I’m going to share three stories with you from my pre-conversion high school days.
I was at a local punk rock show, throwing my fists aimlessly and thrashing in a blur of spiked bracelets and colored mohawks. It was circulating that someone I didn’t know wanted to fight me because they heard I had a black belt in karate. I found that to be enormously entertaining, so at the break I wandered outside to find this person. When someone pointed me her direction I approached her asking “So I hear you want to fight me?” I didn’t know that she was drunk. Within seconds her and her two friends were on me, dragging me around the parking lot by my hair and kicking me. There was nothing I could do, and I was laughing.
A friend threw them off me and I rejoined my friends- laughing. I didn’t look back at my attackers, or pay attention to what they were doing. Suddenly a full beer can hit me square in the mouth. Instant tears blurred my vision and I laughed harder. But my friend looked concerned. “Charlene you have blood all over your face. You better go check it out.” Sure enough the rim had gone through above my lip. We went to a grocery store and put a pack of peas on my face for awhile and returned to the show. I was scared, I was hurting, but I was bold faced.
Another time I was at home and told my parents I was spending a night at my friends house again. My parents wanted me to stay home “for one night.” They didn’t understand that I could not possibly stay home. I was terrified of being alone, even for one night. The thought of it filled me with dread. If I was made to stay home, I’d be forced to face myself and my conscience, and worse yet my knowledge of God. A fight erupted. My parents were as desperate as I was. I kicked my dad and ran full speed up the stairs, out the window, off the roof, and into my friends truck. I had a pit the size of Mount Everest in my stomach, but I was laughing.
One more story. I was at school, in an office with the principal, a police officer, and my mom. I’d been ratted out for defacing school property and leaving harassing messages on my teacher’s home phone. As they listed off the possible consequences I finally hung my head in shame and fought back tears. When I gained control I told them “I have to laugh. If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry.” There it was. The truest statement I had made in awhile.
Proverbs 14:13 “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.”
I don’t like to remember those days often, but there is some good in it. I look back and see myself, bold, willful, astray and leading others astray, full of vulgar speech and brashness, deceptive, and arrogant. Broken, aching, panic-stricken and anxiety ridden, depressed, confused, and totally lost.
Ephesians 2:1-3,12 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind… remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Remember that we were dead, led by satan, children of wrath, separated from Christ, without hope and without God. Could there be a bleaker picture? It was me. It was me all over.
We clean up well don’t we? But there is nothing in us for which we could pat ourselves on the back.
Ephesians 2:4-9 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
When I hear myself say things like “what is wrong with people these days?,” shake my head in disgust and marvel that human beings could be so rebellious, so foolish, so crass, so arrogant, it is a good sign that I am not remembering where I came from. In the place of broken hearted compassion and identifying myself with lost people I can put myself on a higher ground. I forget that there is an important difference between them and me: I can see. I was blind, but now I see- and it was all of grace.
When I see and hear the sin I now disapprove of coming from the lives of unbelievers, I should remember that the sins I still commit, though they may not seem to me so vulgar, are nevertheless not any more respectable. I should recall that these are people “having no hope, and without God in the world.” Do you remember facing this world, all of its lies and temptations, without God and without hope? Sometimes I just laughed, caused a scene in order to make a laugh, just to keep my head above water. Sometimes I ran, hard and fast, all day and all night, until I was too tired to move- just to avoid my nagging conscience and the God I could not please. Thank God He awoke me to the good news of the gospel- “I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.”
Well friends, we need to pray that God would rid us of self righteousness and grant in its’ place compassion that moves us to action. We are quick to point out all the ways society is crumbling around us and the ten million lies that are (and indeed they are) indoctrinating our young people. Yet too often we sit here with the light of the world under a bucket. I’m guilty. I have the gospel, and ten million articles about what’s wrong with this world aren’t going to achieve what only the gospel can. Lord, change me, change so many of us. Use us as your willing vessels for the sake of Him who loved us when we were dead in sin. Amen.