In each section of our upcoming study guide for “The Cure” we devote considerable time to discovering how the same Scripture can be understood differently in the Room of Grace and the Room of Good Intentions. We describe it as a “filter” placed onto the unvarnished Word. While the words are agreed upon, our own shame and even unintentional attempts to get ourselves and others to do better, be better, has often distorted the meaning and intention of the verse. And then other teachers, writers, well-intended parents and preachers, using a similarly imposed filter, reinforce it. Gradually we discover we’ve imposed a man-made methodology and a presumed attitude and voice. None of it can be reconciled with the appeal to our new nature permeating the New Testament.
Learning to take off the filter is not a series of techniques, but choosing to see God and myself as revealed by the Original Good News. Still, I can start to diagnose when I’m allowing myself to be deluded by a moralistic filter. Here’s a few signposts.
When I read Scripture through the “filter”:
*I will confuse intense passion for Him with severe self-indignation against me
*My initial predisposition is often to be self-disgusted at myself, at how short I fall of the goal
*My response is one of will power, self-management, trying harder, an appeal to try to be more
*Or, I defend myself, justifying and comparing-imagining I’m doing better than most
*I see each passage as a new set of behavioral challenges to check off
*I see Him out there, over there, up there, but not fused with me, with His arm around me
*I lean more into techniques, or external behavior modification than trusting His life in me
*I don’t see myself righteous, beloved, without condemnation-but as saved sinner.
*I hear “should, ought, why don’t you, haven’t you, when will you, what’s wrong with you
*I will come to it to find how much I don’t match up to the “standard”
*I will read it to find what I should be doing more of
*I will think it is pious to tell others how short I fall of what I read
*I will feel behind, and disappointing to God
*I will sense a scolding, almost weary, impatient, disgusted voice
*I will want to try to fix something, try to be better
*I will start to avoid the Word and tell myself I “should” read it more
*I will want to make a promise to be better, do more, or less
*I will be tempted to compare with others
*I will layer this new condemnation over my self story history that says I’ll never get this
*I will be convinced greater effort and sincerity will make greater change
*I eventually grow increasingly numb to hope, aloof to believing I’ll ever do differently
*I will think He wants me to feel disgusted or frustrated with myself, never at rest
*I will sense His disappointment, His impatience
*I will think there is something peculiarly wrong with me that keeps me from getting it
*I try to put on a better attitude or behavior and try to hide what is really true about me
Well, doesn’t that make us all want to skip through this day in perpetual joy…?
Many of us are tired of such a parody of God’s intention. Many of us are grateful to so how far we’ve come from such a parody. Some of us have grown up in life without the filter and can’t even understand what the big deal is. And some have too much to lose to give it up.
Maybe next time we’ll look at what it feels like to read without the filter.
…Wait, I shouldn’t promise that. I’m not certain of what I’m having for lunch.
John-One of the three amigos, part of the ever-growing tribe of grace.