Maybe you've heard I'm a legalist. I know I have. It's an easy term to use: simply throw it at anyone who does or defends something you can't see doing or defending. Lutherans say Baptists are because they won't drink. Baptists say Lutherans are because they say you have to confess your sins to a pastor and be absolved. Everybody's got a prooftext.
Well, my accusers are right. I am a legalist, as my college roommate could tell you (no, the other one). She'd start with my dish towel dogmas, and she'd probably end, like many other people, with my Pharisaical insistence that the church's catholic and historic teaching on [insert your horsey hob here] is right.
But they're also wrong, because what I am more than anything is a vile and perverse sinner. Seriously, I am BAD. I love evil things. My conscience is in charge of the nastiest, most stinking hunk of rotting flesh in creation. The poor dear is in way over her head. So the best she can do is hold up a three-inch leash and say, "You! You're on this! You can't run away!"
O darkest woe, my teeth are sharp. I take every opportunity to chew through that thing. The Gospel is a joke to me. I am not a tragic victim of illness and sadness and pain and death. I made those things happen. I looked at suffering and cruelty and the ruination of all that is good and holy and said, Yes, I wish to cause that, where do I sign? I'm a hardened criminal, I'm a psychopath, I'm Barabbas. And best of all, I don't think I'm that bad. I'd choose them again if you gave me a chance. I chose them all day yesterday and my history of recidivism is, you know, unreassuring.
I know why Psalm 119 is out there. Please let me delight myself in thy statutes. Make me upright and good, because I am SO NOT. Make me so I won't trample on your Gospel, spit and mock and tell you to prophesy who hit you.
Here's the takeaway lesson: first, that nothing on earth is below me; and second, that there is not a thing on earth to which I am entitled. Ten solid years (and counting) of waxing, waning, and diapering? Yeah, not that bad, considering. Taking time for me? Well, did Barabbas deserve time for Barabbas?
No, but he got it anyway. He got it as a gift, not as a right.
I don't expect anyone who isn't a psychopath to get this. Just thank God that you aren't me and spare yourself the trouble of commenting. You can't help me, only Jesus can. And that is why (DV) I will have ashes on my head by the end of this day and why I will abstain and such for the next six weeks and why my life looks the way it looks. Not because it makes me better. Not as a witnessing tool. Not because it makes me a member of some club. Not because my husband does. But because if you could know my heart, "you will see and hear things that will seem to you impossible among human beings with immortal souls," and, meine Gott, I need Jesus to save me. All those laughably paltry "legalisms" help me know and feel how much I need him to save me, because there is nothing I love more than thinking that I am the poor, pitiable victim and not the abhorrent, damnable perp.
My body is lazy. It needs resistance. My soul is putrescent. It needs purgation. My life is forfeit. I need Jesus.
"I want to believe."