A rush of consecration seems to be making its way through the church realm, and I find it a breath of fresh air. I've recognized in many people, within my own circle, the deep desire to consecrate themselves for the Lord.
That word, “consecration” tends to get a bad wrap. Images of monks tearing their backs apart with flogs, and people fasting for 40 days and nights bounce around our heads at the mere mention of the word. Our hearts recoil at the thought. We tell ourselves, “Well now, I don't want to be that dramatic...”
What if that word didn't mean what you thought it meant? I'm disgruntled in having to give you the definition (because I find such a writing technique boring and trite,) but it's in the definition and application of the word that this whole essay hinges.
We usually infer from the word “consecrate”, that we're talking about something being declared sacred, or being set apart. When we consecrate ourselves, we're attempting to set ourselves apart for the Lord.
This reason alone pulls up images of devout monks from deep in our imagination, because it's the most common idea connected to consecrated. We picture ourselves having to give up all of life's comforts, dedicate every piece of everything to the Lord, and becoming an unhappy, unsatisfied, grumpy person. But we'd be holy though!
I come bearing gifts for you, the reader.
Becoming consecrated is painful, difficult and a long process. It also results in amazing beauty, deep satisfaction, and a peace and contentment that outlasts a lifetime. The process puts the full, natural self to death, but in its stead raises an image of Christ, designed with the most unique personality to carry out that person's most unique calling and purpose.
We fear the scraping away of the old self, because we bought the lie that nothing better could possibly take its place. Plenty of people fear becoming a Christ-drone.
“But I like my entertainment. I like being who I am. Why would I upset that apple cart?”
I find myself eager to get to the crux of my argument, but I hold myself back, because with patience comes reward.
That apple cart you hold onto so tightly is actually infested with pounds of rotten fruit. Your nose has become “nose deaf” to the stench, and you believe that no one else can smell it. The problem is, they walk past and will mention or mock your rotten apples to each other, but so few actually stop to point out that you have something in your cart nobody wants.
You convince yourself that every apple is needed, and the exercise is good for you. In all actuality, you're exhausted. It takes such unbelievable effort to continue to slog and push that cart full of rotten apples through knee-high mud. While you do, Satan walks along side you, on top of the grass hill next to the mud-swamped road, and reminds you that you deserve every inch of your torture.
You nod in agreement, and repeat to yourself, “I just have to keep going. If I can just accept my rotten apples, I'll be happy!”
Christ is the one who steps into the mud, taps you on the shoulder and asks gently, “Can I take this for you?”
You may argue, and put up a fight. “Yeah, you can take those really nasty ones, but I think there are a few that are just mildly bruised underneath. Let me keep those. They're still good to eat.”
Christ looks at you with sadness, yet determination. He places His hand on your shoulder, and says, “No. It's all or nothing. I either take your whole cart for you, or you keep it.”
You think, and you hem and haw, but finally you say, “Okay, I guess you can push my cart.”
As he takes the cart from you, you walk beside him, and sooner or later, some of those “less rotten” apples start appealing to you. After all, the walk takes a long time, and you're hungry. You reach in, and grab one, brushing it off.
“Don't take it,” Christ says. “It has nothing for you. I have fruit for you, if only you'll let me have your cart and all that's in it.”
You debate. After all, the fruit looks good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes. However, as you've walked next to Christ, who seems to have a destination in mind as he slogs along, you've learned and grown with him. More and more, you trust what He says. Less and less you trust what the temptation says about the apple, so you set it back and trust His words.
Eventually, you both arrive. You look at Him, feeling as though you've known Him forever. He looks back into your eyes, and His face seems to say, “I know you better than you know yourself.”
He motions to you, and your eyes follow where He points. “I believe this is yours.” As you look, you realize he's pointing to the cart. But inside, the rotten fruit has disappeared. In its place sits pounds upon pounds of the most fresh, ripe, delicious fruit you've ever experienced. The fruit sits in mounds, spilling out of your cart.
Without your knowledge and as He pushed, He took each apple and threw it to the ground, placing brand new fruit in the wagon.
You look at Him and exclaim, “This is mine?”
He nods with a smile, and says softly, “It's always been yours. You gave it up to me, and I made it for you.”
This is the true heart of consecration. This is what I mean when I say that I feel as though a large group of us are going through consecration.
