Saturday, April 13, 2013

What did you say your name was again?

Have you ever been introduced to someone and just a short time later found yourself sheepishly asking that person, "What did you say your name was again?"
I need to explain something here that is more than a little uncomfortable for me to admit.

Gary Larson was by far one of the most creative and unique cartoonist of His time. He had a way of putting into a far spectrum view the things that we look at every day and making them hilarious. He had a way of just taking common phrases and bringing the most out of them.
The comic strip "The Far Side" used to be one of my favorite cartoons to read.
I say USED TO BE, because one day I came upon a cartoon that struck a nerve.

 I was trying REALLY, REALLY hard to please God. I heard phrases like, "God is love" and just marked them off as things that people who had no standards and no desire to serve God would say. After all, God was the divine employer right?
He was sitting in a big sterile white office and constantly overseeing the production work of the humans. He was watching, and I knew that somehow He loved me but honestly I was one slip up away from being demoted, losing His favor, or even being put aside in favor of someone who REALLY wanted to serve Him. His hand was hovering over the "SMITE" key on the keyboard when He watched me go about my day.

I did not want to let Him down. (As if I had ever held Him up. You can only let someone down if at any time you ever held them up)

I studied the life of Jesus and went to all the conferences on being a better "employee" of God. I heard so many "Life changing" sermons I did not know who I was anymore. I took some serious notes, and I was faithful to constantly refer to my list of rules and regulations when another Christian approached me to ensure that I was the spiritually superior one of the two.
Do you remember when Paul referred to the Christian life in the terms of a race?
Yeah, I was trying to always outrun the next guy or gal because I wanted heavenly rewards! I was really working to get those heavenly coupons for the gift shop in the clouds. I wanted them crowns baby and I was determined to be "iced out with heavenly bling"!
I was obsessed. Obsessed by the idea that God was a kind of temperamental parent that would become angry of I "spilled the milk". As long as I dotted my i's and crossed my t's everything in the glory land was, well, glory.

Obsession is dedication out of control.

Then one day everything changed. It changed because one day I asked God a simple question.
"Excuse me, what did you say your name was again?"

I think it happened when I read Luke chapter 15 and the story of the prodigal son.
I was like you and I had this story memorized. I had heard countless sermons on this one and I had seen all of the flannel graphs (A flannel graph was the old fashioned power point)

I even knew the story in the key of " F "

Feeling footloose and frisky, a featherbrained fellow forced his father to fork over his farthings. Fast he flew to foreign fields and frittered his family's fortune, feasting fabulously with floozies and faithless friends. Flooded with flattery, he financed a full-fledged fling of "funny foam" and fast food.
Fleeced by his fellows in folly, facing famine and feeling faintly fuzzy, he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy foreign farmyard. Feeling frail and fairly famished, he fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from the fodder fragments.
"Fooey," he figured, "my father's flunkies fare far fancier," the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, facing the facts. Finally, frustrated from failure and filled with foreboding (but following his feelings) he fled fairly fast from the filthy foreign farmyard.
Far away, the father focused on the fretful familiar form in the field and flew to him and fondly flung his forearms around the fatigued fugitive. Falling at his father's feet, the fugitive floundered forlornly, "Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor."
Finally, the faithful Father, forbidding and forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged the flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast. Faithfully, the father's first-born was in a fertile field fixing fences while father and fugitive were feeling festive. The foreman felt fantastic as he flashed the fortunate facts of a familiar family face that had forsaken fatal foolishness. Forty-four feet from the farmhouse, the first-born found a farmhand fixing a fatling.
Frowning and finding fault, he found father and fumed, "Floozies and foam from frittered family funds and you fix a feast following the fugitive's folderol?" The first-born's fury flashed, but fussing was futile. The frugal first-born felt it was fitting to feel "favored" for his faithfulness and fidelity to family, father, and farm. In foolhardy fashion, he faulted the father for failing to furnish a fatling and feast for HIS friends. His folly was not in feeling fit for feast and fatling for friends; rather his flaw was in his feeling fretful about the fairness of the festival for the found fugitive.
His fundamental fallacy was a fixation on favoritism, not forgiveness. Any focus on feeling "favored" will fester and friction will force the faded facade to fall. Frankly, the father felt the frigid first-born's frugality of forgiveness was formidable and frightful. But the father's former faithful fortitude and fearless forbearance to forgive both fugitive and first-born flourished.....
The farsighted father figured, "Such fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivity for the fugitive that is found? Unfurl the flags and finery, let fun and frolic freely flow. Former failure is forgotten, folly is forsaken. Forgiveness forms the foundation for future fine fortune."

I mean I knew this story, because I was determined to be the son who stayed at home!

Then I read the last two verses of this chapter and everything changed.

"And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." ~Luke 15:25-32

This verse was me.

I was so fixated on performance that I had missed Him. Both sons mentioned in the story missed the Father. He did not love younger son any less because he did not do nor did he love the older son any more because of what he did do. He loved them both because they were both his sons.

God was not a divine employer who was just waiting to catch me taking an extra coffee break so He could smite me with his wrath. He was my Father and He loved me because I was His son.

I discovered a beautiful relationship with God as my Father who did not need me for anything, but rather wanted me to enjoy Him and to be enjoyed by Him. I know that this post might bring criticism from those who frantically rush around trying to make God happy, but I understand. I was there and I never want to go back because I would not trade the closeness that I feel from Father for anything.

You know those passages in 1 John:

"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." ~1 John 4:8

"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."~ 1 John 4:16

It really is that simple.

The one thing He wanted us to know that really earmarked a disciple of His was their ability to genuinely love. God did not send His son just to prove His love for us by dying on the cross for us. Jesus died on the cross so that we could love like Him!

I remember talking to a pastor once who said, "I am tired of hearing people say God is love, like that is the only thing that really matters. I don't know that God!"

I thought about the passage that said, "Many in that day will say, Did not we..." and the response was crippling, "Depart from me for I NEVER KNEW you."

It was like I had been introduced to Him before and forgot His name. I found myself going back to Him and asking, "What did you say your name was again?"

It was as if He responded with, "Dan, my name is Love and I love you not because of who you are, but because of whose you are. You are mine."

I am not sure who this post is for at this moment, but maybe you need to be re-introduced to God. Things have happened in your life and somehow your lens that you viewed Him with changed. You see Him as a boss waiting to catch under performance, a fickle parent who is quick to fly off the handle for a mess up, or some far off and distant being who could never be pleased with you.

It just may be that deep down inside you may be asking Him, "What did you say your name was again?"
If you are willing to ask Him that, I can promise you that He is more than willing to answer you!

Climbing with you,

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