It’s a hot August summer night, and the barbecue with friends ends. You take a shower before bed, and the relaxing sprays of water soften and cool away that heat.
You’re quietly reading, and suddenly, a paragraph startles you. It hits a home run in both your mind and heart. You re-read that paragraph twice more times to read if it’s the message you thought it to be. You find that it is.
A friend takes a risk and gently suggests that you’re not yourself today. (Funny because you thought you were yourself when you woke up.) A trusted friend makes a passing observation about you—signals and signs about your behavior.
Let’s summarize those ten commandments with only three words. The three words that tempted Jesus Christ. Three words centering only on you and are all about control, power, and selfishness—three words that separate you from me and you from your Creator. Please be aware there’s no “us” found in those three words.
Enough suspense? Monty Hall, anyone? The three words are all behind three doors. Doors that either should remain firmly closed or at least have a doorstop. Door number one? Yourself. Door number two is manipulation, and door number three is spelled with a small “b.”
Deuteronomy also uses three words: “our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.” Words and feelings we can often feel about ourselves. Pretty strong words for their petty intrusions about our lives and then heaped upon the lives of others. I like the Monty words because they uncover and reveal the expression of feelings we devilishly cultivate in ourselves. And then sadly heaped upon others.
Yourself? In conversation, be aware of how many of your sentences begin and end with “I.” As though you are the expert among experts. Door two? Trickiest of all is the subtle or not too modest assertion to be who you are not. To appear more intelligent than I am with no holds barred? Any thought can be manipulated to be what we want it to be. Three’s door is the most damaging. Stated, “I am better than you are.” Never said out loud but loudly heard ringing away in our overbloated heads. You are not God. The Wizard of Oz was a fake hidden behind a curtain with all his levers and smokes, and so are we when we pretend to be a capital “B” spelling being when we are a small “b’ among a load of others “b’s” trying our best to speak divine words from our simple humanity.
“Devilishly cultivated” is the growing cancer of sin. “Divine words” is the grace-filled power of the Holy Spirit, living so much more robust in our lives.
Jesus proves his humanity, after forty days of introspection and reflection, by listening to those three temptations. Jesus hears them with his humanity but then divinely speaks about each. He responds to that devilish person inside us all with divinely inspired responses.
So, take a shower. Listen with an open heart to what you read, and you’ll uncover a lot about yourself and your relationships with others. And, listen closely to friends who remind us that we may need to humbly lean away from ourselves and into and with the Creator who created us.
Par up those three dangerous doors of “yourself,” “manipulation,” and being a capital “B” with those three Lenten words of “goodness, kindness, and mercy.”
I remember reading somewhere; I don’t remember where - that we’re made in the image of God. Is that true?