Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Look Ma - I'm on top of the world!"

Remember that explosive finale to Jimmy Cagney's character in White Heat? I've never seen the movie, but all the pathos, all the missed dreams and foolish choices - all the hysterical laughter and rage in that one scene just before he is gloriously blown to itty bitty bits speaks deeply to all of us who dream of making it big one day - and are afraid how it will end for us.

What's the old axiom? "Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it."

Again, I haven't seen the movie, but I understand that pathos of reaching infamy in recognition and then self-destructing. Of wanting the right things but going about it the wrong way. Obviously, Jimmy's character wants his mother to be proud of him - he MADE it!


Why was this in my mind?

Yesterday, I climbed to the top of my home in Wheaton and cleaned out the gutters which had gotten filled with a morass of leaves and seedlings from our GENEROUS maple trees in May. I was able to see saplings sprout and grow in our gutters from the street. It was a weird sight, watching trees try to grow in those aluminum troughs. You knew they wouldn't go deep - but they were getting enough water and had enough rotting organic material around them to make the conditions right. (Our gutters don't empty well. We're working on that.)

But the reason it was notable - and I told Nancy later - was that I had little to no fear getting up there. 14 feet off of the ground. 20 feet by my sight, since I stand at 6 feet.

I hate unprotected heights. Don't mind airplanes or glass elevators (much), but man, you get me up on a roof and I get uhhhh - "careful". Very careful. Especially when I have to squat next to an edge to dig out the trash and then stand up to toss it. One good misstep and Mr. Gravity takes over and Justice goes to the hospital.

So why wasn't I afraid?

Grace. I was drinking grace.

Let me explain. I grew up around fearful people who yelled at you the moment you failed them - and I was the youngest. I learned fear and got a "do it right, NOW or ALL IS LOST!!" mentality. I inflicted this on other people.

But when I ran into Christ and discovered His power and love, I immediately got set free from this. I saw that God knew everything everyone did - I didn't have to fix anything. I just had to be humble. I went from being Michael Douglas in Falling Down to being Tom Hanks in Forest Gump.

Everyone noticed the change in me. Everyone. Ex-wife, old friends, mothers of old friends, etc.

Then something awful happened. I got very serious about being "right" with God.

I should have gotten serious about how God made me right with Him, but most people don't dig a non-performance based relationship with God. They tell you how to be HOLY - and not how to be Whole. You can get paid a LOT of money and support telling people what to do to please God, not how Christ has paid it all.

True story: I have a friend who got saved and was happy. He was in the military at the time and LOVED flying in the helicopters with the doors wide open. Then he went to a legalistic performance-based church. Fear entered into him and soon he was struggling daily with things he should have never have had to struggle so hard with again - fear, guilt, shame, anger, etc.

Notice I did qualify with "so hard". He's been struggling with legalism ever since.

He lost his love of flying with open doors.

This is why: performance in a fallen world exists to save ourselves from the effects of the Fall - death, disease, crime, accidents, etc. It is a good thing when done for the right reasons.

But not to get us to God. Not to receive His Perfect Love.

And we are told "Perfect Love casts out all fear."

I was on top of my world and I was not afraid.

I had been spending more time resting in His grace than ever before. I read my Bible when I wanted to and prayed when I felt hurt and alone. I talked to Jesus with tears like a little kid sometimes too. He knew I had run out of steam.

So He loved me. A lot. I don't deserve it. I KNOW my sins.

So I climbed up, did my nasty smelly job and got back down - and I was joyful I had been there.

Because I was on top of the world.

With Jesus, the One who casts out all fear.

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