will live. God gave us free choice - not to make excuses for the choices we make, but to allow us to "choose" Him over all other! I found your site through Angie's - but believe that God puts people and places in our lives as there is need of them. I have struggles in my life - as we all do (being gay is not one of them), and your posts are great to bring me into focus. Thank you for sharing!
In His Love and Blessings,
annb

jilliebean said...

I am new to your blog and just read this post. I am gay and I'm a Christian. I have a wonderful relationship with God. I completely agree with what two moms and a baby said about being less judgmental towards other people. People around me pray that God will "fix" me, but I'm okay with who I am and I believe God made me this way... it wasn't a "choice" for me...

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