Monday, December 29, 2014

My word picture of redemption

Bugs Bunny was one of my favorite cartoons when I was a little girl. And one cartoon in particular always fascinated me. It is the episode with Ralph E Wolf and Sam Sheepdog. The long and short of this cartoon is this: Wolf's job is to capture the sheep, Sam's job is to protect them. Over the course of 8-10 minutes these two creatively battle back and forth. But the part that always sticks with me is close to the end, where in a cave, each of them begin revealing that they are indeed in disguise. Back and forth they go, unzipping their cloaks from the tops of their heads to their toes, stepping out as the other character.

Beyond just being funny to the typical 8 year old, I have always found this scene to be both disturbing and inspiring; a comical albeit fantastical example of a wolf in sheep(dog)'s clothing. On one hand, the viewer is simply confused, not sure which is who and what is which. Eventually that decloaking becomes ridiculous as new characters appear, adding to the surprise felt by the viewer. And while the average 8 year old giggles at the thought of a wolf and dog trading costumes, I understood the deeper implication. I knew how it felt to be deceived by the sheepdog.

On the other hand, I was inspired by the same picture painted in a different arena. My parents didn't go to church when I was young. But when we moved to the country, a church became my next door neighbor. I was curious, I heard kids at school talk about church, I asked a lot of questions. Shortly after starting first grade my parents agreed to take me. That church became a refuge for me.

I have several favorite hymns. But there is one that takes me back to my 8 year-old self every time I hear it; Sweet Hour of Prayer. There are many lines that spoke to me: and oft escaped the tempter's snare, thy wings shall my petition bear, may I thy consolation share...But there is one line in the last verse, close to the end, sort of the climax of the entire poem, that says:

This robe of flesh I'll drop, and rise to seize the everlasting prize.        

Every time we sang that hymn, I'd picture it. Me, standing on Mt. Pisgah, which looked amazingly like the meadow in the cartoon, only to unzip my skin, leave it on the ground, and float in spirit upward to Heaven. And with that skin? I would leave far more than my own body. I would leave the pain of being abused. I would leave my parents' fighting. I would leave feelings of disappointment and failure. 

I am a long way from that 8 year old girl in the front pew of the Christian Church. I have made a lot of mistakes. I have hurt a lot of people, myself included. This leads me to Colossians 2:13-14.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

I can picture it. Jesus, on the cross, with my sins. At his feet are the bottles of booze and pills I emptied over the years. The lies I told. The money I stole. The friends I hurt.  The stench of my promiscuity wreaking from his body. He holds in each hand a soul I so selfishly took from this earth. All of it, all of the things I do not want to face about myself he willingly takes on Himself. He relieves me of these...these...sins; these acts I chose in an attempt to numb the pain. Acts that in the end only served to increase my self-loathing and increase the distance between me and God.

And then it hits me. This robe of flesh is not what I am to God. When I drop my robe of flesh, I become something beautiful, something indescribable. I become what God sees in me.

I told you I'm no theologian. I don't have it all figured out. But I heard once that even a beggar can tell another beggar where to get food. And I'm not going to tell you that giving Jesus your sin will mean that all your struggles go away. Far from it. But I will tell you this; if you will look at that cross and see yourself the way he sees you, with love and compassion, so willing to take your baggage from you, it will change you. You are more than the baggage you carry, than the robe of flesh you wear. Unzip yourself and step out of your flesh so you can see it too.


  1. Like the intro to your post. I'm coming from ProTeacher.

  2. I remember that cartoon too. What struck me as terribly amusing was that they clocked out at the end of the day telling each other they'd see them tomorrow.

    Theologian or not, it seems to me that you have a lot figured out.

    GreenBunny from ProTeacher.


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