Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The word 'sin' makes me shudder. Not because I loathe it like holy people do. It's more of a gag reflex. In college I ate a bad burrito from Taco Bell and puked everywhere. For years I couldn't eat there. Simply thinking about Taco Bell made me twitch.
For me, sin is like a bad burrito. A traumatic association from gobs of gastric acid. I don't want to go back, but my reasons aren't noble. Shivers and cold sweats are hardly indicators of courage. But I've discovered that not everyone thinks about sin the same way. I think there's a sin spectrum with two extremes and most of us in the middle.
Extreme Left (Sin? What the #%&* is that?)
For some people it's a joke. An antiquated word. They think in terms of legal and illegal. Sin would be about someone's perception instead of anything objective.
I'm jealous of those people. I wonder if it's fantastically liberating to live like that. No constraints! Imagine running toward whatever cliff you felt like and stopping short only because you want to. It seems exhilarating and autonomous. I'd drink too much with my buddies. Or live at a casino by night and the ocean by day. But it doesn't work for everyone. Humanity is littered with casualties where people shot over the cliff and splattered in random heaps of pain along the sidewalks.
Extreme Right (Sin? Haven't seen it for years!)
There are others who take sin very seriously. They see explicit and absolute Divine standards. Their hatred for sin runs so deep that they live in another realm. Seriously, how do monks do what they do? For me, stuff like eating or talking is pretty normal. For them? Pushing the envelope.
My mental picture of me in monastery is comical. I ruin everything. I whisper too loudly. I eat way too much. And I definitely smuggle Frank's Red Hot Sauce for monk's bread. At first I get bored and mischievous, but eventually wilt into depression and bitterness. I finally set fire to the monastery and run away with my new friend Barthelmes, the monk I corrupted.
Deep down I'm afraid if I pursue holiness that at 70 I'll have forgotten the taste of submarine sandwiches and the sound of my own voice. I secretly wonder if anything enjoyable is by definition fleshly and therefore sinful. Maybe that's why I hold back from surrendering to Him. Allegedly my desires will change over time, but to be perfectly frank I'm not interested in a life without food and sports. Call it idolatry, but pass the ketchup.
Extreme Center (Sin? Let's not discuss that.)
Between the perfect people and the wild people live the rest of us. We've found comfort somewhere toward the middle of the spectrum. For us sin is vague and gross and just beyond reach. We're safely removed from dastardly evil, but we're not prudish either. A smidgen of sin is tolerable; not worth fretting about. Just don't go crazy. Other than that let's not talk about it.
Fine by me! It's not a happy topic at all. It brings ugliness to your doorstep. It eliminates excuses, pokes a God sized finger into your chest and says, "YOU." You're guilty. Bam. No way around it. And I think deep down everybody knows that already. We really do. Who honestly doesn't think they suck? I say no one.
We know we're sniveling creeps, we just don't care to dwell on it. Like the fact that I haven't looked in the mirror since I got fat. Seven years ago I could have looked all day. I was honestly convinced that Abercrombie and Fitch wanted me to model for them. I'm a dork. But now? Less is more when it comes to mirror time! Combing my hair in the dark is my newest aspiration. It's not overt denial; I know I'm fat. I'd just rather not dwell on it, thank you. Unfortunately, not looking doesn't make me skinny. Geez, I wish it did. I'd be so hot right now...
Extreme Me (Sin? Yum. Puke. Gag.)
Like I said before, the real reason sin makes me gag is because at the drive-through I ordered sin with a side of sin and I barfed my guts out. For me stepping back from ministry, feeling humiliated in front of family, friends, and supporters was like a gut-wrenching, nose-flowing, vomit explosion that makes you never want to eat again.
Currently the gag-reflex alone is working like a wonder drug. I've finally surrendered. You actually do reap what you sow. I can't soldier on with major character flaws, chalk it up to humanity, and pretend I'm a leader. The end will not justify the means. I have to stop everything, turn 180 degrees, and face the shadow. (For the record I hate that phrases like 'sowing and reaping' and 'ends justify means' are coming back to bite me in the butt! Before you know it I'll have bumper stickers like "hurt people hurt people" plastered on my jalopy.)
When I finally make eye contact with sin I'm terrified. As much as I may want to I can't arbitrarily choose where to land on the philosophy-o-sin spectrum. I wouldn't actually be happy anyway. Deep down I believe right and wrong extend beyond societal morality. I do. Whether or not God wants me to be a monk will have to wait for another blog. If He's real, and sin's real, than I'd better man up.
That leaves me in a wretched situation. My performance in light of His perfection is beyond appalling. Sin becomes more than a one-time burrito. It's a monster in the night. A frightful force that finds me, tricks me, and beats me senseless. Or maybe that's giving it too much credit. Maybe I found it? I don't know.