Encouragement, JustTalk, My Thoughts, relationships, testimonies

THE Most Powerful Redemption Story Ever

My family has been going through the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series for family night. It’s been really fun, but more than that–it’s been very enlightening. And I’m not talking eastern mysticism. I mean truth. We recently finished the series, and this article is about a specific scene on the very last disc, so–I’ll only say this once–SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

Zuko was an amazing character. He was really childish at first. I didn’t like him–he didn’t even look cool with that ridiculous ponytail making his scar stick out like a sore thumb. But as the series went on, I grew to appreciate his pain and struggle, because it was relatable. He was meant to represent the very essence of the struggle between light and darkness, between good and evil. And, honestly, I think the writer(s) did a pretty good job with that. There’s not always an easy answer or a clear path. And we all have scars from past wounds. Usually from someone with our last name….The madness and mental instability, the pain and struggle–that’s relateable. Now, this story was made for children, so we can scream out the obvious right answer from the sidelines (like he can really hear us) and think of him as an idiot for choosing darkness–AGAIN. But, when we take a look at our own lives, when it is us on stage with everyone else on the sidelines, we realize that it’s not so easy to see the big picture. All we can see is what’s right in front of us. Everything else gets lost in the moment. We choose the dark far more often than Zuko, honestly. We are far more dual than we care to admit….

 

I have acted in plays before. I can tell you that there’s this funny feeling I get when I’m up on stage. It’s like my mind goes completely blank, and it’s only because I’ve carved my lines into my mind that I can remember them at all. Everything feels kinda hazy–like I’m doing everything on-the-fly. No practice, no prep, it’s all me in my bare nakedness, just winging it and hoping I don’t ruin everything. I can sit back and laugh at that now, because I’m not standing on a stage. Or, rather, because I don’t see the stage I’m standing on. Yet aren’t I doing the same exact thing every day of my life? I’m just flailing around, trying to get my lines right, messing things up A LOT, and just hoping that, in the end, it’ll all come together and touch the audience somehow. The world is my stage, and I’m a character in this play whether I want to be or not. If you watched my life, you could sit back and yell at me from the sidelines about what an idiotic decision I’m making and how it’s so obvious I should be doing something else (and, believe me, you’d be doing that a lot), but, like Zuko, I get lost in it all and I’m just trying to make it, struggling between the darkness and the light, never really understanding which one is going to satisfy me, even though the answer is obvious. In the end, though, like Zuko, I choose the light. But not before a lot of scars are made and a lot of people are hurt….

 

Despite Zuko’s folly, I grew to love him as a character. Sure, he WAS pretty childish, but remember he was still basically a child. He was terribly sorry for all he had done, but there was nothing he could do to make it right. His suffering would not make it right. Good works would not make it right. Correct philosophy could not fix the damage. What does one do when they kneel before the one they’ve hurt and there is nothing–NOTHING–they can do to fix it?

 

The answer is only that mercy is necessary. Because vengeance, violence, suffering–these things will not heal. They will only worsen the pain. So, the answer is obvious. You are at the victim’s mercy. Literally. You must be at their mercy. They have to let go of the past and grow something new in its place….

 

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And that moment, when Zuko knelt before his uncle, tears streaming down his face, begging Iroh to forgive him for all his foolishness–that moment as Iroh clutched Zuko tightly in his arms, tears streaming down his own face–that moment when Zuko was unworthy but found grace–it struck a chord with me. It resonated with my own heart. Because, there I was, kneeling before the One I had betrayed, the One who had loved me, cherished me, grown me, cared for me–I was kneeling before the One whom I had hurt the most, tears streaming down my face, begging for forgiveness–and I found grace. I could have wept. The moment was moving for me. It touched me deeply. This was no children’s tale. It is the story of every prodigal son who ever knelt before their Father figure and found grace. Countless lives, innumerable souls, all finding the same grace He extends freely to everyone who will take it. Because, like Uncle Iroh with Zuko, God loves us deeply and only wants what is best for us. He sits there by our side while we drive around madly on a wild goose chase, going a 100 miles an hour in the wrong direction, and He sighs, trying to steer us the other way. But we don’t listen. He stays with us as, time after time, we fail in our endeavors to bring satisfaction to our souls and honour to our name, and He tries to tell us the answer. But we don’t listen. He leaves us in silence as we fume and rage, trying to find our own way. He weeps with our weeping, rejoices for our small gains, and ever watches, heavily, as we choose darkness over and over again, betraying Him with our every step….And, after we have run our last mile, worn out all our efforts, and come to our wits’ end, He whispers to us softly the hard truth. It is then that the paths diverge….

