Simple Nostalgia

Yesterday, I went for a walk during lunch.

This walk took me places I hadn’t been in a long time. Working near your childhood home will afford you that luxury. As I passed buildings, new and old, it reminded me of my youth and how my friends and I ruled this kingdom by walking its borders, pushing the boundaries of our land further out as we got older. There was a time when I felt like I knew every nook and cranny of this familiar landscape. I knew every escape route to safely excavate ourselves from the looming judgment of any disapproving adults ready to pounce on our fun. There were tiny pockets of “forests” in this concrete jungle, that gave us enough of an illusion that a jungle existed here, perfect for a rousing game of manhunt.

As I walked, I can see the now paved-over forest filled with houses, one squeezed in next to another and another and so forth. I’m sure what secret corridors I do remember, I probably can’t fit through anymore. This is-was-my neighborhood, intimately familiar to me even now, and yet, not what I remember it to be. It’s still a part of me, and walking these streets draws me back, at least in my mind. In some ways, it feels like I never left and can almost relive all the things that did happen, at least, the things I remember.

And this is my relationship with sin.

It’s still part of my world, but not nearly as familiar to me, but still familiar enough to be drawn into it. It’s not doing anything to remind me of all the bad actions and feelings that usually followed. It’s drawing me into the, “pleasurable for a moment” part. Like all nostalgia, it draws on what made you feel good, or what made you like it. It pulls on this one thread, and that thread says, “I miss it.”

Wherever you’re reading this, whether at work, home, or travelling, you’re still alone, at least in your head. So, admit it. Just to yourself, inside the sound-proof walls of your mind. It’s true. You miss it. I miss it. Sometimes, life feels unbearable enough to want to go back to it.

I am still talking about sin.

We see it like nostalgic memories. We’ve whitewashed them and made them into something simple. We see it simple. Simple here is just doing what feels good, and people love to do what feels good. Its affirming to them. In a sea of life’s frustrations, people see it as well-deserved. People will run to simple. They will abandon children and spouses for the simple answer of a sexual encounter with no strings attached. Men and woman. They will run to the simple answer of a bottle of booze, a line of coke, or some other drug, to discard responsibilities in their life, and for their life.

Still, we know simple doesn’t mean uncomplicated, no matter how much we want it to. Watching a few lives played out in the public forum, as so many of the celebrities do, proves this out. Divorce, sickness, shattered and broken lives, and eventually death which often comes as a result, proves that the simple we desire is not only complicated, but comes with consequences.

Simple is just an excuse to give up. Which is weird, because Jesus wants us to give up too. But he wants us to lean on him and not on sin. He even says it’s not that hard.

Jesus says, his yoke is easy. He says his burden is light.

And it’s true.

When we head down those “simple paths” of sin, as Christians often do (despite what they profess with their mouths), Jesus is already guiding us out of it. The reigns he holds us with are called forgiveness and mercy and the bit that guides us is made of grace. He’s not taking a whip to us to make sure we stay straight. He knows the reality of what a follower feels and does. He knows that we struggle and are weighed down with a burden of guilt, by our own actions most times. We expect in our heads, to be whipped into shape. We expect the harshest penalties.

But no…

Christ lightens that burden, and pushes off all the guilt and shame that we feel, and guides us back. It’s not a new path either. The steps are there. Indents of ancient sandals, worn into the dry cracked ground. We follow those steps as he guides us back to Golgotha. Back to the cross. We stop there and take it in. We find our sin already hanging there, gone ahead of us, as it had feet to run ahead and cast itself on that tree. Amid trying to live for the simple desires and urges, we are brought gently to a place of humility, a place of leaning, of dependence. A place of giving up.

Then he guides us even further.

To a grave carved out of a mountain. The stone that had sealed it up, is now rolled away. He takes us inside to see the grave-clothes that remain, with no body in sight. He sits us down in the cool shade of the carved-out cave to dwell on its significance. Our sin cast on a cross, a body resurrected in power. My sin, our sin could not hold him in the grave, like it could us. It could not restrain him, and because of that, it no longer restrains us.

In this flawed world, our sins and struggles in some way will always wreck us. It may only be for a moment, and it could be longer. The struggle continues to the grave. No earthly victory we hold is the final victory, and no earthly loss has the final say.

The encouragement for me is to know a Savior who still gets his feet dirty with my life, constantly guiding me away from the simple pleasures of sin to a place where I might simply weep and know I’m forgiven.

…Again

Amen.

Credit goes to scoopwhoop.com for the image. 

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