I was cleaning out old papers and came across a letter dated 2010 from a person recently dead by suicide. It was an appeal to join the work of bringing the gospel to Colombia, written by a man who had been doing that noble work for decades. Death by his own hand occurred on the week that police began an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct with a minor.
I often wonder, as I write my columns, how "real" I should get. Not that I ever lie, but there seem to be unspoken rules of public discourse and good taste that we adhere to, and lines we don't cross. No one is suggesting that sound judgment is not in order in our communications. But is the generally accepted public style too varnished for our own good? It often seems to me that the most helpful things I could tell you about myself and God's work in my mess would never get past the red pen.
Then someone hangs himself in his office and we read about it and think to ourselves: Ultimate reality. Behind the press conferences and fundraisers and jaunts to South America with Bibles for unreached people, what in the world was going on in this man's heart? And we ask ourselves if we have just been fooling around with superficial conversations while still trying to impress each other with our OK-ness.
We know from the material world that a sudden and visible disaster is usually preceded by a slow and invisible corruption. The 2007 collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis happened in a day, but its causes didn't. It is theorized that the 91-degree temperature on that first day of August was the last straw on the back of an already weakened gusset plate that connected four steel beams near the bridge's south end.
And you can say that Katrina caused the New Orleans levees to fail, but you can just as accurately say that Katrina merely exposed the levees' weakness-the things not taken into account in their construction, like the soil strength underneath, and the possibility of a water-filled gap lowering the safety factor.
Isn't it interesting how in times of calamity all the hidden dirty little secrets of our lives come out? Isn't it weird how we go from hero to villain in a day, when in reality there were so many shades between?
Our fondled secrets seemed so small when they were hidden in the moist, dark recesses of our heart that we thought we were getting away with them. Who would have thought that a pea-sized untoward impulse could in the end destroy so much?
"Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards …" (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Let us catch the little unholy thoughts and desires that we allow to romp freely in our minds, and take them all captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Let us help one another catch them, too.