Of Halos and Such
Back in December of 2001, I went to a concert at a local church. Afterwards I had occasion to say “howdy” to one of the young people I knew from there.
“Hey there! How you doing? Been staying out of trouble?” I joked.
“Sure I have. Don’t you see my halo?” she replied also in a joking manner.
It was not the first time I heard her joke about her “halo”. I could only sense there was a meaning behind those words that suggested that in reality all was not well despite the perfunctory assertions such as we all make in social settings where to really bare the soul is not possible. Over the next few days I pondered those words and as I prayed, found myself writing the letter upon which what follows is based. This letter is edited and rewritten for publication to preserve the privacy of the young person to whom it was written.
From: The Billy Goat
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2001
To: my dear young friend
Subject: of halos and such
Pardon my presumption asking you the following question.
Do you find that your halo weighs a little heavy on your head?
Please understand that I am not at all taking issue with the lighthearted context in which you speak of it... That does not offend me at all. But I am somewhat serious in asking the question... I find myself sensing there maybe a little more behind that remark then what's on the surface. If I am being presumptuous in writing this at all please forgive me...
I remember as a teenager feeling the pressure of the expectations others had of me... At times that was a burden I found hard to carry. I was not a Christian then, I was good enough to stay out of serious trouble and maintain my reputation with the "church" folks, but just "bad" enough to get along comfortably with the world.
As a Christian I've had to deal with the same kind of thing, the expectations of others regarding what to them it means for me to say I am a Christian. Though redeemed, I am still a sinner, and will carry the remnants of sin to my grave. I've also had to sort out what are God's expectations of me in contrast to what even Christian people expect of me. Those are not always the same. In the context of those two things I inevitably will "disappoint" somebody. And how all to often I disappoint myself with my failure to live up to what God is really asking of me.
What has helped me retain some semblance of sanity over the years is to keep going back to the truth that my acceptance before God is ultimately not on the basis of anything I do or do not do, but on what Christ in the light of His sovereign grace and mercy has done for me. When God looks at me, He sees me through the person of Jesus Christ and in Christ He accepts me. It is in response to that acceptance that I want to live in a way that images the Lord Jesus. Obedience becomes a response to grace and mercy, not an attempt to somehow as a Christian merit more grace and mercy.
Like you, I also had older siblings. Older siblings sometimes have a way of making it hard on the younger, not deliberately or maliciously, but sometimes other people expect the younger to live up to the achievements and standards set by the older siblings. But we are not all wired the same way, and not all walk to the same drumbeat.
I sense a war is raging. A war for your soul… Things cannot be measured from the surface. It is the heart where the real story is told. Oh my dear young friend, I do not ask you to live up to any expectations I might have for you... What I desire much more then anything in my longings for you is that your heart is right with God. If that is the case everything else will in His good time work itself out. Do not look at the rules and expectations my dear young friend. Look to Jesus alone... I do not expect you to be perfect, but Oh that you long for and desire God. All the things you think you may want in this world, let them be swallowed up in the greater want to see God and know His happiness. His perfect love casts out fear. Do you have fears? Seek His love... God IS Love, my dear young friend... He's not all judgment and wrath and rules and laws... He loves you far more then I or anyone else in the world can. Look to that Love... Embrace it... Hang on to it... Never ever let it go... It is a love freely and graciously given. It is a love that has its foundations not in our doings but in His grace and mercy.
All of that to say my dear young friend, look to Christ and let Him carry your halo for you. Again I recognize I may be way off the mark in what I've said in this note, but please know that I have and do pray for you just as much as I have and do for your siblings, and you also share in that love I have for them. It is my prayer you may find some encouragement in these few and weak words...
I have to look on from afar, not always at all seeing clearly what is really going on in your life, and being shut up to crying out to Him who knows you and your situation more perfectly then you yourself know.
In the bonds and love of Christ with prayer, I am.
~ The Billy Goat ~