A Royal Mess

Standing on a Post    We rolled in, dusty, hot, and weary, to speak at yet another church. I was twelve, and all I wanted to do was get on the plane and fly home to the Philippines, but we still had a month to go.

Another long hallway decorated with Sunday school posters and a corkboard with our prayer card front and center… Another crowd of earnest, smiling, unfamiliar faces, eager to hear about the Lord’s work in other lands… By the time we reached the sanctuary, my attitude was bubbling with all the worst adolescence has to offer.

The room was packed full – nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Arms crossed, I pressed myself against the nearest wall and willed myself to disappear like a chameleon. But one tiny, wrinkled, gray-crowned saint with poor eyesight and a huge grin made a beeline for me. Enthusiastically shaking my hand, she warbled, “I’ve never met a real, live missionary before!”

“It’s better than a real, dead one,” I muttered from between clenched teeth and grimaced a fake smile.

I’ll never know whether that dear woman heard me, because her ears worked no better than her eyes, and my mom stepped in just then and engaged her in conversation.

But my dad heard. I’m lucky I got out of that room in one piece.

We humans tend to elevate certain people because of their careers or their roles in life. Celebrities and musicians, ministers and missionaries. Folks who have ended up on a wide stage or an unusual road.

    The problem with living on a pedestal is that there is very little wiggle room. A fall of some sort is nearly inevitable.

And when it happens, when details of struggle and brokenness surface, we can get ugly. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves, or maybe we gossip because we feel betrayed by someone we thought we could trust to be an example.

I have to confess that there are times I have felt this way, times I have whispered, “Did you hear about…?” Times I have wondered if I could see someone in the same light after learning what they wrestle with.

But the truth is we are all a bit of a train wreck. Sin – daily sin – is a reality for all of us. It may not look the same for me as it does for you, but sin is sin and it all comes from the same dark internal well. As long as our lungs draw the poisoned air of this world, we will make choices that fall short.

Here’s the crazy thing, though: God calls us saints. Sanctified, holy, set apart.

The apostle Peter (who knew Jesus pretty well, by the way) wrote, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

God’s special possession? A royal priesthood? I know I belong to him. I know he has rescued me and calls me his own, but sanctified and holy and royal?

    More like a royal mess.

Some days I’m so turned around and backward I have a hard time putting my shoes on the right feet, much less behaving like royalty.

I suppose I’m in good company, if I think about it. King David was a serial idiot, a cyclical moron. He was an adulterer, a murderer, a liar, a terrible father and husband. When he sinned, he really dove in deep. So how in the world could he have been a man after God’s own heart? How does that even make sense?

It’s because, just as passionately as David sinned, he repented. His sin drove him toward the lover of his soul, crying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:10 NLT) No cowering like Adam, shamefaced in the bushes. David was, in every way, a royal mess, but God claimed him as his own, and David loved him loud and strong.

  Now, please hear me on this. I am not excusing sin or downplaying it in any way. Sin is deadly. It is a cancer in the bones. It comes in like a foul tidal wave, lifting everything we know from its foundations, leaving us and those we love bruised and exposed and having nothing to hold onto but the hand of a gracious God.

    But it does not, it cannot change who we are in Christ.

And that is good, good news, because I, too, am a cyclical moron running headlong into the limitless love of Jesus. Yes, I am a mess. But I’m a royal mess. Chosen. His. Holy.

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