Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.
Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922)
Think of the host of angelic voices that pierced the darkness of night to announce the birth of a suffering savior. How can you appreciate light if you have never known the fear of darkness? How can you appreciate love if you have never known the absence of it? How can you know what it is to be found if you have never been lost? How can you know mercy if you have never needed it?
When you have spent your whole life trying to be good, and you’ve been relatively successful at it, you are of all people to be most pitied. The part that makes this sadness most operable is the “relatively successful” part. If you had failed miserably at trying to be good and you know it, you are much better off than the one who hasn’t. Understand, being relatively good is a serious flaw in the way in which you perceive yourself. It doesn’t mean you have been relatively good, it means that you think you have. It takes a good deal of self-deception to pull this off, but it’s possible. Thinking you are relatively good disqualifies you for mercy and that is a most miserable state since mercy is mankind’s only hope.
I understand mercy intellectually. I get it. That God has locked us all up in sin so He could have mercy on us all. But what if you’ve spent your whole life thinking your sin is only marginal, and this understanding of yourself is firmly rooted in your psyche? How do you root it out? How do you rid yourself of the thought that God is lucky to have you on His team? When the dirty ones get washed, where do the clean ones go? Here, just let me dust myself off a little; I don’t need the bath. Just a little dust from the road.
Too many self-preserving tactics in my inner workings. Too many subtle judgments of others. All of this is neatly protected and reinforced by years of rationalizations. How do you convince yourself that you are a dirty rotten scoundrel to the core when you know better?
When the only hope for sinners eludes the righteous, the righteous are without hope, and the greatest tragedy is that they don’t know it. When the blind think they see, they are twice blind. And if they stay in this state, they will never even know what they missed.