The Sting and the Save

by Andy Wood on October 12, 2009

in Tense Truths

Okay, first watch the short video, then let’s talk. 

This is an adaptation of a story Henri Nouwen used to tell.  Voice, illustrations, direction by Allen Weathers…

Before the dawn of time as we know it, God foresaw.  He looked ahead to Adam’s day, to our day, and everywhere in-between, and saw a world shrouded in shame. 

That shame took on two forms.  The first overtly raged – rebelled against our Creator.  It drove us to love the darkness rather than the light, because our deeds were evil (John 3:19).

The second form of shame dressed up death with a religious exterior.  We became “whitewashed tombs, full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27).

God looked at us and saw us as made in His image, but hopelessly lost.  We looked at ourselves as an odd combination of center-of-the-universe and completely worthless.  In other words, we were filled with shame.

But get this:  Shame, like a scorpion, has a stinger.  And it will do anything – anything – to defend itself.

From eternity past, God established a plan.  Here’s how one Bible writer described it:

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2, ESV – emphasis mine).

Jesus, fully aware of our nature as “ungrateful creatures” to sting and destroy, faced down our shame anyway.  He embraced our nature to destroy with His nature to save. 

“Who for the joy set before Him…” For years, I looked at that phrase and assumed it meant that Jesus looked beyond the cross to the day when every knee would bow and every tongue would confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:11).  And knowing that all creation would worship him made it possible for Him to endure the humiliation and pain of the cross.

Recently, I got another look.  On a day when I was doing a dance with shame of my own, I looked again at this verse.  And I heard Him speak to the dark and the religious places in my heart:

“Andy, don’t you see?  YOU were the joy set before me.  I already had the worship of all the angels in heaven.  What I lacked was an intimate love relationship with YOU.  YOU were the reason I could endure the cross.  YOU were the reason I could count the shame – YOUR shame – as nothing.  And you are still the joy set before Me today.  I endured… because YOU are worth it.

Oh my God, my God!  I melted, completely undone.  I was that scorpion.  I was the one with the lightening-fast stinger, determined to rage against His grace and my destiny at any cost… and He knew it.  And still, clinging to His roots, He reached out to me in my shame.  And true to its nature, my shame stung Him deeply, even to the point where my shame became His.

I looked at my shame as all-consuming.  He counted it as nothing.  I looked at myself as uninterested or unworthy.  He looked at me as the joy set before Him.

And He endured the stings.

And in an accounting so amazing only grace could explain it, He nailed my (and your) shame to a cross.  He killed it once and for all.

So where does that leave you and me?

Well, if you are a Christ-follower, it means that when you, like I was, are beating yourself up for whatever reason, you’re actually doing a dance with a ghost.

If you are not yet a follower of His, don’t you think it’s time to put that stinger away, and trust Him?

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