Piddling around on the blog yesterday, I found that a couple of people found this site after googling the phrase "man without a nose." So, I went back to read a post (below) from a couple of years ago. I don't know what these folks were looking for, or what they found in the words I had written, but, looking back over this post, I found a very timely reminder that who I am is defined not by my past, not by my present struggle with sin, but by who I am in Christ. I forget that so easily. I need to hear the good news of the Gospel of Christ every single day.
Why was this such a timely reminder for me, besides the fact that I forget the Gospel as regularly as I breathe? Because lately, I've been struggling against a tendency to define myself based on how other people relate to me. How they talk - or don't talk - to me. The comments they make about me to others. Their choices and actions which affect me.
It's like I'm the man without a nose, and I'm painfully aware that every time a person looks at me, they shudder. Or look away. Or withdraw. Or have to deliberately, visibly, screw up their courage to look me in the eye and try to engage. And all those slight, almost-imperceptible flinches, those diverted eyes, those negative comments and subtle criticisms, they all begin to color how I view myself and my place in the world around me.
And that is a so much more subtle, sickly sin for my heart to wrestle.
When my past life or my present struggles rise up like a dark storm cloud to condemn me, I have learned to meet those thoughts head-on. "I am Christ's! I am a new creature! I am a beloved child of the sovereign God!"
But when another person challenges my secure standing in Christ, I buckle. I begin to wonder if Jesus really does love me that much. I'm such a mess. I'm not good enough. I'm an offense. Ugh! And then, I respond to and relate to that other person as if their attitudes and assumptions about me are the truth, as if that is what defines who I am. And that, my friends, is NOT living in a place of grace.
So today, I am encouraged and challenged anew to look to Christ. Look to Christ. Look to Christ! He defines who I am. I am not defined by my past, not by my present, not by the world around me nor the people in it. I am secure, truly and eternally, because Jesus is a most sufficient Savior, and He is faithful.
Lord, help me to me mindful of how great is my salvation, and help me to live and to engage with those around me (even those who hurt me) in the consciousness that You love me. Help me to know - emotionally, spiritually, practically - that Your sweet and unchanging love is indeed enough for me in this life.
THE MAN WITHOUT A NOSE
(originally published 8-8-2011)
There is a man in my neighborhood without a nose. I see him sometimes when I'm out running errands, at Dollar General, at the grocery store, at the gas station.
Did he have to have to have his nose removed because of some cancerous growth? Was it torn off in a fight? Was he born without a nose? I don't know what happened to his nose. I just know that when I see him, I smile and say "Hi" and he nods in answer. It is very, very hard to look someone in the eye and smile when there is a hole in the middle of his face.
I passed the man without a nose as I was driving down the highway last week, and seeing him again got me to thinking. Does he have a family? Grandkids? Does he like to eat fish at the lake, or to drink coffee with the old guys at Autry's? What makes him laugh? What makes him smile? Where does he work? Does he prefer Wranglers or Levis?
In my tiny little mind he is simply The Man Without a Nose. But unknown to me, that man has a wealth of life experiences, of stories, of personal likes and dislikes. He has a history - he is somebody's son, somebody's brother. He is so much more than a man without a nose.
Years and years ago, Steve and I attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings with young Marines as part of his job as the Substance Abuse Control Officer. "Hello, my name's Bob, and I'm an addict." "Hi, I'm John, and I'm an alcoholic." Although I understand there was some purpose in uniting attendees this way, something about that ritual disturbed me. I understand better now what it was. It narrowed each person into the one big, nasty thing wrong in their lives. It reduced them to an addiction, a broken past, a history of failure.
Sort of like my neighbor. When you first see him, you notice one big, nasty thing wrong with him. I wonder how many people get past that one thing to find out anything else about him. And I wonder how he sees himself.
In this fallen world, we all have big, nasty problems. Addictions. Deformities. Sexual perversions. Spitefulness. Critical attitudes. Pride. Gossiping tongues. Discontent hearts. It's a long list of disgusting sins, and we are all on that list somewhere, every single one of us.
But for the Christian, we are not defined by our sin...we are defined by who we are in Christ. By Christ's work on our behalf. By God's unfathomable love for us. By the Spirit's ongoing work of sanctification in each of us.
I am not what I once was. Scripture tells me that in Christ, I am a new creation. That even now, God is making all things new, including me. Although huge chunks of it still cling to me, although daily I must struggle against it, my old sin nature no longer defines who I am. It would be wrong for me now to try to shrink my understanding of myself down to the Big Ugly Sin that plagues me. Nor can my brothers or sisters rightfully pigeonhole me this way either. Bigger things are going on here now...huge, eternal, cosmic things that are swallowing up my sin in the enormity of God's love and grace.
As messed up as I am, I am Christ's beloved, a daughter of the High King of Heaven, an image bearer of God.
I wonder if the man without a nose knows about the amazing love of God?
Wish You Were Here: Letters From the Foot of the Cross
It is difficult to imagine that someone with an ideal family, a Ninja body, and a six-digit income can relate to my messy life in the middle of a hay field: my pants are too tight, my marriage is stressed, and my closets are a disaster.
But the truth is, life is messy...whether you look like you have your act together or not. If you are struggling in the trenches of life with muck up to your eyeballs, then you and I have something in common. Welcome!
This collection of "letters" explores the practical implications of the gospel for the nitty-gritty business of everyday life. Join me on a journey to discover strength for the day, encouragement to persevere, and flashes of joy to brighten the way.