Sin Boldly

My brain usually feels shell-shocked in the late-January nuclear fallout from December holidays. It’s like this for the first few weeks of every new year. I look around these days with a blank stare, no judgement, no assessments, no anything… just taking it all in, feeling less than intelligent, less than interesting, and enjoying it for what it is.

Now that I’m coming around again I’m starting to notice things I hadn’t before. Sadly, what I see this more of this year is the heartbreaking trouble that marriage can be sometimes.

I think back on a few especially terrible past marriages I’ve observed and it’s depressing.

She loved him so young, walked down the aisle thinking it was is a mistake, walked down the aisle thinking there was no other way. She loved him though; she really did. He proved himself to her family as an upright, respectable man but at home she saw him as domineering and unbearable. Long story short, she started to act out, staying away from the one-stoplight-town he felt safe in, hanging out in bars with newfound friends. In the end, she took the fall, the blame for the divorce, and continued at a pace fast enough to avoid explaining the details.

Another one…

He loved her more truly than any I had witnessed in my short little life. She was reckless, not in love, and went through with the wedding anyway. God only knows why. “She won’t even touch me,” he said a bit into a marriage that ended in a handful of weeks. She had been intimate with another man throughout the engagement and into the marriage. Could anything be more sad?

Maybe this is more sad…

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful or better woman. She’d already been through the wringer. Her first marriage was to a pastor. He left her. I don’t know why. I imagine a lot of people don’t know why but things are what they are. Her new husband was probably an answer to prayer – not just her prayers but the prayers of the many who surrounded her in hard times. Years later, he was unable to conceal a personal addiction from her and she was left with a world of uncertainty. Two in a row? Are you ephing kidding me God?! That’s what I’d be asking anyway.

I have worse stories…

How about a woman who’s greatest fear one night long ago was that her children might hear her being murdered by men her husband hired? I’ll stop there.

Why so macabre? Why focus on the horrible parts of humanity? I ask myself these things.

I honestly don’t know. Maybe because they’re just true. They actually happened. I actually know and care for these people. I have friends going through hard marriages right now and I wish better days ahead for them. It also gives me pause to consider a greater truth.

I am no Bible thumper. I’m more skeptical than you’ll ever be, I promise you. Still, the pain of human existence as I’ve just described validates, to me anyway, a version of Jesus that the Bible itself tries to present clearly while the deafening voices of extremely religious people try to rob him from us. They’re the scowling “your doing it wrong” people. The ones that look more like nervous, arrogant, bastard children than their own Heavenly Father who is described as scandalously graceful in the Bible. If misery loves company then maybe none crave company more than the hyper-moral.

I think on this:

Jesus. God incarnate. God in the flesh. Flesh, the meaty substance of us each that eats, excretes, procreates. God in the primal human form. God, once apart from us, who once asked questions of the Old Testament greats of their humanity, and later saw it fitting that he’d experience it for himself. God who becomes a human like you, like me, in all of our primal glory, with all of our everything undesirable, make-fun-able, cry-over-able in the form of Jesus. They say you can tell the quality of a man by the company he keeps. Jesus, God incarnate, kept some shady company and shunned the types who love to be right. He was more street-wise than you’ll ever be.

Jesus, who knows the bullshit of living as much as any of us, had a real thing for screwed up people; both the victims and the offenders. He didn’t have much tolerance for the self-righteous. He gives grace to the humble, not the correct. And, if we’re inclined to believe it, sacrificed his life so we can be made new even in our pain, in our doubt, and in our floundering.

So shitty marriages, yes. They’re happening. A God who knows shitty, yes. A God full of grace, yes, as many other of my friends can attest to.

Martin Luther once wrote:

Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.

Friends, this is your one and only life. Live it. Live it in the comforting shadow of Jesus, God incarnate, revealed in the messy human condition. Nobody should be faced with the choices you have to make sometimes. Still, make your choice, wrong or right as others see it, and if you must, sin boldly. You might discover it was the sin of fear, not the fear of sin, that kept you bound and that it had nothing to do with whether you left or stayed, whichever you feared more. Sometimes staying feels like the greater sin, but whichever, act boldly.