At any given moment there are always several books contending for my attention. They are usually stacked up under a coffee cup, a cell phone, a to-do list, and a pair of glasses. On a good day, at least one of those books gets retrieved and actually read for a few minutes. We won’t talk about the other days. Flatirons Basic Training by Michel Hendricks is in that stack.
I have to confess, it didn’t necessarily go to the top of the stack. You see, I cannot remember a time when I did not know God. Yes, I can point to a date when I walked down the aisle of a little church and made my public confession. Somewhere in a box long forgotten is a certificate of baptism. And, if I were to ever want to count how many church services, Sunday schools, choir practices, youth groups, prayer groups, revivals, visitations, camps and retreats I have attended in my life, the number would easily be in the thousands.
So, what does a 50+ year “veteran” with a family “Christian pedigree” a mile long do with a book on basic training?
In most of descriptions of encounters Jesus had with people, I am far more likely to have been the Pharisee (think “Christian pedigree”) in the story than the “tax collectors and sinners.” I have never been one of those people who, from the outside, looked like they needed an encounter with grace in order to reel their lives back from the edge of the precipice.
Key words: from the outside.
Jesus had a rather disgusting phrase for it: whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:26-28). For a Pharisee to touch a dead body was unthinkable and made him unclean. Jesus was telling them, you haven’t just touched death, you are death. In fact, you are a rotting, putrefying, maggot-infested corpse! But the paint and the flowers on the outside look nice.
I am forever grateful to have been raised in a family of believers and to have had the privilege of hearing Biblical truth and grace from an early age. But, there is a danger in taking those privileges for granted. It’s not so much in believing there is freedom to sin and get away with it (yep, I was a part of THAT youth group). The bigger danger is the subtle shift toward working for salvation; the misbelief that what I do is a good measure of my spiritual health rather than my daily utter dependence on God. I know better than to believe I earned salvation, but, all my life I have struggled under the belief I need to work to be worthy of it. Doing has been a whole lot easier to manage than pursuing dependence (after all, our culture values doing and independence.)
So where does Flatirons Basic Training come in?
I remember a scene from the kid’s movie Ratatouille. The most renowned and dreaded food critic in Paris is sitting waiting to wreak havoc. The future of the chef and the restaurant depends on the reviewer’s opinion of the food set in front of him. This man, whose palate is the most discriminating and feared in the restaurant world, is brought to wonder and tears by the taste of a simple and beloved dish from his childhood.
No matter how long I have known or how “experienced” I am in the ways of God’s truth and grace, relearning the simple elegance and sweetness of His plan, and how nothing I do changes it in any way, injects such life into this old corpse of a Pharisee. Like mom’s cooking!
As many of the people who came to Jesus, I often ask the same question… “What must I do…?” Jesus has never once told me to attend one more church service, do one more Bible study, or volunteer for one more church event. Instead, he has always patiently reminded me I am irrevocably His and invites me to sit and share a cup of coffee… and sometimes a good book.
Deb Nickell is a grandmother, physician assistant and teacher. She has an evolving passion for communicating truth and grace.