By David Acker, Youth Minister
“I don’t need to do that.” My heart has said at times.
I shake my head to rattle out memories at times. I go for a walk in the woods, and try to have a squawk of a hawk or the crashing waves of the ocean drown out my thoughts but quiet pervades this me. I am having another innate struggle with God. It is a naturally quiet moment with no one else in sight. No one speaks, there are no ads anywhere, just the rustle of nature.
I could start to feel it. God was tearing me. Has he ever torn you?
“Why would you have me do that?” I said. Cutting the silence of the setting I was in. “God, this doesn’t make sense to me!” I was saying in my head with fierce intensity.
I want to jusfy myself, I try to reason. “I have given you my life to ministry Lord isn’t that enough?” I know the real answer but I don’t want to admit it. I know that I need to keep going on this journey of my faith and connuing to grow my relaonship with Jesus. But there is this fight that has been happening since I can remember in my heart.
There are two impulses at war within me. I know the truth. I am in the wrong. Reconcile. Come back to Jesus. Yet my companion, guilt, and I peer out of our dark cage, remorse paces outside like a lion. Once I admit my guilt, once I submit myself, the lion will get in and tear me up. And I am afraid. My pride protects me, it puts up a wall that keeps the lion out.
As I resist, I remember a different story of a whole people who raised up walls of pride. The Israelites, high on economic success and power, turned to fake gods for satisfaction and help. The prophet Hosea warned them, “You have become spiritual whores. Tear down your altars to Baal and your walls of pride and return to Yahweh your God.” But the Israelites only built their walls higher so that the pride of Israel “testified to his face; yet they did not return to the Lord their God” (Hosea 7:10). They preferred the safety of their pride and insulated themselves against the pain of remorse. They rejected the God who “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6) – and who grants repentance with its remorse and humility (2 Timothy 2:25). They raised walls against shame, weakness, and remorse. And sll the Lion came. He razed their walls of pride and tore them to pieces: he sent Assyria to destroy Israel and deport her people.
I stand next to the ocean and this Lion approaches slowly in the tall grass nearby. Unyielding. Unswerving. He comes to tear me open. If I collapse my wall of pride – if I admit my wrong and give up my claim to jusce – he will come in and tear my heart with painful repentance and remorse. And redemption. The chance to heal stronger and with more growth. The discipline of a loving Father. If I raise my wall higher with self-jusfying excuses and build it thicker with angry aacks, the Lion will come nonetheless. His claws will tear me to pieces in anger. In judgment. To destroy.
“Stay,” Pride says, “stay here and stay the same.”
“Let me run,” the Lion replies, “let’s continue this together.”
Has God ever torn you like this? Surely he has – or he will. The Lion of Judah does not discriminate. He tears everyone. Oh, how you want to flee his outstretched claws. Pride calls you sweetly away and leads you down a well-worn path. Sheltered from embarrassment. Encouraged to live however you like. Blinded to your own gruesome filth and total poverty. And protected from the tearing Lion. But Pride doesn’t control its tongue, pride is a liar. It cannot protect you. The Lion waits just around the next bend.”Hide it,” Pride demands. “Don’t let them see your anxious heart, your lusul eyes, your selfish intent.” “Confess your sins,” says the Lion, “for I am faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from that black filth.”
Hosea paints God in terrifying colors – a canvas bloodied red by the Lion’s angry tearing. But then, with white beard, a red face, earnest tears running down his cheeks, he pleads with Israel, and with me, and with you. He says, Let us press on to know and love this tearing Lion. “He has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).
For those who return to God – his children – he tears them in order to heal them, not to destroy them. Then my thoughts flood to even the life of Hosea and what God asked for him to do. As I pick up a rock and cast it as far as I can into the sea, I wonder, Will this Lion who just shredded my heart, will he truly bind me up? Did he tear me as judgment or as merciful discipline?
We don’t have to wonder long. The Lion does not only tear. He speaks. “Aer two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (Hosea 6:2).
The Lion now comes to breathe out healing on our snging wounds. He will bind us up, because he has torn Jesus, the Lamb, to pieces. His head, his wrists, his side, his feet all bleed out precious life, and we are covered from our head to our feet. God sends him down to the grave, and raises him, and us with him, on the third day that we may live before him.
The Lion comes to tear. He tears his children to discipline them. He tears them to give them life if they will press on to know him and look for his coming like a refreshing spring rain. And he tears prideful people who do not turn to the Lord but raise their walls of pride higher like Israel. He tears them to destroy them.
This was a year ago, that God and I were having this conversaon. I knew the next step I would take in following Jesus would tear me down in ways I could never know. This process hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been one-hundred percent good. In the same way, the Lion of Judah may not always be safe, but he is good.
As long as we live on this earth, this cycle will never stop, we will never get away from confessing. Repenting. And seeking reconciliaon. As long as it is called “today,” run to the Lion who tears you. He will bind you up.