Monday, May 14, 2007

All things work together for good?

What follows is the most personal offering I’ve ever put out in a public forum. It serves a purpose though, so here goes…

I never cease to be amazed at the fact that mankind has this nonsensical willingness to harm and destroy beauty. We see it every day, and we see it throughout history. Early in the Book of Genesis, we find Adam and Eve destroying a beautiful and perfect relationship with God by choosing to deliberately rebel against Him. Not long after, their oldest child chose to destroy one who was made in God’s own image. While the exact reason he chose to kill Able has been debated for centuries, all would agree that Cain’s choice to kill his brother had everything to do with selfishness and pride….sin.

I was reminded of this early Sunday evening. My wife had gotten clothes out for our 6-year-old daughter, and told her to get dressed for church. Our daughter said that she didn’t want to wear the blouse that Sonja had picked out for her and commenced throwing a fit. After a considerable amount of corrective action to change her rebellious attitude, our daughter finally saw things our way and went to her room to get dressed. When she came out, wearing the cute pink blouse that my wife had selected, we noticed that there was something wrong….Ashleigh, in her anger and final bit of rebellion regarding this issue, had taken scissors to the back of the blouse.

As I went to bed that night, I found myself reflecting on what had happened. Why had my daughter done this? Obviously, in Asheligh's case, the root of this response is her selfishness, pride, rebellion, and unregenerate nature – she’s a sinner in need of a Savior. In some cases, however, it seems like there is something beyond that in play.

When I was 7-years-old we moved out of state for a short time. My father was an out-of-control drunk, and he had gotten physically abusive to my mother, so she packed some things and took me and my little brother and sister to some friends in another state. While we were there, I was sexually abused by two different people. Now this sounds like a much more traumatic thing than it actually was for me. I haven’t thought about it for 15 or 20 years and I don’t think I’ve ever carried any “scars” from it. Other than my wife, I don’t believe I’ve ever told anybody about this. It was something that happened to me, and that was that. I understand that most people who have such experiences carry emotional scars for many years – some never get over it. I guess I’m just built differently, but that’s not the point of this article.

I find myself wondering what motivated the abusers – an adult male and a teenage girl. I remember the incidents as if they were happening to somebody else – like I was simply watching it happen rather then it happening to me. As I look back on it, I find myself confused about it all…what drove these people to destroy the innocence of a beautiful, young child?

I generally say that people are just plain wicked and nothing they do should surprise us. Often, however, I find myself struggling with the shear heinousness of what some people choose to do. In the realm of harming children – whether physically or sexually – I think there is an extreme form of depravity at play. Perhaps that doesn’t fit so neatly into all of our theological paradigms, but how else can it be explained? There is something beyond sinister – beyond sinful – beyond “depraved” that would drive a person to harm an innocent child. But again, this brings me back to the opening sentence of this article…it’s amazing to me that mankind consistently displays a deliberate wantonness to constantly destroy the beautiful.

It seems like the news is always full of gut-wrenching stories about crimes against the innocent. Over the last few years I’ve read countless stories regarding neglected, abandoned, molested, abused, and hated children. Each time I see these things, it makes my stomach hurt and tears begin to well up in my eyes. Each time I find myself asking, “Why?” Each time, I am reminded of just how hopeless, desperate, and wicked man is when separated from Christ.

I’ll be honest; my natural response when I read these stories is to say, “Hell isn’t punishment enough for these vile, wretched wastes of oxygen!” But that anger quickly subsides when I’m reminded that hell isn’t punishment enough for me, either. God saved me for His Own glory and for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. That He would love me so much is beyond anything I could ever comprehend. The fact that I would think that some men are so wicked that they deserve a more severe punishment than me smacks of pride and arrogance.

As I’ve reflected on these things over the last 24 hours, I find myself more motivated to reach the lost with the Gospel of Truth. The extreme wickedness of which an extremely wicked man is capable should never surprise us….it should simply remind us of what we are capable of if not for the constraints of the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ.

If you feel compelled to comment on this article, please understand first what my heart is in sharing these things. First of all, I’m not after sympathy, nor am I simply trying to sound “noble” or “heroic”. These events transpired more than 25 years ago. While I remember feeling confused and almost guilty at the time, I don’t think I ever shed a single tear over these things – it was simply a brief part of my life that ended within months of it beginning. Many people go through much worse on a daily basis.

What I hope to get across is the desire I have to reach the lost and to help the hurting. Sometimes we get so caught up in ourselves that we forget that “ourselves” is not why we are here. God didn’t save me so that I could spend decades embittered about my childhood traumas. (I don’t mean to trivialize the very real anger and emotional damage that some people experience as a result of similar abuse – I just didn’t experience any of that.) God saved me for His Own Glory, and He has directed me to teach and evangelize the lost. If He so chooses to use some negative aspects of my background as a tool to that end, how then can I help but to praise Him for it? Friends, we serve a mighty, powerful, and sovereign God Who has promised to make all things work together for good! How wonderful to be able to rest in that promise!

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