This morning's reading in the Daily Light begins with Lamentations 3:40:
Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.
I've been going through difficulties this past week that have forced me to probe my ways, and I’ve been feeling a heavy weight of guilt for what I'm discovering. I can't find any sins that are terribly uncivilized, but I am finding spiritual sins--the sins of pride--the worst kind. Pride is the great sin of the Devil. The sin that says, "I am God."
The world doesn’t find pride sinful. This past week, in a mythology class, I had to teach high school students that the story of Adam and Eve is a story of the coming of age of human beings. God created them, then put a serpent in the garden to “tempt” them to grow up, to become adults, to leave the nest. Then God was angry, like a bad parent, when they chose to go their own way—to become their own persons.
This interpretation is a doctrine of the ancient religion of paganism. We now call that religion secular humanism. According to our evolved social mores, we should not “probe our ways and return to the Lord.” That would be like crawling back into the womb. And if we’re tempted to do that, it’s only because God’s anger has put a heavy burden of false guilt and shame on us.
So I was supposed to teach these students, by implication, that their task is to throw off this weight of guilt, to become fully human, to live their own lives to the fullest as seems best to them. Oh, and also, the book implied we are all to try to do a better job of parenting our children than God did His.
I taught the lesson, but I also told the students the other, more traditional interpretation of the myth of Adam and Eve. I said the story is also considered an explanation of how evil came into the world. I had to add that interpretation. It wasn't in the text. It’s interesting that modern mythology textbooks would teach a pagan interpretation for a Jewish myth, without any mention of the interpretation Jewish scholars have given it down through the years.
But I digress. My own guilt. I feel the weight of it. The guilt is real and justified. And it’s a hard thing to make myself recognize what I’m doing wrong and correct it.
Then I made a glorious discovery: though the guilt is justified, the weight doesn’t have to be there. I don’t have to work at realizing my guilt and repenting and confessing.
John G. Elliott's devotional reading for today has given me a whole new perspective on my malady. John speaks of God's refining fire.
It is God who does the work of refining. We don't have to do anything but surrender. To put ourselves in his hands. He does the rest. It’s a task He does very carefully, because He loves us so much.
John G. Elliott says:
To Him we are of infinite value - - - even in our raw condition. We are the ore that is largely composed of “earth” - - - the “world”. These anti-Kingdom motives, values and desires loom larger in us than we are aware. But He sees the gold deposited in the mix and undertakes a life-long process of “un-earthing” the ore where it is lodged deep within. The filtering process for a small amount of gold is time consuming and costly - - - for Him and for the disciple. But He has never doubted His objective. His love is determined concerning us- - - to the point of splendid obsession. It would seem that the more a disciple yields to this process the more times the furnace is heated up for yet another round of purification.
Ouch. Another round? Not fun. But it is such a relief to know He is responsible for the purification, not me. I will never be “adult” enough to do that task for myself, and I’m happy to leave Him to it.