 

Some of us, as Zuko did, will ultimately choose the light, and will come weeping before Him with all our shattered pieces, expecting all the well-deserved wrath to be poured out on us. But, instead, He wraps us up in His arms, weeping for our ultimate return to Him, cherishing our very being, though we’ve hurt Him more than we’ve hurt anyone else. He gives grace, and, ultimately, He will let us rule with Him in a new kingdom of prosperity and peace and love….

 

Yet others will be Azula, choosing the maddening darkness until their very last breath, and meeting the ultimate ruin of their own selves, because they would not heed the light. For all my lack of care for Azula throughout the series, in that last moment, when she is wailing and squalling like a small child, trapped and helpless, at her literal wits’ end, I had nothing but pity for her. I wanted to help her, but there was nothing left to help….

 

As for the Fire Lord, well….We know his end. His power will ultimately be taken away, to do no more harm to anyone ever again….

 

For now, I’m still on the stage. I’m still flailing and wandering. I’m still being clutched in my adoptive Father’s arms, still weeping because the pain is yet too near, the struggle yet too real. I am still often betraying Him, yet I find a neverending supply of grace. He has every right to be angry–to eliminate me–but He chooses to love and forgive me instead. And that brings healing. That brings redemption. Because of that, I am being made new. And this, my friend, is the greatest redemption story ever. 🙂

 

 

~Peeps~

 


***DISCLAIMER: Images used in this article are not mine! They are strictly the porperty of their original poster….***

 

 

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Holidays, song lyrics

Beauty in the Ashes: Remembering to Love the Forgotten

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas

When all through the house

Every creature was stirring,

Perhaps even a mouse!

 

Indeed, my parents were wrapping gifts and finding a place to put them (since we didn’t put a tree up this year) while my brothers chatted away excitedly in their room (sharing a wall with mine. Fun.). Even I was up, but I couldn’t breathe (Sinuses. Only in Mississippi are there tornado watches/warnings in 70°F weather at Christmas time). Christmas lost some of its magic for me some time ago, when I truly experienced the materialism of our culture. We opted for a small Christmas this year. So, I wasn’t quite so excited about gifts. I wanted it to be about more than that. I wanted to focus on higher things. Focus….

 

So, I decided to read some Scripture (sleeping wasn’t really an option, even if it was 9:30pm and I hadn’t slept well the night before). What to read? Well, what better place than in Luke for this season? So, I decided to start at the very beginning. Chapter 1.

 

 

I didn’t get far.

 

 

Something immediately got my attention. Verses 5-6 of Chapter 1——

 

“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

 

I did a double-take. Now, I don’t know about you, but I thought Mary was quite somebody, the way she took the whole thing. But this! This was way more mind-blowing! Did I just read that Zacharias and Elisabeth walked in the law blamelessly??? I understand that they were sinners like the rest of us, but apparently they were doing pretty well at this time in their lives! I mean, to be called “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”! That’s serious stuff! I started thinking about that….

 

What would I give for the same to be said of me? Righteous before God…Walking in all His commands blamelessly….What would I give for such a powerful testimony?

 

This thought seemed to coincide with another thought that has been haunting me lately. Afterall, what are His commands that we should walk in? Well, I can tell you one major one:

 

(James 1:27; KJV)

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

 

This one “command” is very powerful to me. This ordinance, established primarily in the Old Testament, has impacted my life in a more violent way than perhaps any other ordinance I’ve found. And I still struggle with it….

 

 

What, God? Haven’t you seen the widows around here? They are crazy! Out of it! They don’t really need me. Besides, that’s someone else’s job. Oh. And the fatherless? They may be more messed up! How do you expect me to minister to that little boy whose Daddy is in prison and whose Momma can’t have him by law? He is absolutely messed up! I mean, do you see the way he acts?! And oh my goodness—the way he talks! No way. Not my mission field. Orphans? Er…I don’t know any…..So, that’s out of the question….What? What do you mean, “What’s your mission field then”? I have a mission field…..er….Well, you know….there are people….around….that come in contact with me occassionally….Well, what did You expect? I’m not perfect, afterall!

