I’m a reformed cutter. But last night was a close one.
I read an article that triggered me. My heart raced. My head dizzied. My insides huddled up and chanted. And I crawled into bed early, wanting only to curl up and cope.
Thoughts of cutting came to mind. Since the rest of the house was still awake, I decided to wait until the house fell asleep. Then do it. Not deep. Just a quick slice. Enough to make the pain inside that no one else could see be real and bleeding on the outside. Enough to vent rage at long-gone attackers, rage at myself for being so ridiculously broken, and rage against the silence I still self-impose.
But I fell asleep.
I didn’t cut. But I’d wanted to.
The word conjures images of street preachers holding cardboard signs and finger-waggers wagging at me and my besetting sin.
It’s the favored fruit every legalist I’ve ever met expects and inspects.
And it bothers me.
But what bothers me? The fruit-checkers or my flat inability to produce it?
Do I even understand what it means?
I wanna know what Jesus says, so I word-search it and see that when Jesus uses it, it’s always in the context of turning from sin and turning to God for everything He has for us. Forgiveness, relationship, healing, salvation, rest. All desperately needed. All graciously given.
But what about, “Go, and sin no more?”
Jesus’ parting words to the woman saved from stoning. The scriptural-stone most lobbed my way by fruit-checking friends. The repentance-ideal I wrestle with on the daily. Sometimes I win but walk with a limp after. Sometimes I lose and walk away with new scars.
“Go, and sin no more.”
Every time I hear it, I hear Dr. Phil’s voice saying, “Yeah? How’s that workin’ for ya?”
Cuz I don’t know about you, but going and sinning no more is not working for me.
I may have avoided cutting last night, but I imagined it until I fell asleep. And because I’ve read the Sermon on the Mount, I realize God’s perfect standard includes my thought-life and raises the bar sky-high, to heart-level. So… I’m thinking it counts.
And there’s a closet-full more where that came from.
“Go, and sin no more.”
I don’t argue whether Jesus said it, but He also said calling someone a moron is murdering him in your heart, so we won’t go into how many folks I’ve murdered on my newsfeed this morning. My Wii Fit judgingly tells me I’m over-weight. Only by about 25 pounds, but when it comes to pecan-sandies, I am admittedly and unreformedly a glutton. And gluttony is one of the seven deadly.
If Christians were perfectly repentant of all their sins there’d be a lot more skinny Christians out there, wouldn’t there?
God, I’m weary from playing whack-a-mole with my sin. Can’t I just come and be before you, sins and all, and rest? Does my imperfectly repentant fruit disqualify me? If I cut tomorrow, am I cut off?
When in doubt, I read further. And there it is…
In Luke 13, I see Jesus, beautiful rule-breaking moth that He was, teaching on repentance. I hear Jesus reminding suffering sinners that we’re no worse than any other sinner not currently suffering. I hear Him offering patience and 3 million, 557 thousand, 600 seconds worth of second chances and special care and attention to a little fig tree that had yet to bear fruit. I hear Him remind the rule-extolling Pharisees that they were as much Sabbath-breakers as the woman coming to Him for her healing. I hear Him prophesy that the kingdom, in time, will grow from its mustard-seed-small beginnings to house birds in its branches. And that He gives it that time. I hear Him elevate leaven for a second and explain how the Kingdom will permeate every part of us, or this world, or both, eventually. And how the way is narrow because the way is Him…
And I’m reminded I’m in.
As Inigo Montoya said, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Whether it’s remorse for sin or our sinful nature—for being very sin of very nature—or a change in direction and a turning to God, surely it’s not a fruit to be checked by any modern-day, clipboard-carrying Pharisees out there or self-abusing whack-a-molers like me.
Because whichever it is, its first step is turning to God, and the rest is a life-long, grace-filled process. One our gardener-God, Jesus, is willing to lovingly care-take in us, whether we’ve managed to produce one damn fig yet or not.
And I don’t know about you, but this is good news to me.