Four of us shuffle in to the only empty row of padded seats left in our new church, an L-shaped space with floor to ceiling windows looking over what I imagine as a Southern movie set. Morning light glints through moss swaying from low churlish branches of monstrous Live Oaks, yellow daffodils scatter underneath broad trunks. “I can’t see anything when we sit here,” H whispers across the laps of our children. I forgot about the brick column blocking his view of the pulpit, my only concern is grabbing the last comfortable seats in haste.
Two rows in front of us, I notice a man leaning over repeatedly and speaking to the woman seated next to him wearing pearls around her neck, asking questions throughout the sermon. When we rise to recite the Lord’s Prayer and pass the peace he stands longer than usual, lost in the swarm of words and movement. Staring with his mouth hanging open, he clutches a piece of paper while everyone around him is seated.
It is in the slowness of response, the lingering in swathes of time when life rushes past, that an uncomfortable awareness of decline in our loved ones becomes prevalent. It is a grievous, yet telling stage of life for those who are bystanders.
He may not recognize words that before were rote or recall names associated with familiar faces but the liturgy falls from his tongue like savoring soup. The Creed and ancient hymns — they are firmly rooted in his memory bank.
When we have lost all preoccupation with ourselves the focus turns outward and we are children in God’s presence. Life is not about what we wear, how we look and who notices; what we offer through philanthropy and acts of service but a realization that spiritual poverty is wealth. We are desperate for His divine kindness daily.
It’s prideful, thinking that my compliance toward God’s favor somehow makes me spiritually fortunate in our relationship. Can I tell you something? This realization that pride is an idol is ugly and painful.
Prayer is a conversation of survival when I grasp the definition of what Jesus means when he says, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Watching the beginning Alzheimer stages in a once vital life is a mirror to my futility. When I declare my worth by the summation of what I can offer, comparison becomes my undoing and pride, the root of my foolish thinking. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
What is your legacy? It’s the question I sense God is asking me as I watch the Oscars later. One minute I’m noticing beautiful dresses and then tears are streaming down my face. And I’m learning to pay attention to what the tears are saying. You?
We enter the Kingdom of God in the same posture, on our knees thankful for His forgiveness despite success and loss.
When striving for affirmation is no longer possible we will be left with the liturgies (or idols) that shape our heart pouring out from the depths of our character. Embracing brokenness is the trophy of greatness. For by it we come to the awareness of God’s ability in our inadequacies and learn to trust Him.
It turns out we grabbed the best seats in church this morning; there are no obstacles to the message of Christ and no awards for his favor.
I’m joining Jennifer Lee in a heart-changing movement to evict the #LoveIdols in our lives, to make more room for Christ. In conjunction with the April 1st launch of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes (available for pre-order) we’re doing some soul searching during Lent. What are the idol’s in the way of your peace and intimacy with Christ? Join me in giving them up?