Our job is to let go of the rotten fruit. Not to pick it up. Our task is to set the apple back in the cart for Him to get rid of.
How does a person go about consecrating themselves? Doesn't this just hearken back to sheer force and absolute abstinence from everything?
It rests in the idea of compromise. We live lives of constant compromise. After all, compromise is bred out of choice. Follow me for a moment. A choice made is to the exclusion of all other options. When you make a choice, it automatically excludes some other things that were also choices.
We compromise in not making the choice we knew we should have, because the other options satisfy a desire of ours. Our desires drive our compromises, and often times, those desires are a result of us knowing that the better choice is the harder choice.
A friend recently was on a fast. While a guest in someone's home, the person offered my friend food. “Take it! Eat!”
My friend declined, saying they were on a fast. The person, with good intentions, but not thinking spiritually, responded, “It's okay! God will forgive you!”
Thankfully, my friend continued to decline, and the person did not press it.
The heart of the offer seemed pure. It looked pleasing to the eyes, but within it festered the rottenness of compromise.
Most people do not understand consecration. We're raised to value compromise, and to give in to those little temptations, that seem “Oh so tiny.” Our relationship with consecration has become extremely unreliable because we've listened to the voice of compromise for so long.
Please understand, this is not an essay that is telling you to go full-on monk mode. Instead, I'm raising a very important point: how conscious are you of your compromises in life?
When that last piece of pie calls to you, and part of you says, “You really shouldn't. You don't need it.” Do you consecrate yourself and rise above the compromise, or do you give into the choice and tell yourself, “It's okay.”
As we listen to the voice of compromise, the soft, subtle voice of wisdom becomes more and more drowned out by our desires and the temptation of those desires. We listen to the voice that calls for instant satisfaction and wonder then why we feel so utterly rotten at the end of the day. It couldn't have been all those rotten apples we ate on the journey, could it?
As you walk with Christ and obey when He tells you not to stick your hand in the cart, His voice becomes more prominent and trustworthy. The apples begin to look more and more disgusting to you, and eventually, you look on them with disdain. Your appetite craves the fresh fruit of the Lord, and He's more than willing to give it in abundance. As you snack on the fruit of the Lord, you become more and more satisfied, more content, and more radiant. The fruit gives you energy to move further, and it exponentially changes your condition.
The compromises are ferreted out in listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and what He's asking you to give up or to focus on next. As you set aside the idea of, “Meh, good enough,” you can pick up wanting to be more and more the Lord's. You see, you don't just find reward in becoming a better person. You discover the relationship, and the fruit gets thrown in with it. You find yourself being absolutely enamored with that walk with the Lord, and suddenly the mud doesn't seem knee-deep. It seems to be hardening and leveling, creating a joyful, pleasant walk through the country side.
Even when Satan comes around and throws all kinds of downed trees and dead animals in your wake, you just lean in closer to Christ and listen closer to what He's saying. When suffering and tragedy strike, you no longer desire another rotten apple to soften the pain. You hug into Christ, trust Him through it, and at the end of it all, He hands you the most delicious apple you've ever seen or tasted.
Our compromises sit in our way. The nefarious nature of compromise is the temptation of good feelings and enjoyment in the immediate. The pay-off of declining the compromise seems way off in the distance, or appears as a mirage to us. We wonder whether we'd ever actually gain pay-off from not compromising.
The reward for consecrating is a compounding interest paid out over time. As our hearts move closer and closer to Christ, the more we can look back in our wake and recognize the reward. We become the peaceful, contented, passionate, deeply satisfied individuals we always wanted to be.
Those compromises are best solved by recognizing that they feed off each other. An attitude of compromise in one area will produce compromise in another area. Lie on a tax form, and you'll probably find it a tiny bit easier to lie on a medical form. Lie on the medical form, and you may find yourself covering for a small mistake with your boss or wife.
The way to kill listening to the voice of compromise is through consecrating those areas that seem unimportant. Hold yourself to a higher standard with each choice, and determine what you actually value in life. Put in the extra effort when no one is looking. Be a little more thorough. Give a little extra focus. Tell the truth even when it might cost a couple bucks.
Most of all, be honest with the Lord and yourself, and let Him guide you to become exactly what you thought you could never be: consecrated.