I deserve a piece of shit car

I heard a word from God tonight which began with a story about being called stupid by a teacher.  The preacher recalled how these words, overheard accidentally, shaped much of his young life and played out like a self-fulfilling prophecy throughout his school and college years.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.  When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. (Matthew 7:28-8:1)

The teacher of the preacher was a person who had authority.   The words of someone in authority impact our souls in ways people lacking authority do not.   They have long-term effects which ricochet throughout our lives ways we might expect, but often in ways we least expect.    Hopefully the words spoken are life-giving but far too often the words we hear from people we deem authoritative are words that hurt.

Sometimes that authority is ourselves.    Having failed so often, relapsed once more, hurt someone we love again, or any number of ways we addicts can be ruled by insanity and unmanageably, the voice in our own head is the one that carries the most authority and it’s message damns us again and again.

About 2 years ago my girlfriend was driving me around from car dealer to car dealer trying to help me buy a car.   I needed a new car because after my divorce and losing my job and then being evicted from my apartment and having my car repossessed I was in need of some transportation in order to get to my new job at Amazon.

The problem was I had little money and less credit and even less prospects and after the fifth or sixth, “I’m sorry, we can’t finance you,” I was done.  My girlfriend, not ready to give up, saw another car we should look at, one that I thought looked well beyond my meager means.  I told her to stop, looked her in the eyes and said with utter sincerity,

Look, none of this is going to work because I deserve a piece of shit car.

The authority running my life at that time (me), could only see the wreckage of my past, the long list of mistakes and misfires, the broken promises and shattered dreams, the lost relationships and trust and conclude that nothing good could or should come my way.  I deserved a piece of shit car.

car

I wonder if you have ever felt like you don’t deserve anything good because of the mistakes you have made or because of some authority in your life – yourself or someone else – telling you that.    Let me tell you what the preacher said tonight about Jesus…

After Jesus’ inaugural sermon on the mount (Matt 5-7), announcing the reign of God and the shape and vision of this kingdom he was instituting, we are told that all were astonished at his teaching because he had authority unlike any other of his day.   This was not just some prophet or teacher of the law.  This was God in flesh and he had a word for his creation.

What does God in flesh do with his authority after preaching the most famous sermon in history and having a following which would have easily crowned him as king?   He does the unthinkable.   He comes down from the mountain and does the following four unthinkable things:

  • Heals a leper, an outcast of outcasts.   A leper was viewed as a person cursed by God and forever untouchable.   He not only heals him but in a touching moment of empathy he directs him to make himself known to the priest so that he can be fully restored to his community.
  • Heals the servant of a centurion, one of the Roman lords whom the Jews, the very people following Jesus down the mountain, hated most.
  • Heals a widow, another outcast in a society in which those in authority would say a widow is such because they have lost God’s favor.
  •  Heals the demon possessed, yet another class of people who were outcasts and screw ups.

Jesus comes down from a mountain and rather than wield his authority in a way that serves himself and sets him apart from others he goes on a whirlwind tour of serving the most down-trodden of society and setting them on pedestals at the risk of his own reputation.

Jesus seeks and finds every person who thought they deserved a piece of shit car and hands them the keys to a Porsche.

The preacher’s words tonight reminded me of that day at the car dealer with my girlfriend 2 years ago and the ways Jesus has been showing up to touch my leper-like life in countless ways if for no other reason than to remind me that I am his son and he loves me with a furious, unconditional love.

My desire to avoid prideful gain prevents me today from thinking too much about what I deserve, but I am grateful today that I no longer believe I deserve the worst life has to offer because of my past mistakes.    My past is past.   Yes, I have much yet to amend, but I do that best when I turn my will and my life over to the only Authority that matters and rest in his unfailing love.

If you are struggling today and hearing that voice from within or without that says you are not good enough and deserve the pit you now find yourself in, my prayer for you is that you’ll see Jesus coming down the mountain with one purpose in mind:  To find you, to touch you, to commune with you, to announce that he loves you, and to tell you that today is a new day and you deserve good things.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147)

 

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