Do you ever ask God to show you your sin? Are you that crazy?
I was, last week. I paused first. I knew how much it could hurt to have layers of my sanctimonious self-perception stripped away. I imagined T.S. Eliot peering at me from behind dark-rimmed glasses as he reminded me of the truth:
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art. …
I lay almost asleep, borrowing the basement bed of a Pennsylvania counselor and his wife. They lent it during my Christmas visit to see my boyfriend Jonathan, who lives down the street from them. I remember to pray when I sleep far from home.
My Bible cracked open to Psalm 103. It reminded me to bless the God who forgives all my iniquity, heals all my diseases, redeems my life from the pit, renews my youth like the eagle’s. Reading, I realized that I hardly recognize my iniquity, much less feel aware of its forgiveness. Which, as you might imagine, makes it hard to think about the cross and experience any amount of joy.
After all, I’m a good little, flat-footed, curly-haired, never-miss-a-Sunday girl. I beg to attend the Thursday men’s theology meetings. My own vocabulary impresses me. I’ve read the sermons of Jonathan Edwards, and I think I quake in all the right places. At least, I try to. I also used to be pretty good at remembering to sing hymns before I filled my head with too much rock and roll.
Who asks for God’s sharp compassion? Saints do. That poet-king David does. And so did I, by some miracle. I knew God’s commitment to making me look like Jesus.
So I prayed, knowing that God would answer quickly.
The next day God delivered was one that Jonathan and I will want to think about for a long time. The snow fell thick and fast outside the windows. We read poetry, walked the streets of Lewisburg in our hipster hats, and stopped for sushi. We didn’t know exactly what we were ordering until we popped the raw fish into our mouths.
We talked about taking a fish and chopping it up for the sake of art. When I ask God to show me my sin, I have no idea what I ask for—kind of like ordering sushi. I disliked the raw fish in the same way I dislike Eliot’s idea of the surgeon’s bleeding hands. I am not fond of tasting rawness, especially my own.
But after a hard semester of papers and exams, the day brought youth-renewal. It brought health (albeit adrenaline-induced) after a semester of sinuses and viruses and plain old tiredness. Couldn’t I trust the Giver of good gifts to bless me with forgiveness?
God supplied quickly, as I expected. Kind conviction came in lists over the next few days. I found my spirit unteachable, undisciplined, unfaithful, proud, denominationally snobby.
Suddenly I value my New Year’s conviction more than my New Year’s resolution. Resolution without rawness, I notice, gets me nowhere. But God is an excellent surgeon.