Great post by Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like. Make sure you click here and read his blog. One of the funniest places on the internet. He has a new book out also that is hilarious.
I only shaved a vanilla Ice inspired “rap stripe” in my eyebrow once.
I only almost killed myself skateboarding once.
I only got busted by the police for shoplifting once.
If I think about it, there are a handful of mistakes I have only made once. But for the most part, if I am honest, I tend to boomerang a lot of my sins. I’d like them to be “one and done,” an action that’s undertaken one time and then forever forsaken, but often I come back for a second go round.
Like Paul doing the things he doesn’t want to do, I catch myself being a repeat offender. If you’re like me and that happens, you probably swallow two of the bitterest pills around. They’re called “By now” and “still.”
I’ve written about these before. “By now” is what you say when you feel like you should have reached some level of Christian maturity that seems to be eluding you. “I’ve been a Christian for years. By now I should know not to look at online porn.” And “still” is similar, it’s a word of shame. “I still struggle with lying. I can’t believe I still do! If I were a better Christian, I wouldn’t still do this.”
I wish I could convince you to retire those two phrases, but I’m not sure if that is possible today. What I am going to do though is remind you of someone else who struggled with boomerangs. Someone else who did the same thing you’re doing. Sinning, repenting, and then sinning all over again. You’ve probably heard of him before. His name starts with an A and ends with a “braham.”
I’ve been reading Genesis lately and it appears that in addition to being the father of a nation, Abraham was the father of a boomerang. It starts in Genesis 12, where God gives who is then called “Abram” a very impassioned promise that he will make him into a nation. Believing in that, trusting in that audible call, Abram leaves his land and sets out on mission. Next thing he does? He lies to Pharaoh about his wife because he’s afraid, bringing a serious disease on Pharaoh’s house because of the sin.
Whoa, lesson learned. Game over. We’re good. You’re God, I’m Abram, my bad. Won’t happen again. God jumps in, gives Abram an even more detailed covenant in chapter 15. Actually puts him in a thick and dreadful darkness, similar to the smoke monster in Lost. Abram, completely down with God now, circumcises his entire household. Then he meets the Lord and three visitors who are on their way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. At this point Abraham talks God out of killing both cities if he can find 10 righteous people there. Crazy scene. God and Abraham are tight, right?
Despite seeing angels and the Lord and the cities destroyed and the power of a most holy God, Abraham is a rascal and pulls the same stunt in chapter 20, telling Abimelech that his wife is his sister. (Which is technically true, an added element of the lie Abraham layers on.)
Abraham spoke to God multiple times. He witnessed God’s closeness and power like few people who have ever lived. He is arguably one of the most important figures in the entire Old Testament. And you know what he did? He returned to the same sin. He trusted the same lies and tricks he had used before.
But that’s not even the crazy part. The real craziness is what we see God do immediately after Abraham boomerangs back to sin. He smites him. He drops an elbow of death of Abraham that ricochets for the ages. He punts him like the Black Adder would punt Baldrick. Not really.
Know what the first verse in chapter 21 says? This is the chapter immediately after Abraham’s old sin of lying has been found anew. You know what 21:1 says,
“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.”
What? That makes no sense. No one and nothing in life operates that like. When you blow it still, when you haven’t learned your lesson by now, there is punishment and lightning bolts and the wrath of heaven unleashed. That’s got to be a mistake.
But it isn’t, in fact, because God loves you enough to be repetitive with his grace, he repeats that same exact scenario a few chapters later. You know what Isaac, Abraham’s son does in chapter 26? He lies that his wife is his sister. (Like father like son.)
And so you know what happens immediately after that? Here is what Genesis 26:11 says:
“Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him.”
Are you kidding me? The guy was a liar. The guy was a mess. The guy was repeating the sins of his father.
But we don’t get what we deserve. We don’t get what our actions have earned. We get grace. We get a God who rises to show us compassion.
I hope you’re not holding a boomerang right now. I hope there’s not a boomerang that’s swallowed your life whole in it’s awfulness, but if there is, know this, you’ve got a God who loves you. A God who can’t wait to be gracious. A God who forgives boomerangs.