In a broken world where accidents are part of the common experience, many of us have known some version of this awful moment: sirens sounding their alert as the lights of emergency vehicles illuminate a crude picture of crushed metal and broken glass. In the wreckage, only one thing matters. What grace, when instead of heartbreaking silence, we hear words of life: "I'm okay. The car's wrecked. But I'm okay." Profound relief. Tears of gratitude. Then the response: "Who cares about the car? You're okay. That's all that matters."
We search for evidence of God's love, but all we see is evidence of our sin. In the wreckage, we forget to lift our eyes from the broken debris.
This picture is one that our imagination can easily create, or, if we've experienced it in some form, re-create from real moments etched in memory. Heightened emotions and looming danger cause the lesser details to fade away and for the "one thing" to become the only focus. In the wreckage, only one thing ultimately matters.
There is wreckage of a different nature that, like the one described above, each one of us can all too easily picture. The details might vary from person to person, but for each of us, the setting is the same: a wreckage not of metal and glass, but of heart and soul; a wreckage caused by our sin.
We read the words of Psalm 51:3 and hear the hollow cry of a man whose sin caused utter ruin. His words haunt us, because they're our words too: "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me."
For most of us, the sin in our lives is less dramatic than the murder and adultery that King David writes about in Psalm 51. But a mother who has been angry, harsh, and graceless with her little ones feels the ruin of her sin all the same. Words of confession echo in mournful repetition: "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me."
Sin is violently powerful. Sin aims to destroy. Sin, we read in Genesis 4:7, is crouching at our door, and its desire is for us. Our sin brings destruction and sometimes, in the wreckage, a wrong and treacherous "one thing" emerges. Sometimes all we see is our failure, our stain, our guilt, our brokenness, ourselves. We see our ugliness and the ruin from our sin, and we wonder if God has turned His back, has stopped loving, has cast us away from His presence.
We search for evidence of God's love, but all we see is evidence of our sin. In the wreckage, we forget to lift our gaze from the broken debris.
We forget to look up.
We're meant to look up and see the one thing that matters more than anything else; we're meant to look up and see the blood painted Cross.
Like King David, it's God's mercy when we see sin's blood red stain, for the song of hopeful repentance can only be sung after the song of lament. But looking at the wreckage is not where our gaze is meant to remain. No, we're meant to look up and see the "one thing" that matters more than anything else, more than any of our sin, more than all the brokenness around us.
We're meant to look up and see the wooden beams; we're meant to look up and remember Him; we're meant to look up, with living hope, and see the blood-painted Cross of our Redeemer.
"When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin." Do you see Him there? Even in the wreckage, are you looking up? Are you lifting your gaze to the Cross?