God Without Matches and Lighter Fluid

by DanWolgemuth on June 8, 2015

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

She was a tiny woman, unimposing in stature, but powerful in damaging and unraveling sorts of ways. Never physical in her attack, my grandmother had the appearance of gentleness and meekness… she was anything but.

Her journey of faith had commenced in her late teens and her theology was quickly forged on the anvil of rigid legalism. Her weapons were words and she wielded them with the precision of a samurai warrior.

While I was a child she informed me that as a child herself the home she grew up in had burned to the ground on Christmas Eve… the vandal in this case was none other than God Himself. It turns out that Cecilia Frey’s father had dressed up on Christmas Eve as Old Saint Nick. God, as she described, was not fond of Advent competition and so in an act of Christmas retaliation He burned her home to the ground.

Mind you, this story, relayed to some of my childhood friends from the lips of what appeared to be a harmless old woman in black, tarnished some early friendships.

The poison of this allegation was time-released in my soul. Often subtle, but real.

My unexpressed theology unknowingly was constructed on a foundational belief that ultimately God was a god with matches and lighter fluid. And the worst of it was that He not only cared about Christmas Eve and Santa Claus, He was persistently auditing my every move; my every action. He expected the worst and consistently got it. Consequently, He went through a lot of matches. Personal trauma and tragedy and illness could always and ultimately be linked to my manifestation of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Enter grace. Enter ten years of hope-filled stories of transformation. Ten years of authenticity. Ten years of redemption and failure and restoration and failure and forgiveness and more restoration. Ten years of leading Youth for Christ.

Grace works. It extinguishes the poison of condemnation and manipulation.

Jesus words in Matthew 11 were to a group of Cecilias; to the Pharisees. The crippling weight of legalism was crushing the souls of the people that Jesus loved. His pronouncement sucked the oxygen out of the agenda of the Pharisees. The flame simply couldn’t stay lit in an atmosphere of grace.

I’ve waited sixty years to write these words. Sixty years. I’ve told a few people the story, but never written it. Today just seemed right. Dinner last night with our New York City Director in Flushing, New York where I heard more details about a rescued and liberated life made it right. Thank you, Ray. Thank you, Sarah.

There is no catharsis in this confession. I’m not writing this from a counselor’s couch… I’m writing from a position of humble gratitude… for a rescuing God… for a ransoming King… for a beautiful Holy God.

Grace accomplishes what checklists never can. The Godliness birthed from grace will never lead to arrogance or judgmentalism. It will always and only press into the model of Jesus. “I am gentle and lowly of heart.”

Ten years of broken lives rebuilt. Ten lives of forgiveness dispensed. Ten years of authentic transformation. I’ve been a student in my own classroom.

Grace works… and it carries no matches. Theology 101. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you.

This, and this alone is why my burden is light. Our burden is light.

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