Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Carries You Away?

Last Christmas week was marked by faded skies and torrential rains, all culminating in a good amount of flooding throughout the state. Our farm’s fishing hole has swelled well beyond its banks to birth an endless river racing across the asphalt where a parish road should otherwise be.

As you  might imagine, it wasn’t long before that young stream began to carry away the blanket of autumn that had covered our lawn and the edges of our hay fields for the past few months.  Fossilized leaves, small branches, and even plastic toys moved in unison towards the lowest point.  No matter that they would eventually bottom out in an enormous pile elsewhere, the current was too strong to remain still.

As 2014 ends, I can’t help but think of how short the year has seemed, how carried away I have been through the days and months on the calendar.

We would all do well to realize this life is about being carried away.  If we are not carried away by one thing, we will be carried away by another.

The prophet Isaiah gives opposing images of being taken away by one of two things.

To begin with, he describes the person who is carried away by sin, saying:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.  There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities” (Is. 64: 6-7).

Our sins “take us away” like the leaf in the wind, our divinely-granted “free will” actually leaving us at the mercy of our sinful act in that freedom.  With each sin, we become imprisoned to the path our lives take, no matter what we would have otherwise chosen for ourselves. 

That’s the thing about sin—we attempt to categorize them, to rationalize them, to minimize them when justifying our choices.  But no sin is pure.  No sin will leave us firmly planted where we want to be.  Instead, before we even realize it, that sin will wither our tender hearts until we are but a husk of one who was once sensitive to the voice of God and farther downstream than we ever thought possible. 

There is another choice, though.

Isaiah speaks of one who, instead, chooses to love obedience to the Lord, who chooses to love the people of Israel and her God, Yahweh:

Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for  her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may such and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream’ (Is. 66:10-12).

Just as surely as our sin will carry us away, so, too, will our obedience to the Lord, only this time, the result is positive, although just as equally out of our control. 

When we choose obedience to the Word of God over sin, we are taken away by the Lord’s peace.  We don’t wake up and choose a path of peace.  It chooses us when we choose to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.

In this life, we will be carried away by something.  Free will is not free.  And what happens next is beyond our control but is also dependent upon what we do now.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the withered leaf of Isaiah 64.  I want to be the well-nursed child of Isaiah 66.  What I become, though, depends of what I allow myself to be carried away by—my sin…or my love and obedience of the Lord.

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