What follows is an edited reprint from a previous blog. I thought it fit well under the banner of Hanging in Midair
“He must be broken-your son must request forgiveness, and he must make his request in the appropriate words.” Emissary of the Almighty Flamethrower
In some ways, seeing the gospel as a white bearded Almighty, throwing down fire and demanding penitence, was easy. It allowed me to justify the arrogance of being elect, and it enabled me to keep at arms length those souls who really needed forgiveness…you know them-they cuss, they question, they wear gray ponytails, some look like they play for ZZ Top-and what redeeming value can be found in pumping “Sharp Dressed Man” through one’s earbuds? They like bourbon with their cigars. Because they spend so much time doing all those awful things, their children are at risk. If those poor, unelect souls would wear out their knees in agonizing prayer, they would know that Almighty Flamethrower was dangerous, and they would get their theological act together, shave, put some sanctified music on. Their children would have hope-that after inheriting their own sanctified habits of spiritual protection and cleanliness, they too would emerge into adulthood bathed in purity, well shorn and ready for a defense of that gospel, with all the intellectual armor needed to keep themselves out of the way of those flames the Almighty hurled when he was pissed at them.
“Dad, don’t let them do that to me again! I keep telling the truth, and they keep telling me I have to apologize.”
The Deerslayer, all of 11 years old, was caught in a controversy. He was telling the elect emissaries they had their story wrong-something they would not countenance. The emissaries of the Almighty Flamethrower came to teach a lesson in brokenness. I wasn’t “fine” with it-butI had always been on the side of the Flamethrower. It was clear someone was about to be a heretic, and the emissaries were quite sure it wasn’t them.
Grace, in the form of real healing and forgiveness, had recently entered our lives, the Deerslayer and me. When I admitted those agonizing prayers only made me sleepy and insecure, those guys with the ZZ Top beards showed up and listened. The emissaries thought I had lost my mind. My new, scruffy friends had about them the earthy scent of authenticity. They knew the Father who threw a huge party upon the return of his debauched, rebellious son. And they reached out a hand to rescue the arrogant rule follower too. The emissaries… smelled like smoke.
And so…we gambled…we went with Grace. We remembered that the Deerslayer’s real Father has in mind for him a life we cannot control, one he will have to engage. We chose to stand in The Deerslayer’s defense, to walk with him, just as the Son walks with us.
The emissaries of the Flamethrower warned us, we were teaching rebellion by refusing their authority. We were leaving the eternal safety net, and odds were that we would fall-hard.
“I want to take my faith to heart, not just do it because its what my family does.”
The Deerslayer on the day of his baptism.
“Dad, I like your weird friends.”
Now and then I get asked about how it has happened that I enjoy that kid with all the questions who likes to walk around with firecrackers in his pocket and makes smart assed comments about my height and hair color. It’s because I walk with a Father who gracefully tolerates my questions with a smile, and who enjoys fireworks and a good bourbon too.
My Father is teaching me Grace.
Gamble, my friends, on Grace. It’s messy, it requires trust and authenticity and sometimes friends with ZZ Top beards. It’s scary stuff, but it is gritty and real.