Beauty that Burns

I’m old on the inside. Old but not as wise as I fancy myself to be.

A multitude of things happened today, which is usually how God works in me to get my attention. To make me remember that He hears every small utterance and every whispered plea and knows what I need. Knows it intimately.

After all, He can read my mind. Without any help from me. Without any words and without any poetic expression of emotion.

I’ve started a new habit in the last few weeks. Having nothing to do with a new year or resolving to do better and having everything to do with a quiet desperation building within me to draw into His arms.

To know Him intimately like He knows me. To fall in love all over again with the One who deserves my adoration. Who demands my faith and romances my heart. Who commands repentance and promises His righteousness.

He knows something about me that I’m just starting to understand about myself.

He is always doing for me what I cannot do for myself.

He is always doing it with perfection.

He does it quietly. Softly. Tenderly. Relentlessly.

I am on the precipice of recognizing something that I NEED. Something that Jesus is telling me to turn to and something else that Jesus is telling me to turn from. I feel like I’m always on this precipice.

And sometimes, I can see it clearly. And sometimes, it feels cloudy, even when it isn’t. And sometimes, I just downright don’t want to.

Because I trust too much in the temporary prettiness of shadows. Because I want too much to cling to this flesh that strangles me.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

For three years in a row, I’ve heard my pastor preach a sermon on these verses. And each time, I can practically hold the hindrances in my hand and sense the the threads of sin looping in tight knots around my limbs, my fingers, my throat, and puncturing through my eyes and mouth to wind down into my heart.

With soft, sharp tendrils, sin slinks and seeks its way in wherever it can get the slightest bit of purchase.

And my heart has been a breeding ground for this type of slow creep for too long. For far, far too long.

In the quiet of last night, after watching a movie that is promoting one of the falsest hopes out there (that being basically good means that death will bring peace and light and happiness), my heart started to shred. I had one of those moments where Jesus is so crystal clear to me that it was more than I could bear.

More than I could sustain and hold onto.

Because it burned. Oh, how it burns.

The beauty of Christ is nothing like the prettiness of shadows. The beauty of Christ is nothing like the seduction of sin. The beauty of Christ is a weightlessness.

He takes away the sin of my world. Making everything new. Carrying away every weight and burden.

Being with Him is like touching pure light and knowing that nothing….nothing….nothing will ever compare.

And then, it is like looking at myself and looking at those around me and then looking at us, at humanity, as a whole and knowing that we are filling ourselves up on nothing…nothing…nothing…Gorging on it. Suffocating on it.

Why do I sometimes find myself desperately clutching at those tendrils of sin, at those threads of shadow, and trying to make it anchor me down? Trying to force it to stop being this ethereal, untouchable parasite?

But I can’t get a grip on it. I can only rid myself of it with the Light that burns it away.

Not apart from the Light that takes away my blindness and blasts away the shadows that I let weigh me down.

Nothing apart from Christ.

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