James and I spent most of yesterday and this morning in historic Jerome, Arizona. We stayed at the Surgeon’s House, a bed and breakfast run by a very sweet lady named Andrea.
The 100 year old Surgeon’s house used to be the headquarters for nurses working for the local hospital before it was used as home of the chief surgeon at the hospital in the 1930’s. The house and town have quite the history. I’ve never stayed at a bed and breakfast so I have nothing to compare it to, but this is most definitely the best experience I have ever had in staying at a hotel or resort. You don’t go to the Surgeon’s house to stay overnight. You go to retreat into quiet rooms and gardens full of comfy seats, art, books, plants, Koi fish, the sound of water falling, and the views of the entire valley and red-rock features on the horizon. You go to walk the switchback, uphill streets of Jerome, visit quaint shops and historic sites (which are everywhere) and come back to a quiet home with open doors and the aroma of freshly baked goodies waiting for you. It was honestly the best experience I’ve ever had for a getaway. Which I’ve only done once or twice in the last 24 years, and never without kids.
Being there, and speaking with Andrea- who I took to be an odd but very nice spiritualist/mystic 60 something woman at her mention of being blessed by “Mother Earth” and her reference to her past life as a mermaid (she wasn’t joking), energy fields, “Darma” and the tattoo of a moon and star on her forehead as well as the Nag Champa incense burning in the dining room- stirred up some thinking about my life as a Christian and as a wife.
Andrea was a perfect hostess. She was hospitable, warm, accommodating and an amazing cook! You really couldn’t ask for much better. The only thing I didn’t like was the smell of the Nag Champa. But any who, as we were leaving today I was thinking about how nice this lady was who obviously did not worship Christ. I thought about how people loved going to her place and how kind she was. How was she different than a what Christ calls us to be?
I’m not talking about doctrine (obviously Mother Earth and her past life as a mermaid don’t line up with our Triune God and the hope of resurrection we have because of Christ and his atoning work on the cross). I’m talking about how she deals with people’s sin… even her own. This nice woman is going about her business in a very high-quality way. But the thought crossed my mind, “What does she do with people’s sin in her life? What is her response to the sin of others against her and the things about her she knows are shameful and wrong?” The difference between a nice woman like this who’s into spirituality and such, and a woman (or man) who has been captured by the love of Christ and is in the process of being conformed to his image is the way they respond to sin. Andrea had created quite the sanctuary for herself and the guests she chose to allow into her home at a price. But what did she do with sin?
We Christians could be like Andrea, and our claims about Christ wouldn’t seem to be anything more than another kind of spirituality. We can go about our lives, trying to create a comfortable place/space/life for ourselves and only allow in those we choose at a price (they have to make it worth it to let them in, i.e. make our lives easier/more comfortable/richer). But Christ in us wouldn’t be seen. His unique claims to being the Way, the Truth and the Life and the only way to know God and be in a peaceful, loving relationship with him would be muted by our “nice” lives. The only way we stand out in the world of “good” religion or “nice” spiritualism, even atheistic moralism, is by the way we respond to sin.
I tried explaining my thinking to my husband on the way home while we were discussing Andrea’s spirituality. I said, “The way Christianity tells of God is that God, who has everything and is in the highest place of honor, lowered himself to lift up others. Other religions and spiritualism has to isolate itself from others to seem nice and attractive. They don’t go get low into peoples lives and let the messes those people have fall on them and love them through it, bearing it and dealing with it in love.” I thought about how when you look at the world and the people who are going to the hard places and the poor places and the dangerous places, it’s mostly Christians. Not people like sweet Andrea. People like Andrea go to places like Sedona and Jerome and let people seek out their “enlightened” way of thinking. And we Christians can be just religious-right conservative versions of Andrea if we don’t put our Christianity rubber to the road of people’s messed up sinful lives.
We don’t have to go to Africa to do it either. Although we may. If we’re married we have a sinful person to take up our crosses and following Jesus in loving daily. How we deal with the sin in the lives of the ones we’ve vowed to stay with until death do us part is one area where we can let Christ in us be seen as something totally other, different… holy. Christ died bearing our sins. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him daily. Christians die daily to see others freed from slavery to sin.
The Christian doesn’t hide from sin. He runs to it. In love. To die bearing it. In the Spirit of Christ who paid for it. So many try to train, tolerate or ignore people’s sin. Christians run to people in their sin in the Spirit of the One who bore it.
So driving home, I thought about Andrea, and my Christian life, and looked at my world-weary husband, laden with a load of sin and shame as he drove us home. It’s not a nice marriage I’m running for here. It’s his freedom.