So bear with me. I have a couple of metaphors going on in this post, but I promise it will come together :)
I was in yoga last week and my instructor was talking about A/C. Summer is upon us and we are in Texas...and it gets HOT. The hottest days are around 105 or so - ouch! Us Texans also love this "A/C shock" of coming inside to the glorious 65-70 degrees - a hit of crisp COLD air that just chills us perfectly in contrast to the heat outside. Some of us manage it a bit better and can stand up to the mid-70's in our homes, but not this chica. I love 68-70 degrees. Anyway, she explained how this is actually harming our body - slowly and incrementally. Every time we step into our nicely cooled homes from the blazing heat outside, our body is acclimating farther than it is intended to. We are designed to acclimate, without stress on our body, a mere TWENTY degrees. More than that is stress - and this stress accumulates. However, we continue to do it. Why? Because it FEELS good in the moment. And we can't see immediate poor returns, so let's just keep doing this because I like it and I'll just deal with the bad later.
This had me thinking. Yes, this 20 degrees is relating to temperature in her story, but let's think of it now as an angle. 20 degrees. For reference, here are some illustrations of what a 20 degree angle is:
For the purposes of this post, let's flip it vertically. Now, zero degrees is straight up.
Now that we are oriented, let's go back to the moral of the A/C story: going beyond 20 degrees can harm us in an insidious, creep-type way; it really got me thinking. So let's extend this moral to the soul:
If Jesus is zero degrees, and we start to angle away from him, pulled by our broken nature and the sways of this world, the same insidious, creep-type damage can be done to our relationship with Him. We may start to identify with cultural sways that make us lose focus of who He is; maybe we start to doubt His characteristics or question His purpose for the world; maybe we start to characterize Him as we see fit in order to fit Him in with culture - but truth is He never changes, He never has and never will. Maybe we start to doubt His goodness in all that He does - His sovereign, eternal, omniscient nature that gives us hope beyond what we see. We may start to forget His promises and think we need to have our heaven on earth, or forget Him in times of trouble or tough times - thinking he Has forsaken us, when He is actually providing us with perfect growth and spiritual maturity. We stop living the way He made us to live in true fulfillment: for Him and alongside Him.
So, how many times do we stray from Christ beyond 20 degrees because it FEELS good? Those times we let sin steer us away from Him one degree at a time. And notice this, when we go beyond 20 degrees, that is no longer the same direction. Every degree is a larger gap between the life and joy the Lord wants for us, and we are - simply put - ruining it for ourselves. The farther we get, we may even find ourselves moving perpendicular to Him. Or as far as in the opposite direction - a complete absence of a relationship with Him. And often times, when we get past that 20 degree mark, we are in deep water of unhappiness (or fleeting moments of happiness) and circular sin and need Him more than ever to pull us back, but our hearts are deceiving us that increasing degrees is actually the better life, more comfortable; we start to chase the momentary feel goods - the coming into the chill of the A/C from the blazing heat.
Zero degrees is where we belong. But I am the first to raise my hand and declare that I am a sinner, I have fallen and I have a deceitful heart that is going to tell me the angle is better, maybe more fun, often easier. So I am not always walking at zero degrees. But that 20 degrees needs to act as a bumper for me. In no way am I saying my life lives at that degree. I am saying, I am on mission to never increase beyond that and listen to the Spirit convict me when I move toward it. Not with guilt. No, our God does not work with guilt - guilt comes from the world. He works in conviction filled with promise and hope and encouragement to change: that if we move back toward that vertical, there lies no regret. There lies true love. There lies our hope in our future, our eternity.
Psalm 37:4 is ZERO degrees: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
When our direction is focused on Him, His promise is to give us the desires of our heart. And He will show us that the desire of our heart is undeniable and irreplaceable: It is HIM. When we delight in Him, He will show us how He is our heart's true desire. And when He is our true delight, He pours His love into every moment of our life walking with Him. That is how we stay on course.
He is our lighthouse. When we sail the waves of this broken world, as long as we steer in His direction, with our eyes and heart on the light, we will make it to shore safely.