Tamára Lunardo

Author & Editor

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April 2010

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COMMENTS

Bread and Wine

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I brought a particular sin with me to church on Sunday, like a little delicacy tucked into my cute straw bag. It was one that had been enticing me with its aroma for a few days, one that I always think I have beaten until the next time it shows up and reminds me how delicious it is. But even as I sample it, I feel disgust at the same time as the pleasure, and that’s when I begin this bulimic ritual of eating, pushing away, and crying out to God to help me just lose the taste for it altogether. But He never answers right away, and it’s maddening.

I listened to the sermon, sang the worship songs, said the corporate prayers– and sometimes my heart was into it. But sometimes I’d just have to take a little taste, and it pulled my attention away; it pulled my heart away. And I hated it, every horribly delicious bite. So I pleaded with God to please, please just remove it. I believe that God loves me and hates sin, and it just frustrates the hell out of me that even so, He doesn’t free me from it when I ask. This seems cruel, or worse, indifferent.

It was a communion Sunday, and one of the prayers provided for use in preparation was one for people struggling with sin. The first line read, “Lord Jesus, grant that I may see in You the fulfillment of all my need and may turn from every false satisfaction to feed on You, the true and living bread.” And I began to think that maybe God really would rescue me after all, that maybe He wasn’t a total sadist.

In the days before, whenever I felt repulsed by the plate before me, I struggled to understand how, if Jesus had bought forgiveness for my sins, I was still so stuck with them. What I saw in that first line was what I had been missing: I’d accepted His forgiveness, and then I’d turned my back and went on with my business. I wasn’t looking to be fulfilled by Him, just rescued and released; and here He was, all along, wanting me to stay.

My pastor began to remind us of the night when Jesus had had His last meal with His friends, how He told them that  from then on He would be their bread and their wine. My bread and my wine. My sustenance and my delight. Not a one-time favor; a daily provision.

I confessed before that my Bible had been packed up from our move months ago; I’ve got to confess now that it wasn’t until this sin reappeared to gnaw at me, until I was really desperate, that I finally dug it out. When I did, I came to Matthew 10:38-39, which basically says that as long as you’re focused on yourself, you’re doomed, but the moment you focus on Jesus, you not only have hope, you get yourself back too.

And then I got an email forward telling the story of a silversmith’s work– how he had to hold the silver in the hottest part of the fire to burn off the impurities, how he had to keep watch the whole time to be sure it wasn’t left in a moment too long and destroyed, how he knew it was finally refined when he could see his own image in it. And I swear, I’m not as smart as I look, because it took me that long to finally begin to get it: God will let me feel the pain of my sin as long and as often as He needs to, not because He doesn’t care but because He cares more than I can even imagine.

I read a post the other day by a blogger I really respect as a writer and as a person. He wrote about having read a Buddhist book that talked about “Feeding the Ghosts,” a practice in which you set out cakes to symbolically invite in those parts of you that are troublesome. In other words, you welcome your sin. And as I read the description of this practice I thought, to use the vernacular, This shit is whack. For the love of God, the last thing I want is to make my sin welcome. I’m certainly not going to bake it a damn cake.

In a Bible study several years ago, we listened to a recording of pastor and author Tim Keller where he said, “The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.” And I think that this is the key. The only way I can lose my taste for this particular sin, or for any sin, is to keep going back again, and again, and again to eat that holy bread and drink that holy wine.

  • http://agirlandhergod.wordpress.com Rebekah

    “For the love of God, the last thing I want is to make my sin welcome. I’m certainly not going to bake it a damn cake.” Love that. I realize it’s inspired by the other post you read but still – hilariously well stated! Puts some perspective on things. 🙂

  • Julia Lunardo

    Wow – heavy stuff, this one… makes me really stop and think…thank you.

  • Jenny

    damn, girl. Hitting print. commence mulling….

  • http://breadtobeeaten.wordpress.com brent

    Thanks for the accolades! Back at ya! Your perspective is refreshing and keeps me thinking, especially these posts which bring me back to my Christian roots to consider what I can still learn from them.

    Commenting back and forth is no way to have a discussion really, and I’m interested in how you feel about this thing (which for the reader becomes our things) that keep coming back. You can email me at breadtobeeaten@gmail.com if you want to discuss. If not, no worries! I will say, I think wanting to cut it off, or “give it to god”, or have whatever it is eliminated is very much part of cultures that emphasize Sin and it’s role in our lives. I’ve been really interested in cultures/religions that don’t have this idea of Sin while still dealing with daily realities of mistakes and even our deep seeded bend towards destructivity. My (Christian and licensed) counselor used to tell me that we’re all made up of many parts. Some we exalt and cherish, others we try to “give to god” which really just means putting them in a box under the bed and hoping that when we open the box again, it will be gone. We’ll always find that anger or that greed or that gluttony there festering. Instead he told me I should learn to love that part of myself, because there’s some truth that it has to say about my life. That anger (or whatever else it is) is there for a reason, caused my something real that needs love. I may not want it driving my car, he would say, but it should have some say in where I’m going. I didn’t know until after some reading, but this is a very Buddhist idea. That all of our parts, even the sticky ones, need not to be rejected, but to be invited to the table (as, perhaps, Jesus ate with sinners, to know them, to know how he could best love them). If we reject those parts of ourselves, we will ultimately reject those parts of people we come in contact with, but if we learn to love those parts of ourselves that are hard to love, we will learn how to love others.

