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The Real Reward

Filed under: — jen d @ 1:38 pm

This morning I rode into work struggling with a very specific thought pattern consisting mainly of untruths and delusions I’d willfully put into place in my heart and mind. It’s amazing how much energy one can put into endeavoring to maintain an illusion, to cultivate feelings that one assumes would go along with the fulfillment of that illlusion if it were to become a reality. We say we sin and deceive ourselves and feed our flesh because it’s easier than telling ourselves the Truth and resting in it, but lying to ourselves in light of the Truth we’ve been given indeed takes an enormous amount of creative effort. What we really mean is that we just WANT to deceive ourselves and feed our flesh because it FEELS GOOD NOW.

Or at least, it feels good for a LITTLE while – a very paltry, sad, little nanosecond, really, if that. Part of the deception is thinking that these feelings are really pleasurable, but as Christians, we know better. We know that the “satisfaction” of sin is a rotten peach that only looks good until you take a big, foaming bite out of it. Even if we hold off taking that bite and just hold on to the peach and admire its outer skin for as long we can, we’re never more satisfied than we are frustrated about it. It’s garbage, and we know it, but we want to be sure before we throw it away, so we usually end up biting into it, with inevitably nasty results.

So I drove into work holding onto my peach this morning. It was so pretty. It IS so pretty. But I know what’s really inside it, so I performed all kinds of mental gymnastics and spiritual dodges to pretend optimism and innocence. If the peach made me sick, it wouldn’t be my fault, no no no…

I walked into work frustrated and disconnected from all reality and unhappy, still trying to convince myself that this was fun. I sat down and began my morning ritual of e-mail-checking and blog-browsing. I came across Jon’s latest post at Crosstraining. It made me think twice about my peach; I put it down and admitted it was rotting, but I kept casting it furtive glances. I began to distrust it, though, and get tired of the game. I decided to pay a visit to to distract myself from said peach. I checked to see if my favorite former Psych/Counseling professor had any new sermons posted. He did. I listened. I cracked. The message wasn’t a Hell-Fire-and-Brimstone tirade; it didn’t focus on me or my sinfulness; it focussed on my Savior, “my exceedingly great reward.” Dr. Mazak pointed out that we’re quick to thank God for material blessings and good health, but not so quick to remember that those things are not our Great Reward. Knowing CHRIST is our Reward as Christians, and is therefore all we need, and what we should and can be most thankful for, whatever else is falling down around us — and no matter what the true inner states of our peaches are.

You see, sometimes we hold our rotten peaches because we think that whatever illusion they represent is something we’ve earned as a reward for our “faithfulness” to Christ. Health, wealth, recognition, romance… They’re not bad in and of themselves, are they? (Indeed, not!) And, by golly, we deserve them for “choosing” Christ, don’t we? Well… We forget that we’re the unfaithful ones, deserving nothing, though we’ve been given everything in the One thing needful. This relationship we’re offered goes beyond mere salvation from punishment; it goes beyond daily providence of material needs, and surpasses immeasurably the human desires of our hearts, as normal and noble as they might be.

Mazak didn’t convict me that I ought to see Christ as my ultimate Reward, nor that I ought to be able to value and find satisfaction in my fellowship with Him; he just reminded me of what I already knew and made me want to experience it again. I know and have experienced Christ as that Reward. I cracked because the rotten illusion cracked. Reality overwhelmed me, not with punishment and brow-beating and judgement and the fear it might inspire, but with Truth and Love and the inescapable presence of the One who sought ME out, Who’s affection is promised, Who’s promises are meant wholeheartedly and never compromised. God likes me! Who cares if anyone else does?!

It would be so simple to throw our rotten peaches in the garbage pail and see them taken away by some heavenly sanitation worker to a place out of our reach, but another reality sinks in as I write these words: that rotten peach is not so easily disposed of – not in this life. It is, quite frankly, a part of me. It is my heart. Outside of the healing, restorative work of Christ in me, outside of His wholesome righteousness, I am nothing but festering flesh.

Romans 7:21-25 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Psalm 73:21-26 21Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.

22So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

23Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.

24Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

25Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

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