I watched a video this morning that pinned me to my chair. I was consciously overriding nausea, because I just had to see. It was of a dead shark being cut open, and I get weak at the sight of blood. In 9th grade Biology, I fainted while trying to help dissect a fetal pig (and knew right then I’d never go to medical school). I’ve even sworn off ever baking a red velvet cake. I did it one time. And once was enough. When the bright red batter accidentally splattered all over the counter and walls, my knees buckled and I had to grip the countertop repeatedly telling myself, “It’s only cake!” to be able to clean up the mess. So, it’s no small feat that I watched this video. There isn’t even that much blood in it. This is a fish we’re talking about.
Anyway – the amazing thing is, inside this dead shark are 3 living baby sharks. And I was gobsmacked by the message I got from watching. I am the dead thing, and there is a hand that wants to free me.
Lately, for more than a couple days or hours, I’ve heard some edginess in my tone of voice. I’ve become irritable with other people and with situations when they didn’t live up to my preconceived expectations. I’ve harbored a couple specific resentments, pathetically mulling over injustices done to me. And this shark video conveniently showed up in my life right after I read these words to my daughter in her devotional last night:
“When you sin, it’s like slowly cutting your soul off from God, and your soul starts to wither and die. The result of sin is not a bad day or a bad mood, but a dead soul. The signs are easy to spot – lying lips and cursing mouths, feet that run to do evil and eyes that don’t see God. But….the soul can be healed- through Jesus. And all you have to do is ask.”*
I used to think the word “sin“ was antiquated. And that “sinner” really didn’t apply to me. I could justify anything I’d done that I knew was just “a little bit” wrong. But eventually, I realized that sin is just the term for anything that keeps me from a close relationship with God – and that I was full of it. I may not have lied constantly or committed a heinous crime, but I had murdered people’s reputations by speaking poorly of them, I’d stolen people’s happiness with sarcastic remarks that took advantage of their soft spots, and I’d cursed others by harboring jealousy in my heart for things they had but I didn’t, while failing to see blessings – signs of God and his love – in my own life.
When I came to this realization, I also knew I couldn’t free myself from what I’d done, because the voice inside – the one that told me all along what was right and what was not – had become so faint and muted. My justifications had been, to my mind, quite witty, and smart. They were overpowering that voice. I almost couldn’t hear it anymore.
Yet, I wanted to get rid of that dull, heavy, dead feeling I was carrying around all the time. I needed to be free, and nothing I’d tried before had worked. So I tried the one “crazy” thing that lots of people before me had apparently tried – I asked Jesus if He was really out there, and could He help me?
The conversion of my heart was an unfolding event – a slow process of discovery that confirmed my suspicions. He really was out there. And also, really right here. And most of all, really real. No, He doesn’t text, or email, or use the phone (though how I wish He would), but He does show up and talk to me all the time – through people I meet, things I hear and see, and when I’m still, often when I pray, through that little voice. I can go along for a time ignoring Him, but the longer I do that, the deeper I sink into ugliness, until my I know my life is wasting away, because that’s what sin does: It kills me.
So – back to the shark mother, dead on a beach… How does it apply to me? For life’s sake, something must be done. Today I choose to roll over and expose my vulnerable belly – to be gutted – by a loving hand.
I have come to accept that I will always be a sinner, because my time on earth is not about me doing everything perfectly. I can’t. Only He can. But I can be free from the deadness within myself by asking Him to come in and strip it away, to let loose the new life in me. He does. And He will. Always. For this is His promise to us. And as I’ve said before – He is absolutely pure. Without sin. So He cannot lie. He can only keep His promises.
So Jesus said again…”Amen, amen, I say to you…A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
– John 10: 7, 10
* Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment – 365 Devotions for Kids (Nashville, TN: Tommy Nelson, 2012), 355.