Call me a klutz, but my left hand doesn’t want to cooperate in anything. Always kept me from shooting expert with the Smith & Wesson Combat Masterpiece back in my military days. Around the barrier, OK. Single-action, no problem. With the left hand. Nope. Might as well ask me to juggle.
The Christian life is like juggling. With lots of balls, while standing on one foot, balanced on another ball. And it often seems like the balls are falling and flying every which way more often than not, or you are falling off your perch on to your proverbial backside.
There are two people that live in a Christian. Think of it as a spiritual multiple personality disorder. The old man, the man of flesh and sin, puts up a continual battle against the new man of God implanted at the moment that a Christian is regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit. And the old guy is not a happy camper or an accommodating neighbor.
And if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, this spit personality must exist in two worlds at the same time. Not unlike a science fiction movie in which a person finds himself to exist in two alternate or parallel universes at the same moment. The Kingdom of Man is the universe of this world, fallen and doomed to eventual destruction. But until that time, it’s the closest a Christian will ever get to hell.
As though he was wearing special dimension-revealing eyeglasses, the Christian is aware that he is also walking, living, and resting in God’s Kingdom. And it’s the opposite of the reality he sees more clearly. His physical self lives 24×7 in a world he can touch, smell, hear, and see. It’s a world of real physical pain and pleasure and it floods the dendrites and neurons of his brain, demanding dominance.
Behind the bright lights and sounds that alternate between annoying and alluring, he can just make out the Kingdom of God. And he knows in his heart that no matter how grey and ghostlike it appears, it is the only kingdom that is eternal. Although seemingly subordinate and elusive, it is what will exist in full Technicolor when his life on this world passes. While he walks this earth, the Kingdom of Man appears to be the more powerful and true reality. But its power and dominance are those of illusion. It is that which is now only in shadows that is the real Truth. The only lasting reality.
Thankfully this existence is not one by accident, but by intention. For whatever reason that it pleased him, God ordained all Christians to walk this path of sanctification as they journey towards their final and only existence in the Kingdom of God. Until then, life can sometimes be a bit like trying to drive down a freeway at high speed in a torrential rainstorm, with defective windshield wipers.
But our God is not one that is unaware of this condition. He walked the earth himself in the form of Jesus. And juggled all the balls without ever dropping one. He is not ignorant of the fact that his children aren’t so capable. That they will constantly and repeated fail. And it doesn’t threaten the outcome a bit—because it has nothing to do with becoming a competent juggler. It has to do with becoming more aware of the fact that we are incapable of juggling even one ball without his spirit guiding and directing us. That we are awful and chronic sinners. That we need a Savior
Jesus Christ walked through his life on earth perfectly. Without sin. And having pleased his father in this respect, he then willingly submitted to the Father’s plan to punish him in our place.
And the Father was pleased. He proved it by resurrecting his Son. And his Son confirmed it by ascending to heaven.
But it’s not like God has abandoned his troop of incompetent jugglers. He sent them the Holy Spirit, the one who would pick them up when they fall, and would ensure that they would persevere until the end. They persevere because God perseveres.
Until then, I’m given the job of juggling. To me it is usually a hopeless, pathetic performance in a circus for maladroit acrobats. Surely I am more of a jester than an acrobat. But even that pleases God. For even in my repeated failures I can rest in knowing that it is through my failures that God’s plan for my life is being played out. No, he’s not at fault for the fact that I can’t juggle. That I sin daily, many times over. But he has ordained this painfully bad performance. To my good and his glory.
And every time I drop a ball, I can rest in the fact that my father knew all about before it ever happened, indeed, that he ordained my failure. And when I’m ready to chuck this whole circus routine in the garbage can, God is ready to pick me up and hand me back the balls, reminding me that it is the perseverance and plan, not the performance. Indeed, he constantly tutors and strengthens me through the preaching and reading of his Word, and nourishes me through the administration of the Sacraments, as I gather weekly with the believers to rise up to heaven for a brief but substantial moment. There I find rest. There my strange, cloudy and confused double-vision becomes clear and that often misty, alternative universe becomes dominant, even if only for a moment.
But it is enough, for God has ordained more than enough. More than sufficient grace for my every need. It is his nature. It is who he is. He is far more ready and willing to forgive than I am ever desirous of repenting. His grace and forgiveness exceeds the greatest sin that I can imagine or commit.
Well, hand me those colorful balls, will you? And hold my perch a bit as I climb up and get my balance. I’ve got some juggling to do. Oh, and step to the side—balls will start falling, I assure you.