The formative years of my teens and twenties were the late 1960s through the 70s. Those were turbulent times that pulled the foundations out from under many of our solid institutions. The music and movies shouted the changing values and lodged earworms into my young brain. I must admit to a lot of confusion during those times.
If I had not surrendered my life to Jesus Christ at age fourteen and had I not been entrenched in my church youth group, I shudder to think how things might have been. In spite of all the attractiveness of the pull from the negative side, the positive force was stronger – after all, these were the days of the Jesus Movement. Most of the time, the Lord placed spiritual watchdogs at my side and angels all around.
So, as a freshman at a Christian college, I distinctly remember praying a prayer of confession. “Lord, I confess all my sins. I would enumerate them to You right now, but I can’t think of any.”
Really. I couldn’t. My self-righteousness was one I should have recognized right off the bat, but that kind of denial puts a person in a pretty dangerous position.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long before I took advantage of “opportunities” that forced me to open my eyes to the sin within me. When the cocky hypocrisy wore off, I heard, “Now you see what’s really inside you, Dottie.” There were no excuses for my behavior.
That wasn’t the end of my spiritual ups and downs, but God’s forgiveness and grace have been so powerful in my life. He woos me back to repentance. He accepts my contrite heart, even if it takes a while to get there.
I’ve been in and around a lot of different church settings all my life. I have plenty of stories I could tell, and they aren’t all pretty. But God extends the same grace to others who are His that He has given to me. He still uses us when we are far from perfect. We’re all He’s got.
Last week, I read the report about the fall of another Christian leader. I also read numerous articles and comments about the situation.
Someone said something like, “I’ve been around enough to be disappointed and sad, but never surprised anymore.” I feel that same way. I wish I could give credit, but the source is lost to me now.
My confusion as a young person came from many conflicting voices. My values and beliefs were not solidified yet. Remembering this experience has given me compassion for today’s cocky, obnoxious young people.
I’ve worked with adults in therapy sessions who weren’t introspective, hadn’t had much exposure to Biblical teaching, and who didn’t have much capacity for insight. They may not have had much education or opportunity beyond their small world. Denial can be a strong force, but there were no excuses for the behavior that got them into our treatment program. However, the conviction of the Holy Spirit could still take hold of their heart, and they could begin to make decisions in the right direction.
I’ve listened to a lot of Ravi Zecharias’ lectures and read some of his books. He was neither young and naïve, nor disadvantaged intellectually or otherwise. I don’t know the man’s heart, nor what may have transpired between him and his family or the Lord before he died. But there are no excuses for his behavior.
I guess what I take away from this is that we all must be careful. Sin is always crouching at the door. There is none righteous, no not one. Take heed, lest we fall. After all, it is not our righteousness; it is His. We may all be doing the best we can at any given moment, otherwise we would do better. But there are no excuses for our behavior.
Being a senior citizen has many advantages to help stay on the straight and narrow path, but no guarantees. They say, “There’s no fool like an old fool.” The kinds of battles I face now are much different from those of my younger days.
My prayer is that I stay open and accountable with trusted Christian friends. I want to remain honest with myself and willing to confess to the Lord quickly. I pray for wisdom and discernment about situations, other people, and most of all about myself to make healthy decisions about the best course of action. Because His grace has been so evident in my life up to now, I trust that He will continue to pour it upon me until the end.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the church season of Lent. It is typically a time of self-examination and repentance. I must differ with Church traditon here. The season for repentance is every day.