Monday, January 3, 2011

Nothing but the blood

Welcome 2011. I'm happy to see you. As I look back on 2010, I'm not at all sad to bid it farewell. I have pictures of the happy parts- a wedding in February, a trip home in the summer, and a white Christmas there at the very end. And because God is gracious, those things that matter have been remembered by Him- tallied up for the eternal payoff, and those things shameful and rotten have been forgiven and cast to the bottom of the sea.

I think that last year, I might have written something about resolutions- how I don't really make them. Andy Stanley taught me a long time ago that what I believe affects how I think, how I think affects how I act and how I act affects my character and therefore my witness in the world. So, I rarely waste time with resolutions to change my actions. When I encounter a pattern that needs to be changed, I have to go back to the belief, which is why I don't mess much with resolutions, which are typically action-based ideas. I work on the belief like a banshee. One step forward, two steps back. But I work. I work out that salvation with fear and trembling.

And so I do have a belief to share- something that grew stronger through the turmoil of 2010- during the times that I was misunderstood, rejected and treated harshly- during the times that I was too exhausted to move, too full of unbelief to pray, too discouraged to hope. Not because of anything I have done, but because He is who He is and He is faithful even through my unbelief, my broken heart, my shattered dreams, I bid farewell to 2010 with this belief, upon which 2011 will be built.

In the fall, while I worked on my book, I watched Schindler's List. I love Schindler's List. It's epic. Beautiful and moving, and incredibly sad, it conveys the insanity and reality of evil. I watched it because I was thinking about Jesus- about how He is our Redeemer, our Rescuer from the evil we encounter in this world. The evil that breaks our hearts, that tempts our minds, that separates our families. Jesus came to rescue us from it, to pull us out, to deliver us so that we do not have to give in to that evil. And Shindler's List is a similar story- a story about a man who purchases life for people destined for death.

In the whole movie, one image stood out to me more than any other. It's a scene when the "Schindler Jews" are about to be transported (I believe it was from a death camp to a less fatal work camp, where they could continue to work for Schindler in relative safety). When boarding the train that would take them away from the gas chambers, brutality and violence of the death camp, the Schindler Jews ran past guards who dipped a large paint brush in a can of paint and swiped the front of their garments. I watched the scene entranced. I watched the frightened, hopeful faces pass by as the paint marked their bodies, setting them apart. And it dawned on me in that moment that I was just like those Schindler Jews- I've been marked, painted in something that means that I get to exit evil, that I can head toward life. The paint on the Jews' garments meant that they they belonged to Oskar Schindler. He had literally bought them by bribing Nazi officials. The paint on their coats meant that they didn't belong to the Nazis. They belonged to him.

The whole thing makes me think of Hebrews 4:16, the verse that talks about approaching the throne of grace with confidence. Not because of what we have done, but because we have a "Great High Priest" one who covered us in something, His own blood. That's me, I'm the eternal equivalent of a Schindler Jew, not because of anything that I've done, but because I was bought at a price. Because Jesus paid for me with His life and marked me with His blood. And now that blood sets me apart, marks me for eternity, so that I can approach God Almighty with confidence. I've been painted. I belong. I am His.

In 2010, life twisted and turned. It was full of joy and mercy and pain. It was full of heart-longing and heart-breaking, confession, repentance, forgiveness. It was life, somewhat harder than it has been in the past, somewhat more brilliant because of that difficulty. But the most beautiful reality of all is that the only thing that ever matters is that blood that covers me. And twists, bumps, hurts and surprises help us remember that. They help us look not to others, not into ourselves, but at the blood on our chest, the blood shed for us millenia ago, and remember, "I am His. I am going to be okay."

That's what I learned in 2010. I learned that I am His. And no matter how much I am rejected, despised, misunderstood or how much I am adored, loved and appreciated, the defining element of my life is that blood. No one can take it from me. Nothing will ever wash it off. I'm covered in it. And it means I'm His. I am His. No one can snatch me out of His hand.

So welcome 2011. Welcome. I am here. I am His and I'm going to be okay.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow.
Nothing but the blood,
Nothing but the blood,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

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