Accusations in the Night
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—Colossians 1:22 (NIV)
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)
I didn’t sleep well last night. I was awakened as I yelled at my 8 year old daughter for some infraction that was so slight it was a jeremiad solely to give vent to my bile. My daughter, her dark thick hair in two braids, went skipping away as if she had been deaf to my explosion.
An older man was sitting on a bench nearby. He was reading a thin, wrinkly paper and he took off his reading glasses that were perched on an aquiline nose. His sniffed and casually said, “Your anger is what keeps her from wanting to be with you now that she has two boys of her own.” I woke up with a start. Time had collapsed, the images vanished, but the accusation remained like a knife dangling from my chest.
I tried to fall back asleep but the acrid accusation wouldn’t let me find a comfortable position in the bed. I reasoned against the judgment. I have failed; I still do. I am not the best of fathers–not even in the high B realm, but there are many things I have done that are good and I have been mostly consistent in owning my failures and asking for forgiveness. Perhaps I have done so too often and with too great a demand to ignore my harm so I could pretend all is well. Within seconds my effort to find justification and solace led to more incrimination and disquiet. If I tried to reason my way out, I felt more insane; if I ignored the eruption, I felt obsessed with the thoughts.
I got up and reread the passages I quoted at the beginning. I am redeemed from darkness, holy, without blemish, under no accusation, with the legal notice of my debt cancelled, God having nailed it to the cross in order to publicly humiliate and disarm the powers and principalities of darkness. This is a big deal – a really cosmic big deal. And yet what remains is that I am either making a molehill into a mountain or God has gone to ridiculous links to win a petty, small minded man to participate in reconciliation.
Even in reading these glorious passages I couldn’t seem to rise above the foggy, middle of the night assault that left me feeling condemned. The failure to find comfort in God’s comfort only made me feel that much more hopeless.
How the night ended and how I entered into what felt to be a war for my heart is not the point of this reflection. If I fell victim and joined the perpetration of violence against my heart when my children love me, my wife delights in me, and we were vacationing with dear friends in a gorgeous part of the country when the dream came–then how do those who suffer contempt from their families, daily fear and loss over the paucity of love, survive from one night to the next? How do any of us live with the residue of contempt and accusation deeply hidden in our hearts that occasionally leaks to the surface like a skin rash that makes us scratch with unabated fury?
The thing is, most of the time we keep the accusations underground in stainless steel containers that cordon off the dank and foul incriminations that only seem to rise in unbidden moments like dreams or flash to the surface in the midst of an unsettling crisis. Quiet or severe storms can provoke the same unruly accusations.
If the gospel is as good as God offers, then it must have the power to dismantle the atomic bombs we keep hidden in the silos of our unconscious. But the first task is to let the accusations that seem to startle us awake or haunt the edges of our consciousness come to their full fury and darkest assault.
Seldom is it wise merely to ignore or brush an accusation aside even if it seems to work for the short run. What would it look like if we could let all the core fears and accusations that sting us and shadow our face in shame stand in line to spew their venom?
If the accusations of the one who curses have been swallowed by Jesus and every debt I owe has been publicly named and canceled at the cross, then it is time not merely to give the accusation no power, but in fact to let my heart feel how much power and joy the accuser has already fouled.
To stand accused is the context in which I let Jesus stand before the accuser to take each judgment as his own, rather than for me to bear it alone. I will not find solace in escaping or trying to mitigate the accusations–the only relief I know that will last, is to know that God is not the accuser, and God takes the accusations against me personally, as a direct assault on his promise and goodness.
I never fully fell back to sleep. It seemed like a good morning to get up early and run. As I opened the door and stepped out into the cool morning air I heard the birdsong and the fluttering of wings. It sounded like a flock of angels preparing a new day for the spectacle of the cross.