Snowshoes & Snakes
It’s SPRING here in Minnesota. This week’s temps matching the date on the calendar, which is always cause for celebration. Winter snowfall breaking every record, and school cancelations, too. But there’s an end in sight, birdsong expressing for all of us, sheer delight. Every morning I crack the window by my bedroom chair, dark sky waking pink to early light. Maple scooches in tight, eager as I am to catch a whiff of the changing season, tail thumping, my soul’s agreement. Spring and resurrection go hand in hand.
Just last week Angie and I exchanged Tuesday morning coffee for a snowshoe hike through winter woods. Her parents’ eighty acres joins the Campbell’s three, snowmobile tracks crisscrossing the well-worn paths of resident deer. We follow both, chart our own course, too, exertion and conversation, a blend to rival Caribou.
We’re on the homestretch, my heart beating fast, part workout, mostly passion. We’ve been enjoying a riveting discussion. About SIN. LOL. I know. Who gets excited about a topic like this? Me, I guess. I confess.
And it’s this – confession – I’ve been noodling over every day since. Earlier this week, Nils home for spring break, the two of us relaxing on living room chairs, catching up. He’s talking about college classes, the ones he likes, and the ones he doesn’t. Friends and girls and the ups and downs of being twenty. There’s this ministry down in Cedar Falls, he leads worship, leads a small group of guys. And lately, he tells me honest, it’s felt a bit like a burden. I seek explanation, and he tells me this. How all they ever talk about is sin and confession. It seems to be the primary focus, drilling down deep into dark and hidden places, and bringing to light every wrong done.
This burden of sin. Every day for forty straight, I give up indulgence and read prayers of confession in my Lent devotions. It was Pastor Sean’s sermon last Sunday, too. Hard to be a Christian and avoid this topic. We are bound by sin.
It’s this topic, too, I discuss with Angie, crunching through knee-deep snow on a late winter morning. Is it true we are bound?
I have two choices when it comes to sin. One is to think, “I know I’m going to sin today, so I’m glad I have Jesus to forgive me.” Or I can think, “I’m glad Jesus is with me today, and he can keep me from sinning.”
I’ve said it this way to students at church, my own kids, too. Now I say it to Angie as we leave the woods, high-stepping over drifts as we turn toward home. “Sean says it’s both.” One Tuesday morning gathered for prayer with staff at church, and I’d shared my quote with coworkers. Pastor Sean saying it’s not one or the other, we’re all nodding in agreement, and I’m nodding, too. Because of course we know. It’s both.
If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:10). We can all quote that, and mean it.
And then Angie tells me about this little boy and what he’d said to his mom when he’d been caught red-handed in his own foolish crime. This is just who I am.
Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me…
And I’m thinking about another little boy, grown up now, chatting with me here on the couch. He was eight years old, give or take, when I’d asked him to join me for a summer walk. He’d been caught in his sin, too, and I’d decided it was time to tell him a story. This story I’ve told at least a dozen times since, most recently to the kids at AWANA. And you could have heard a pin drop that night as the kids sat spellbound hearing a grown-up woman giving real-life confession to her own pathetic sin. I couldn’t stop lying. I’d told the kids, like I told my own son when he was just about their age. Years of lies, and I shared my example, a story so real, the kids gasped out loud. And then I looked at those children like I’d looked at my own son all those years before. I couldn’t stop sinning, and you can’t stop either. Which is where most of us. Stop. End of story.
It’s just who I am.
But is it? Really?
Because I’m here to tell you, the rest of that story is about a miracle that happened.
The long version involves a tale about a rattlesnake, and a man with a gun, reptile guts being blown to kingdom come. Which is why the boys love it. But it makes my point and then some. That’s what Jesus has done to your sin. I explain to them, like a teacher once explained it to me when I first heard the story. Jesus blew mine up, too. That sin of lying, blown to smithereens. Jesus doing for me what I couldn’t do on my own.
So Nils sits on the couch and he says, “Mom, sometimes I just don’t have much to confess.” And I’m thinking maybe it would behoove us to talk a bit more about the MIRACLE of what Jesus has done, instead of staying so focused on those things that might bind us.
So is it both? He forgives and He gives? Yes, of course, both. But what if we really understood what He’s GIVEN?
So I say this, knowing there are some who would cringe at such a confession. “Son. The best possible thing is to have nothing to confess.” Because this means it’s Jesus doing His work, and me just reaping the benefits of what He’s always promised. And isn’t this, honestly, the very best version of our Good News Gospel?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
(It really is) for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1
And just outside my window there’s a bird singing like the song in my heart, praises for spring and resurrection.