“I just hated to see you sit by yourself at our church,” Beth whispered to Lily. Lily feinted a smile in Beth’s direction. Lily never wanted to disturb worship.
The pastor wrapped his hands over the lip of the chancel. “Solomon,” he said, “presents the gospel in the Old Testament. Listen to the familiar proverb again, and read it not only in its original setting but also in light of the story of Scripture, the Bible as a whole.
“‘Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find.’ Does that not have the ring of familiarity?
Do we not all know people—political leaders, actors, singers, icons, people in our own families, but mostly ourselves who have done this?
“Many of us have proclaimed our dependability, our trueness, our constancy, right? But when we examine our realities in light of holy God, how do we fare?”
Lily felt perspiration build under her right armpit. She again knew why she’d come to Beulah. She needed this truth—that she was the guilty one. But she also needed the truth that God came for the repentant guilty. Lily saw herself as a Jacob—a deceiver redeemed, but with a spiritual limp. She knew she judged others more harshly than she ought. She knew she did not deserve mercy. She knew God would be just to damn her. She knew that she didn’t love God as she ought, and that she would answer for her sins. But Christ.
Suddenly the pastor looked up from his notes and out at the congregation. “But when we examine ourselves in light of holy God, church, how do we fare? Do we not feel like Isaiah—sinners with unclean lips, undone, lost?
“And we are. But that is not where God left sinners who repent. He did not say, ‘If you clean up your act, I will then accept you.’ No, he said, ‘but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ He says we’re to believe upon Christ.”
Lily had heard the gospel message for most of her life in Rook. She discipled teenage girls at the school she left in Rook before accepting this new offer to teach at Covenant. She knew the gospel. She knew the passages of Scripture most pastors used to illustrate man’s nature and his only hope of rescue through Christ. Yet this truth amazed.
Movement on Lily’s right side caught her eye. She saw Beth again spinning the golden rings on her ugly fingers. And her fake black nails arced like ravens’ claws. Beth’s rust-colored head leaned forward, as if in prayer. Lily felt guilty for her visceral reactions to Beth. Lily almost whispered to Beth. An apology? How does one apologize to another for one’s own thought life, Lily thought.
(To be continued)