The absence of something dreadful does not define the presence of health. Given that premise, the absence of personal wickedness, the rejection of perversion and the appearance of freedom from evil, do not constitute good moral health. When the human masks come off or even slip a bit, what is evident to the rest of us? What drives you or separates those with good moral health from those who dwell at the edges of evil encounters or even those who embrace all the seeming advantages that wickedness has to offer? Simply put, moral health is the presence of the Holy Spirit in a life guided and directed by Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness.
Since these are divine qualities and we are merely human, it begs the question, how do we embrace these qualities in our lives? By myself I am often powerless over lesser choices and poor decisions. Having a consciousness of Jesus Christ or good versus evil or of the eternal struggle, is insufficient to sustain changes in my character or my daily outlook. The change, this profound change stems from a commitment to the personal surrender of all aspects of my life. Not just the obvious evil threading its way through my daily adventures. It is an acceptance of the reality that until my life is transformed, I will always be unable to consistently make healthy moral choices.
This is the essence of the human dilemma. It goes to the core of who we are as individuals and the lives we choose to live during our short journey on earth. This reality shades all of our choices and creates a yielded spirit or one that focuses solely on self-gratification. This shift to moral health can occur in a church on a Sunday morning, in a death row cell or sitting in your backyard talking with your Creator. Many of us wait until the last possible moment, when we are divorcing, going to jail, laying in ICU or being fired again! What an improvised life to live, always living on the edge of disaster. It was never meant to be life this, rather we have been given a life graced with the gift of free will.
When your son or daughter comes to you, hugs you and says with complete innocence, “I love you” it melts our hearts and smoothes the rough edges of our past lives. Yet all along that is what God is always doing for us, reaching out with the comforting arms that embrace and His whispered “I love you.” “Tell me what is hurting you.” But like a child with a splinter in our toes, we grasp ourselves and pull back from the offered help and the promise of comfort. As adults we say “I know better, its my choice, its my life” and we wander about with that painful splinter which eventually becomes infected. God is of noble character, He will never intrude on your right to make the ultimate choice, even if it is the choice to spend eternity in Hell.
I can kid myself upon until the moment of my death, telling myself that I do not have cancer or some other dreaded disease. But my foolishness and denial will not alter the reality of having a terminal disorder. The coolest thing about God is that at any moment I can pull back and quickly surrender to a gracious and loving Being. It is that simple, just a private act between you and your Creator. It can be a simple inner cry, HELP! You do not need eloquent words to impress Him or to try and capture His attention. Just like your hearty is melted by the touch and softness of a loving child, He views you in the same way. It does not matter what you have done in the past. He is concerned with the now and with your future.
I had a God inspired learning moment today. After having had breakfast with a friend I was standing in the line for the cashier to pay for the meal. The line was long and children were darting about, being playful. Suddenly from my left a child ran directly in front of me to grab a bottle of soda from a freezer. I stepped back and raised up my hands to make sure that the child and I would not collide. The woman standing in front of me turned and said “he is just a child we all did things like that as children.” She offered her observations and reflections though I had made no comment on this child’s actions. Later moving closer to the cashier, she made several other comments which suggested that I had been intolerant of the child.
At first her comments seemed like little barbs and inappropriate. In my spirit I resolved to keep my peace, though I later discussed the situation with my friend to pull out he spiritual gold nugget which was to be found in a fruitful understanding of what had just happened. Slowly I realized that she had no awareness of my vision problems. You see, I am peripherally blind from a stroke which I had in May 2011. I cannot perceive someone moving into my path when they come from either side. My response is usually a startle response, as though someone just popped up in your field of vision. It was clear that she had made an attribute about my intentions without knowing the personal facts regarding my health condition. Later her added comments may have been made to show her disapproval of my actions. I was thankful at that moment that I had said nothing to her.
God is NOT like that woman. He knows about all of my blindness, my wickedness, my perverse choices and the harm I have inflicted upon others because I have made evil choices. He does not ask me for an explanation, nor does He attempt to embarrass me or humiliate me for my errors in perception, my lifetime of selfish choices and my free-will decisions to reject Him as an influence in my life. Rather He knows all of the influences and factors which contributed to my low life encounters with evil. He is well aware of the role that the evil one played in encouraging me to reject His goodness and instead to take a bite of the forbidden fruit. Like the child described above all I need to do is acknowledge my failing and ask for forgiveness. That is the essence of Christianity.
I have written these few paragraphs today for myself so that I could process this event visually and then cognitively. I have also written this piece for posting on the Dismas Project website for those who encounter these words in the future. Most of all I have written these words for my brothers and sisters living on death rows across the nation. Recently I received a letter from Angola, Louisiana which pointed out that the content of previous letters was somewhat repetitive. The author suggested that the thoughts which I regularly shared about the work of Dismas Project was just sending the same message to a number of individuals in prison over and over again….so that I could feel like I had achieved my “task.” The letter went on to say that ministry should be personal and intimate, longing for soul winning.
I send these monthly letters to bring some light and encouragement to a dark environment. I seek to relate day to day situations and how God works in these situations to enhance my understanding of His great love and kindness to me and others. These letters are nothing more than a growing list of encounters with a loving God. The number of prisoners that we are able to reach is merely a reflection of God’s great providence, not a marker of personal achievement. There is no achievement to be found in touching other lives with kindness and grace, since my Savior willingly died for all of my sins. If I have sent the message that there is an agenda behind these letters other than a caring and compassionate spirit, please relieve yourself of that misunderstanding. I expect nothing from anyone who receives these words….. All honor and glory belong to Jesus Christ!