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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why wearing white is so revealing

There is nothing worse than wearing white and getting a stain on it. Anyone that has worn white to something important knows that the absolute worst thing that can happen is to get even the smallest stain to divert the attention from how good you look in the white garment to beg the question, "what the heck did they eat?"

As I am continuing to walk along this journey, purity has become elevated to one of the items at the top of the list. I'm realizing that purity is the easiest thing to compromise as most of it is just murky due to all that we are surrounded by in society. We look around and see that the rest of the world is getting along fine living their lives as they please irregardless of whether they call themselves Christian or not. And as we see the world around us live a certain way, we begin to live the same way putting ourselves in compromising situations, spending what we have recklessly, and doing things that we really ought not to.

The thing is, no one really likes to be told what to do and when we go to church, that is often what we hear first since it is the easiest thing to point out in any one's life - bad behavior is easy to preach against. The interesting thing about purity is that it will come from a desire to know God and a desire to keep knowing God. Ultimately, purity comes from a regular relationship with God. When I lived like I wanted to drinking and partying as I pleased, I recognized that my heart was closed off from God. I literally reserved a special area of my life as "my choices" and lived and did what I pleased. I said, "God, you can control every other aspect of my life, but in order for me to be relevant in this world, I've got to be able to get along with everyone in this world, and that means being able to hang with the Jones'" As I kept telling God that I could be Christian while partaking in some of these activities, I noticed that the area of my life labeled "my choices" started growing. It quickly became more important for me to be "cool" than to know God. I began to put more importance on my popularity and acceptance by friends than I did on God. This led to even more compromises and then eventually, looking no different than anyone else.

As God started to call me back into His arms, I would have to assess my own soul as dark, distant, and dysfunctional. I could barely go before God and I realized that for a period of time, I was ignoring God all together. I would hear Him nudge me, and I would act as if I heard nothing and turn my head and walk away from Him. As I kept my head turned away from God, I started to hear His calls louder and I chose to keep ignoring it. The call wasn't an audible call, but it felt more like an urge in my heart to turn from my ways of putting my own selfish desires as a part of the world and just merely start looking back towards God. This persisted for some time, but after a while I stopped hearing His call altogether, I think this is when I got scared. As soon as I faced toward Him, I noticed that I didn't just have my back towards Him, but that I had run 5000 miles away from Him.

The interesting thing is what happened next.

I experienced God running to me to quickly close the gap between us. All I had to do is gaze upon Him and the love that He had for me and within no time, He was right in front of me, with arms wide open, telling me to receive the embrace of His great love. This was the beginning of purity once again.

Immediately, it was as if God had put a white shirt on me and told me, "Ray, we are going to a special banquet and you are my guest of honor." It was all very exciting. Then, as I started re-engaging with God through quiet times and prayer, I noticed that certain situations started calling me again, I started getting pulled by former desires and distracted by things that kept me from focusing on God. Most of them weren't evil, they were small things like "let's go grab a beer" or even just socializing with friends. Some we're larger like the temptation that women can be on men or even conversations that seem to be rooted in evil.

One interesting thing I noticed were that conversations run on two tracks - one that is God glorifying and the other that elevates everything else to the status of God in our lives. For me, the biggest temptation is and has always been money. I elevate money as a great source of security, pleasure, comfort, prestige, and status often. It doesn't help that I have a lot of friends that make a lot of money - some worth tens to hundreds of millions. I look at what they can afford, the life they can life, and I want it for myself. And that's where the switch happens. Like the fork where train tracks change the direction of a moving train, it's as if my pursuit of purity transforms into the pursuit of money. I quickly start scheming at ways I can make my own millions and begin to take God out of the equation because I stop pursuing God when I pursue money. I am not saying that money is evil, but I do believe that it is harder to follow God when you are under the assumption that you are self-reliant, only subject to the whims of your bosses and markets. But this is probably another post for another time. What I am trying to say is that in my heart, I know when what I say comes out of pure intention and when it comes out of a need which I am looking for the world to fulfill and not God to fulfill. It takes me a while to look around and remember that God is the God who created the universe, holds the world in His hands, and has known me from before I was in my mother's womb. The same God that transcends any system or law of the world.

Purity is initiated through a love act from God then continued through a love relationship with Him. The great thing about purity is that it allows us to continue to hear God's voice and keeps us aware of what pleases Him. Purity is certainly a choice we have to make and a hard one (especially for those in romantic relationships as sexual purity is probably the hardest thing to maintain), but it certainly is possible and God certainly has grace for those who keep seeking Him.

One thing I know is irrefutable is that the more purity becomes important in my life, the more I need to cling to God. The closer to God I get, the higher my definition of purity gets. The higher my definition of purity gets, the more I need God to help me maintain that purity. Its like going from 10k gold to 18k gold to 24k gold. If we look at romantic relationships, I have a hard time not struggling with lust with even a touch from a girl I am attracted to. Kissing used to be the gateway drug, but now, its turned into even a gentle brush on the arm. It makes everything harder because it makes me feel like a crazy person, but I wonder if this is what we are all called for, to be so pure, so set apart, that when we marry the person we will spend the rest of our lives with that everything is new, everything is fresh, and everything is exciting. I see the parallels in my relationship with God as I continue to walk with Him and it makes me need Him in more ways than I have ever known before.

Every time I open my mouth or start to pursue something that isn't godly or do something that satisfies the desire for sin in my life, I get a stain on my white shirt. As I walk with God however, I am noticing that God has many spare shirts for me and regardless of the size of the stain, He has one ready for me as I walk with Him. The interesting this is when I decide to run ahead of Him or walk down a road I shouldn't. When I start engaging in conversations from a heart motive that isn't pure, or when I go into places that really have no redemptive value, or when I simply want something more than I want God, I see Him simply wait for me to stop getting distracted, come back to Him so He can give me another shirt to change into, so that we can continue to walk and talk together to the grand banquet.

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