The conversation over the teleconference to which I was listening switched from program management to money and a new voice spoke up. This new voice worked for another organization, but frequently called to confer with me about how to handle challenging situations. When the Director who was being briefed asked incredulously about whether the voice had the right amount and type of money for the thing that she wanted to buy, she responded, “I spoke with Doug, and he said it was a good idea to use these funds to buy this service and gave me approval.”
I lunged across the table like a puma springing down from a rock onto an unsuspecting deer. In the process I nearly spilled two mugs of coffee and elbowed a person seated nearby in an effort to hit the un-mute button and correct the voice immediately. The voice’s words were completely the opposite of what I had said! How my words to her had been contorted into a belief that I had endorsed that purchase, much less given consent or approval for it, was beyond my understanding.
Confession time … I got pretty angry about the situation and unequivocally made the person take back the statement. The voice then made matters worse by saying that she didn’t think that I was on the call … as if my absence would have made the use of my name for such a reprehensible plan somehow justifiable. I grew almost livid at that. First, the thing which she wanted to do was not just irresponsible or inefficient, it was ILLEGAL. Second, she had assumed that she could use my name when I was not around in order to justify schemes with which I had no connection or authority. And third, I had said completely the opposite of the words which she had attributed to me – therefore she was impugning my intelligence and my honor. With that kind of malarkey I believe that I was justified in my anger.
After stalking back to my office and slumping down into my chair, a slim ray of lucidity shone through the black cloud of ire long enough for me to realize just how frustrated God must be with me on a regular basis. How many times have I misrepresented God in my words and actions? How many times have I uttered a “Thus sayeth the Lord” prefix to some unholy and illegitimate instruction? How many times have I done something which brought Him into disrepute by my association with Him? How many times have I uttered His holy name with dirty lips? How many times have I tracked my sin-caked feet into His pure presence? How many times have I pretended to fall prostrate in front of Him when my unrepentant heart still stands proudly and defiantly before His throne?
That is what my mind mulled as the wrath of the meeting abated and grief began to take hold instead. How many times have I misused God’s name?!
I fought everything that voice on the teleconference said about me. Her words were untrue. Her words were irresponsible. Her words were unauthorized. Her words impugned my honor. And yet, I’m just a man; a fallen, broken, irresponsible, silly little man. As justified as I was in protecting my name, how much more does a glorious, all-powerful, all-knowing, holy God have justification in protecting His name? Which makes me ask: How does God let any of us live another day? When the depravity of the human mind gives birth to the evil we see and experience and commit every day, how can God have the patience and love to allow us a heartbeat more? Why does He not just end it? Why does He not begin the descent from the clouds and put right what we have defiled? We deserve the end. We could not raise a remotely coherent argument to compel Him to put the judgment off one microsecond longer. We could not summon a plea pathetic and pitiable enough to vindicate a blink of an eye of more time.
If I had only once sullied His great name, breaking His command and bringing Him to ill-repute, there might possibly be an argument for mercy. If I had only twice in my several decades injured Him, perhaps … just perhaps I might ask for the hand of judgment to be stayed for a moment longer. But I have time after time, day after day, broken my oaths to Him, and much more often have I shirked my responsibility to give Him the very glory His existence is due. How could I possibly ask Him to give me another breath? And how … could I possibly be impudent enough to request forgiveness?
The Law gives way to grace though; and I read the words: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:8f). Not to mention the follow-on statement: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation” (v.15).
Patience? For me? For THIS man? Patience for this flee-from-the-light cockroach of a man who has misused Your Holy Name by attaching it to my own preconceptions? My own notions? My own motivations? Patience for this pitiable creature who has brought disrepute to Your Holy Name by associating it with my own failures? My own sins? My own depravities?
This is grace too great for a man to bear! This is grace too powerful for my weakness! This is grace too lovely for my dirt-fashioned flesh! This is grace and mercy and love too beautiful for me! And yet You give it so extravagantly!
Oh Lord, forgive me flippant ways. Forgive my unclean lips. Forgive my immoral thoughts. Forgive my degenerate actions. Renew me every day and use me for Your glory … in spite of my weaknesses.