Friday, October 29, 2010

The Size of Sin

I remember a Sunday School lesson on sin when I was about 12 years old. The teacher told us that there are no "little" sins or "big" sins. He said that sin is sin, and in God's eyes it is all weighed equally. That lesson was nearly as confusing to me as the one about the prodigal son. (I still struggle with that one sometimes...)

Back then I simply couldn't comprehend that telling a little white lie was as bad as killing someone. Impossible. And what about those sins that a person commits unknowingly? How can someone be held responsible for those? Mind-boggling stuff to a kid.

Mind-boggling stuff to anyone, like me, who measures sin according to overt collateral. When measured in this way, a little white lie doesn't even compare to something as awful as murder. If you tell a lie, someone's feelings might be hurt. And if you are good at lying, no one will ever find out, and feelings might even be spared. Besides, there is a chance of fixing things if the lie goes awry, right? Just apologize and everything will be okay. Nothing compared to murder. Not nearly as awful as taking someone's life. A dead person is gone forever. There's no fixing that. Right?

When scrutinized under such a microscope, my reasoning seems accurate. My logic holds up nicely under these parameters. The flaw doesn't lie in the reasoning. The flaw lies in the choice of tools.

If you reevaluate sin based upon the damage it does to a relationship, it looks quite different. Since I began counseling, I've realized that it is quite possible for a small mistake to cause huge pain, even when there is no malicious intent. The emotional lacerations leave scar tissue that accumulates over time, resulting in a small and impenetrable heart.

If God's heart is hurt every time I sin, I risk damaging our relationship. The Bible promises that God will never leave me, that He is bigger than humans in that way, but my choices still cause pain. Pain that is neither necessary nor deserved. And this kind of pain is not something that can be "fixed" with an apology or yet another little lie.

I'm only now beginning to consider the pain I cause my own heart with every sin I commit. The way I cheat myself or belittle myself when I knowingly do wrong. The lessons I fail to learn when I don't acknowledge my errors. The feeling of accomplishment I deny myself when I take a shortcut.

In God's eyes, size of sin doesn't matter. Maybe that's because as scars grow and hearts shrink, sin lessens the relationships we have with Him and with one another.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just a Game

When I was about 10 years old, I loved going to the local park to hit and throw a ball around the little diamond. There were never quite enough of us to play a proper game, just a handful of kids looking for cheap entertainment in a small town. One hot, still afternoon, I sauntered up to the plate, hefted the bat over my left shoulder, and waited patiently for the first pitch. The throw was slow coming because my little brother was standing on the mound next to the neighbor boy, arguing that it was his turn to pitch. Just as my brother tried to snatch the ball out of the boy's hand, he released it. It was nothing spectacular, except that it scooted directly over the plate.

Admittedly, I was paying more attention to the ball than to my brother, and I swung hard, sending a line drive square into, you guessed it, my brother's nose. I'm not entirely sure if the crack I hard was the bat or his cartilage, but I can still hear it. It was in the ensuing moments that I learned how badly noses bleed and how badly little brothers can embarrass big sisters. We got him home, and I eventually got over him stealing my thunder.

I never developed into a good ball player. Never amounted to much of anything as an athlete, as a matter of fact. But I still love the game of baseball. It is one of the few sports that still resembles its beginnings. There is a certain nostalgia when you enter some parks. Live organists still play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," vendors still hawk peanuts in the stands, and umpires still get boo'd. I have a list of ballparks at which I hope to experience all of those again and again.

I jokingly tell my friends that baseball is God's favorite sport. After all, why else would he have begun His book with, "In the big inning...?" I also relentlessly refer to Texas as "God's Country." Now, I'm no Mensa candidate, but it doesn't take too much deductive reasoning to figure out that the Texas Rangers must be favored by God.

There is a woman who is dear to my heart that loves baseball more than I. She has been known to plan her activities around baseball schedules. She has two television sets in her house, one in the kitchen and one in the living room, so that she doesn't miss any plays while she is preparing a meal. Some of her prize possessions are Rangers paraphernalia. She is so excited about the Rangers making it to the pennant race that she plans to take her transistor radio with her to a function Friday night so that she can tune in.

She is a simple woman, the only daughter of a preacher, one who did not succomb to the antics of most preacher's kids. She has spent her 81 years in prayer and service to others. She's a force of nature - she talks fast and walks fast. She has a sharp tongue at times, and is quick to apologize at others. To say that I admire her would be like saying Alison Krauss can carry a tune. I love her in ways she'll never know, because she's not the type to talk of such things.

One thing she hopes to see before she dies is the Texas Ranger Baseball Club in a world series. I hope it happens while she still has the capacity to really enjoy it. It may be just a game to some, but to her it is a source of simple, unadulterated joy. When you think of it that way, it doesn't seem like that much to ask for. I happen to think she deserves it.