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At the Corner of Grace and Gray

Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. -- Matthew 5:15 God created minds . . . and people think pure and impure thoughts God created hearts . . . and people love and hurt. God created bodies . . . and people care for or become careless. God created love . . . and people give freely or withhold selfishly. God created truth . . . and people declare or deceive. God created hope . . . and people build it up or dash it down. God created grace . . . and people give or hoard. God created faith . . . and people place or misplace. God created peace . . . and people preserve or destroy. God created souls . . . and people either long for Him or flee from Him.

God created you. God created me. I think if we dare to look at all the parts of ourselves -- mind, body, heart and soul -- and do so with honesty, striving for objectivity, absent of pretension . . . most of us will admit we fall at some point with each part on the negative side of the equation. We think impure thoughts, hurt others, are careless with our health, act selfishly, deceive, dash the hopes of others, withhold grace, put our faith in things other than God, shatter peace, and occasionally flee from the face of God. And yet, I am not one that sees humans as groveling and ugly, base and obscene, stains upon creation's canvass. I accept that God's motivation for creation was love and that His patience with us comes from that same source. I accept that the words "God is not done with me yet" are more than a cliche, and that if He is not done with us then we have no right to be done with each other. Are we greater than our Creator? We are ever capable of tipping the equation out of the darkness and into the light. To think pure thoughts, share love, care for ourselves with respect for His creation, give to others freely, declare the truth, live in hope, extend limitless grace, walk in faith, heal in peace, long for God. Where we were, where we are, where we could be, where we will be . . . are all at work in God's vision in every moment. Limited as we are, we live in lament and longing, never far enough away from what was, too far away from what could be, daring to think clearly about what will be. We get stuck and pass the days. Sometimes, we just let the muck encompass us, binding our feet and bringing our arms to our sides as freedom becomes an ever-taunting place on the distant horizon, and restless hope gives way to desperate rest . . . and the saddest words escape: "I give up." The only time those words should ever be said by a Christian -- no matter what we struggle against or what rails against us -- is when we finally cease to run from God. And turn.

In a world that has become so overly-sexualized -- feasting on entertainment with sexual overtones in music, movies, sitcoms, books, and even commercials -- sexual expression, which seems almost synonymous with success these days, is still the sin of supreme separation. Despite all effort to trivialize it to the point of second-by-second acceptance, we still use it as the marker for battle lines. Whether through prudity or pride, sex maintains its power over people. What we think about it and how we respond to it can bond us together or put us in constant battle with each other, permanently divisive, as we line up against those who see no no fault , no foul . . . and those who see all faults and fouls. The accept-me-as-I-am group (most struggling with self-acceptance) runs headlong into the I-can't-accept-you-until-you-change group, and under the watchful eye of a God who wants to accept us all as we are . . . and change us to be like Him . . . we wage a silly war, and in a way, both sides retreat into cocoons of self-protecting and distorted truth, creating God in the image of whatever makes us feel secure in our own need of self-assurance. We dance with truth but we fail to take it home, and so we end up with "GayChristians," on one hand and cries of almost exclusive abomination on the other and our distance increases as declared enlightenment is actually only a dressedup shade of gray. I thought we would be better about all this by now. I was once a teenager, trying to project anything but fear about my identity, but living in that fear. I was once a young husband and father, trying to projecting anything but frustration about my confusion, but living in that confusion. I was once an established man, trying to project anything but doubt about my sexual temptations, but living in that doubt. Through the years, I heard the condemning words . . . and then in time the accepting words, encouraging me to move from self-hatred and hiding to self-satisfaction and revelation. Words. Not truth. How many times do we in our lives quote the Word of God: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free?" and yet live the words of a manshortened version: "Be free." Don't concern yourself with the truth? Indeed, these days we either beat people with it or bury it. We argue about choices instead of clarifying there is really only one that matters: Choose this day whom you will serve. As a result, we become known -- Christians -- as intolerant self-preservationists instead of self-givers who lay down ourselves to serve others and share . . . the truth. Not that we should not form battle lines to protect that truth -- we should -- but like treasures laid up, the truth loses value

when not shared . . . with grace. It was intended to shed light . . . not just bar the darkness from our door. We've come so far: teenagers still hide in fear, young men and women are still frustrated and confused, men and women still doubt. Why? Because we see them as perverted, not full of promise. We see them as lost, not longing. We see them as threats, not hopes. We hear their cries as defiance, not desperation. We think we know them, so we do not try to know them As long as we see only with our eyes and not our hearts, it will be so. As long as we hear only with our ears and not our hearts, it will be so. As long as we think only with our minds and not our hearts, it will be so. Truth does not have to waver to show compassion. It does not have to bend to be palatable. Sin will always be sin no matter into what category we place it. The wages of it will always be as God warned. But, just as iron-clad is the reality that we all have and will is the reality that we all have been forgiven and will be. Homosexuality is a sin to deal with, not a sign to let the clobbering commence. In recent days a controversy has raged over whether men and women who struggle with homosexuality and seek change ever do change. The question should really be . . . is God capable of all things or is He not? Christians who think people cannot change -- hearts, bodies, soul and mind -- are not worthy of the magnificent God who created us. Not that we ever have been. Is this the retreat . . . the white flag that Christians want to wave as we lessthan-gracefully exit the debate stage over sexual brokenness? Unable to embrace the lie that God created people to be gay, we just cut our losses and embrace the lie that the world has somehow inflicted individual curses on some people that are beyond God's understanding to undo? Shall we just circle the wagons? If so, what shall we do with those among us who struggle with same sex attraction? Sacrifice them to some culture God? I still maintain that the most damaging words I ever heard came from a pastor who, feigning shock at my latest fall, told me had never thought I would change anyway. Shortsighted and blind comments. Yet, from that plunge I struggled back to the surface looking beyond his lack of faith to the truth once again and the inexplicable reality that God so loves me -- and others like me -- that He not only created me once, but was able to do so once again.

Grace. We live in world that despite its brazen colors is dissolving into gray. Gray is the color of the absence of truth and the hue of the hoarding of grace. Take away both and perhaps we fade to black. It's too easy these days to think that those who hurt among us only hurt because they hurt themselves, which makes it way too easy to make it not our problem and please ourselves by praying they be healed, thus leaving them to seek comfort elsewhere, which they often do, sharing the scars inflicted by our careless efforts as we held love out like a carrot on a stick, promised upon ironclad proof of redemption and righteousness. I think we're at a crossroad, the corner of Grace and Gray. A light shines at the corner of Grace and Gray. It's the light that dispels darkness and replaces it with the brilliant brightness of truth. Yet, standing in the shadows on both sides of the road are those ready to hide it beneath the bushels they bear. Put them down. God Bless, Thom (If you struggle with sexual brokenness or know someone who does, please consider obtaining a copy of "Who Told You You Were Naked?" or Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do.)