ICING ON THE CAKE
Dante and I haven't had the fun of a deep theological argument. This electronic stuff has its limit. I remember back in Christian college and seminary days, it's what made me look forward to lunch in the cafeteria. I debated another long entry, so put this in two parts. The second is an example story about THE Story.
While it would be foolhardy to challenge Dante's deeply held convictions so wonderfully expressed, maybe we'll call this a "layer" to the cake of his disciplined practical theology. Something like icing.
Being a fan and friend of John Eldredge, I have a little icing to contribute. We must all, yes, take care to understand and practice the historic and biblical list of practices (and attitudes) that mark disciples. That in itself reduces the pew count from something like 300 down to 30 in the front row. You know, the guys who mostly show up for the Saturday men's group and some who lead home groups.
Still, we all tend to live outside THE Story, the one written long before time by the Triune Counsel. What we write, including the rigors of serious Christianity we struggle to conform to, is more likely our own story. Well, not a "story" exactly, but just chapters. More often just pages. I've been known to write up just my own paragraph and snap the suspenders of my faith in humble pride. Not much of a story, really, but it did have the conventional Bible memory, prayer, fellowship, and Christian service in the outline. Some of my best self-written stories were pretty puny despite looking mighty good to the undisciplined crowd in the pews around me.
No, I like His Story better, now that I have ventured beyond the rigors of best Christian practice. Lets' see, that's, ummm about--wow!--58 years of practicing. I still don’t have it down right. Again, it's only been the last ten of those years I've enjoyed adding a layer on top of these essentials. Shame to have the cake without the icing.
I think THE Story is much more about the heart, the one He redeemed, purified, and chose to reside in. I'm glad to find among my Christian friends so much of the "serious Christian stuff". I'm sad all they have is cake.
Remember the last time you were tempted to finger off the icing of a wedding cake when no one was looking? Whether too sweet, just right, or made you hanker for another snitch, the sugar high of a diet of icing can bring its own trouble.
The liability of a metaphor is overstatement. So, let me make it plain. Fluffy heart stuff is not nourishing; doesn't last, either. We do need to, as in MUST, know the Word of God, for it IS holy and customized by the Spirit for us. We must also "get it" as to what the Father wants of His gifts deposited in us, else service and blessing would be like icing alone, short and not worth much. Then there is that “no-no” list…cussin', drinkin', smokin' (cigars on the deck with a Christian comrade excepted), chasin' the chaste and un-chasted, and, of course, sneaking "X-peeks".
I used to keep a row of check-off boxes for both me and my disciples. Fortunately, I've forgotten most of the list. Sure, it all wears well in the fellowship of believers. But is your heart full of Him God He seeks. Both we and He long to enjoy those glorious moments of worship that confirms your intimacy with this Lord God Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth. And we actually call Him Daddy? Too amazing.
So, cake and icing, discipline and holy heart-centered abandon. Or, maybe, on the back filler flap of your Bible we could identify two columns, not one: "Work and Worship," or "The Performance and The Walk". Just a thought. I used to have only one column there.
This is already a bit long, eh? Why stop here? I'll cut a piece from a portion of Generational Fathering I just wrote this morning. Seems to fit. "Nani" is Carolyn, my bride. It’s about legacy.
[Preceded by a Joyce Meyers quote, believe it or not, on a life’s legacy]
Yes, even sad stories are re-written by unearned grace. But, how much more fulfilling here and in Heaven to see such a reward as a result of our deliberate, disciplined intention to leave a legacy, not for our glory but for theirs and His.
My wife, that's Nani, was raised by what she heard and saw, like the rest of us. For reasons only God's mercy can account for, she burst out of the imposing force of the family version of classic Christianity, better called “churchianity”. The model was "all about (Christian) me" well before its current popularity. It framed her life with rotting wood. Generations of wealth and dominance of easily impressed Christian groups was the mold passed on from way up in the family tree. Her life became, somehow, about her very red Youth For Christ Bible hauled to every class on top of her books. That was NOT Christian cool. She tells it still today, a half century later, “I really cared about what God was telling me. I guess I’d say it was truly about Him.”
The imperceptible transfusion was a poisonous cocktail formulated in the church and passed down from a godly-appearing but self-centered father who doomed Carolyn's two sisters to an aggregate of nine husbands between them. It was a Christian "whatever". It was a "whatever it takes” to look happy, be happy, stay in control, and keep the faith without giving it away.
It was a legacy, alright: “Above all, be Christian” and get whatever I can—“for Christ and my family, of course.” It left a gene pool Genie, the magic of being the revered Christian leader who knows the verses and counsels with deep tones of piety.
Sure, the father was damaged goods. Aren't we all? He had a father that wasn't so hot. When that father who was to be Carolyn’s grandfather murdered himself, his wife, and his family—all but Carolyn’s father—it left a hole with no bottom, far larger than anyone can fathom. It explains the father's protection and isolation. And it left the tracks of generational sin in place until, for Carolyn, the curse of “grandfather’s bent” was broken. The potential of a legacy worthy of viewing from Heaven’s heights restored.