    What do you think?

    • http://tamaraoutloud.wordpress.com Tamara

      Hey, there. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Also, I really appreciate that you sometimes read my blog even though I espouse a faith you have left. That takes a very open heart, I think. I would normally be quite open to an email conversation, but since my readers can see your comment, I feel like they should also see my reply. But from here on out, I’d be very happy to talk with you more via email. (Mine is tamaraoutloud@gmail.com.)

      I sort of liked this: “If we reject those parts of ourselves, we will ultimately reject those parts of people we come in contact with, but if we learn to love those parts of ourselves that are hard to love, we will learn how to love others.” I’d like it even more if it weren’t about loving the negative parts of ourselves and others but rather loving ourselves and others in spite of those parts.

      Because here’s the thing: if my friend is a child molester, ain’t no way I’m getting behind that. I hope that I will still be able to love *him,* but no, I will not love that part of him. And I think that deep down, every sin is that ugly, is that frightening. Every sin has the potential to hurt its bearer and to hurt other people. And that’s why I have to struggle to get rid of it– because I can feel it destroy me and threaten to destroy people I love, and I cannot love that, not any part of it.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and asking for mine!

  • Julia Lunardo

    Brent makes some good points here.

  • Julia Lunardo

    Very insightful response, Tamara. I totally agree with you.

  • http://www.chrissynoelle.blogspot.com Chrissy

    Great transparency Tamara!

    The way God answers my prayers sometimes, is not by ‘magically’ taking them away, but by giving me an opportunity (testing me) to prove Him.

    Paul prayed for his thorn to be removed from him even up to his death. I think it really helped him to have empathy and keep him humble, while getting such tremendous words from the Lord.

    I LOVE the Silversmith example. One of my favorite explanations behind a verse.

    I agree with both you and Brett’s points. If I was Catholic, I’d say, the different degrees of sin might be the difference. But, I’m not anymore…. so, I don’t know.
    fascinating subject .

  • http://www.chrissynoelle.blogspot.com Chrissy

    sorry, BrenT, my bad. It was late, didn’t mean to call you Brett. 🙂

  • http://breadtobeeaten.wordpress.com breadtobeeaten

    I really love this discussion, and I’m glad we’re still talking about it. I just don’t like the “in spite of” idea. For me that’s like saying I will love you in spite of your missing leg, I will love you in spite of you not being a whole perfect person. The child molester example: No… no one loves child molesting… but the child molesting is an action based on a part of that person, a wounded part that carries a story that can speak some truth about that persons life. I think in general people approach “sin” as some contagion. And it can be. But people try to quarantine it, cut it off, amputate it, afraid they’ll catch it, THAT IT COULD DESTROY THEM. But if you believe in Jesus, that God has conquered sin, you don’t have to be afraid of it. You can love this terribly mangled, wounded person, and fully love them despite all the blood and sores. You certainly should try to help mend the wounds, but I think a divine, unconditional love will keep loving even if the wounds never heal, even if the (hopefully no longer practicing) child molester’s wound never heals to a properly functioning whole.

    And again, I feel like the church focuses so much on sin, fearing it, trying to get rid of it, that they won’t look past that to the part of that person whose voice needs to be heard. Yes, it can take years to get to the truth, but the church preaches so much fear of sin without emphasizing that you have to stop long enough to care about that part of the person. “Sin”ful action is not some demon operating inside; it’s a part of someone in need of recognition, needing to be heard. And it acts out, sometimes in ways that are terrifying. The problem is, we usually just stop at the terror, selfishly hoping we just never have to see something so ugly again.

    • http://tamaraoutloud.wordpress.com Tamara

      “the child molesting is an action based on a part of that person, a wounded part that carries a story that can speak some truth about that persons life.” Agreed. And the way I see it is that we say to that sin, “Thanks for showing me this need.” But not, “I love you and I want you to stay.” That’s the difference to me, and it’s huge. I think that it’s healthy to see the sin for what it is; but when we try to make it something it isn’t, try to make it loveable, that’s when it has us hooked.

  • http://breadtobeeaten.wordpress.com breadtobeeaten

    And I keep reading because you write well… and you keep that part of me, that Christian part, involved in my own personal dialogue… thank you.

    • http://tamaraoutloud.wordpress.com Tamara

      That is a lovely compliment; thank you.

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