 

 

For years, even though I never dared to say such things to the Most Holy and High God of the Universe, I nevertheless thought them (indirectly) in my mind. I dodged around doing my part. And I am ashamed to say that it took a series of near-death experiences for me to wake up. I still try to blind myself often, but it’s over. God has completely wrecked my life. I can never go back again. It’s too painful to stay where I am. I must move forward.

 

So, why not strive to be blameless in at least this command? What I have found while reaching out of my comfort zone, was that it’s not so bad when God is already there waiting to bless everyone involved. Sure—I’m not completely comfortable. I’d just as soon be at home playing Legend of Zelda Windwaker on the Wii than be in a Nursing Home with an old woman I barely know. Yet, when I did reach out or saw others reach out, I found something of far greater worth that I hadn’t seen before: beauty in the ashes, treasure in the brokeness. The smile of an old woman who is usually all alone at Christmas. when someone suddenly reaches out and helps the her find joy this season. The sparkle in the eye of the orphan who receives a gift for the first time. The neediness and hurt of the fatherless child finding healing in time spent with a new mentor. What these things are doing are of far greater value and beauty than imaginable. And all because someone followed God’s commands, perhaps not perfectly, but at least blamelessly.

 

So, this Christmas season, let us truly analyze whose life we can impact. Let us visit the widow and fatherless in their distress and try to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Let us reach out and love somebody.

 

To go with this, I thought we should listen to our brother TobyMac, who is bringing us partially into the shoes of an orphan with a need:

 

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“This Christmas (Father of the Fatherless)”

By: Nirva Ready and TobyMac

 

 

Now Jonnie never got his wish December 25th

That’s what he said when we left the orphanage

Nine years old, but Jonnie was an old soul

Gonna spend his first Christmas in a real home

Then he showed me a picture he made the night before

A drawing of a man standin’ outside the door

He said, “I see him in my dreams

He comforts me when I can’t sleep”

 

Father of the fatherless

Be with your sons and daughters this Christmas

This Christmas

 

“Believe in angels?”

He asked starin’ at the sky

I said I do and saw a sparkle in his eye

Big brother for the weekend, respondin’ to the season

I took the chance that givin’s better than receivin’

Two nights, a new family, some holiday cheer

We laughed and sang

Came on a midnight clear

We gave, received, and as we headed to a close

We looked to the heavens, and it started snowing blessings

 

Father of the fatherless

Be with your sons and daughters this Christmas, this Christmas

(You ain’t livin’ ‘til you choose to give

Love and joy and peace to one of His)

Father let us not forget

The children who are all alone this Christmas, this Christmas

(You ain’t livin’ ‘til you choose to give

Love and joy and peace to one of His)

 

[James 1:27]

Religion that God our Father

Accepts as pure and faultless is this:

That we look after orphans and widows in their distress

Merry Christmas everyone

 

Joy to the world

The Lord is come

Let Heaven and nature sing

Let Heaven and nature sing

Let Heaven and nature sing

 

Big brother turned dad in a couple weeks

Some gifts give more than you could ever dream

Started out as a plan just to do my part,

But that little man went and stole my heart

 

Father of the fatherless

Be with your sons and daughters this Christmas, this Christmas

(You ain’t livin’ ‘til you choose to give

Love and joy and peace to one of His)

Father let us not forget

The children who are all alone this Christmas, this Christmas

(You ain’t livin’ ‘til you choose to give

Love and joy and peace to one of His)

 

Let Heaven and nature sing

Let Heaven and nature sing

[x2]

 

From me and mine, to you and yours…

Merry Christmas

This year, reach out and love somebody, y’all

 

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★DISCLAIMER: All images used on this blog are strictly copyrights of their owners. I do not claim credit/ownership for any images used here in my blog unless stated otherwise. If I have offended anyone by posting any images on my blog, please contact me via email and I will remove specified image(s) ASAP.

 

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