This morning in Kampala, following a pleasant midnight chill of rain, the sunset cracked open the sky with a color so brilliantly tangerine, it could have been melted copper. I’d been struggling to open my eyes and move off the warmth of my sheets to have my alone time with God. But once the brilliance hit my window, the drowsiness slid from me like a blanket.
I slouched there in the morning silence of my living room, wishing I could have a similar breaking forth of the soul. You see, it had happened again. The day before, I lost my temper with my son. The reasons were all there in my mind; I could even rehearse them rationally now. But my anger, you see, is deceptive. It’s often cloaked in righteous indignation and the “well-being” of my children, who coincidentally have trampled on my rights, my “kingdom” again. I’d experienced so many breakthroughs, both my son and with my temper. God was clearly at work. But the defeat left me slumped in my chair, weighted by my concerns about the ways I’d wounded my eight-year-old with my harsh tone washing my mind, my gaze transfixed by the too-beautiful swirl of a pastel sky.
We are midway through Lent, I realize, and in the continued meditation on Christ’s suffering, I find this: too often, I would like to move away from my need for Christ’s cross, rather than toward it. I would prefer, in my “advancing maturity”, to find myself in lesser need for that dazzling sunburst that is redemption.
The reality? I need it more than ever.
Drawing closer to Christ, I come to realize more and more of my own poverty of the soul. There is a temptation, at times, to turn away from the Cross—its humbling, its dying to self, its forgiveness—and toward “greater” things as one “acquires righteousness.” Instead, I find the Cross is the Great Thing. It is the center of Christian maturity.
Yes, God’s victories in my life are nothing short of miraculous; yes, I am stunned to find Him slowly, yet definitively planing away curls of myself to reveal the image of Christ in me. But the epicenter of those miracles is Christ’s Gospel and my constant need for Him; that planer is repentance and grace.
So this morning, as the infernal rooster crowed next door, God was kind enough to give me a second, internal sunrise: a reminder that the Cross is always a breathtaking place to be. That as much as my sin grieves Him at the core, and should grieve me at my own, the beauty of the Christian life isn’t reliant upon my perfection, but His.