Let’s take a second to recap 2020 so far: Global Pandemic. Racial injustice. Economic Slump. Political Unrest. Poison Ivy.
Pick your Poison
Ok, so the last one was just for me personally. But you’ve probably had a moment here in 2020 that was personally awful and you thought: “REALLY?! Really? 2020 is just gonna go ahead and double down on the awfulness? “
And the answer is, yes. And thank goodness. Or at the very least I hope so.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not wishing poison ivy on any of you. I really wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Because if you’ve ever had an incredibly itchy-oozy rash covering about a fourth of your body then you know what I’m talking about, but for the rest of you, you’ll just have to imagine something that sends a sane person right on over the edge. Welcome to Crazy Town, population: You.
Humble Pie, Party of One
However, what poison ivy did for me is what I had haughtily hoped would happen for my whole country when the first rumblings of trouble of 2020 started to hit. “I really hope this brings about a real change in people’s hearts!” I said, not thinking that I too would need to be included in that number. But then quarantine happened, and the next thing and the next and there was no great change in the hearts of the American people. No great movement in our churches that I could really see. Sure there were little lights here and there, little signs of hope as always, but nothing huge. Not the Great Repentance I’d hoped for back in March.
Then the poison ivy happened: The awful rash raged for a solid week (thanks to a doctor’s error where I was prescribed the wrong medicine for 5 days) and I had really gone off the deep end emotionally. Sure I was praying about it; asking God for relief. But I was simultaneously self-medicating with chocolate, online shopping, netflix binges, researching antipsychotic drugs that I thought I might be able to get my hands on “for a short while” and googling what essential oils I could put on the rash to make it better. When it came to personal comfort, the Lord was just a teeny tiny piece of my puzzle, and I was on the hunt for relief with or without the Lord’s healing touch. And it was then that I saw how quickly my mind turned from things of God and landed squarely on my selfish comfort.
Personal Conviction from a Personal God.
I had no idea I had so many idols laying in wait under the surface of my life, but there they were!
Not long ago, I read through the book of Judges and I was struck from the very beginning at the patterns laid out in the book and how very similar our world looks today (If you haven’t visited the book of Judges in a while then I suggest a re-read!). First of all, Israel failed to drive out the other nations who lived in the Promised Land. Again and again this would cause problems for God’s people. In the end everyone was just doing “what they thought best in their own eyes” and it never ended well. A Judge would have to come in, point the people towards repentance and the one true God. Everyone would have to tear down the altars to the gods they were worshiping at the time, and finally there would be salvation from their enemies. Over and over again.
It was clear to me that without fully driving out the places of sin in my own heart, they would continue to so very easily entangle me. All the little “harmless” vices became giant, as my own largest idol was compromised: ME.
2020….a good year?
I realized I was pretty well entrenched in self-worship and the year 2020 was working overtime to help me see just how much my own personal comfort and well-being meant to me! So, instead of world-wide repentance all I got was my own personal repentance. It’s its own type of miracle, honestly. And one worth celebrating. Because, as a follower of Jesus, I have the great joy of being able to confess my sins to Him – no matter how awful – and ask for forgiveness. I have the chance to walk in freedom from those sins and know that I have hope in a future where I don’t continually bow down to my own selfishness. Unlike the Children of Israel, I can allow Jesus to drive out the sins that infect my heart. And at the very least wake up each morning just knowing what a forgiven sinner I really am.
2020 is only halfway completed and hopefully the work the Lord has for it has only just begun. I now hope that 2020 continues to shine a light on the places in my life (and maybe yours too?) where I’ve elevated something other than Jesus up to a place of worship. Whether it’s my comfort and health, my family and their happiness, whether it’s my work here at Into the Harvest or in other ministry arenas. Even the ministry tools we use and see success with, the way we do church, the way we school our children, the list goes on and on – all these things have made the sneaky move into a place of worship. And I am thankful that the events of this year have shown them for what they were.
I just hope the Lord doesn’t have to use poison ivy as a teaching tool again for a very long time.