Monday, January 28, 2008

What's An "Irritable Saint"?

If you are a saint, God will continually upset your programme, and if you are wedded to your programme, you will become that most obnoxious creature under heaven, an irritable saint.

- Oswald Chambers
I read the quotation above many years ago, on the Reflections page of an issue of Christianity Today magazine. For those who aren't familiar with it, the Reflections page in each issue of CT is a compilation of short quotations from a wide variety of people, usually arranged around a theme. Each one is meant to affirm, encourage, or provoke thought.

This quote resonated with me. I've long since forgotten all the other quotes in that issue, and the vast majority of them in all the many issues I've read since (I've been a subscriber off and on, currently off), but never this one. I remember this one because I need this one.

A while later, I heard the song Breathe by the Newsboys, from the superb album Take Me To Your Leader:
Tuesday the third,
I'll call this entry "Mistake"
Cheap imitation
My life feels like a fake
A people person
Some days people annoy me
I'm growing edgy
Wednesday's title: "Avoid Me"

Breathe on me
Breathe oh Breath of God
Breathe on me
'Till my heart is new
Breathe on me
Breathe oh Breath of Life
Breathe on me
'Till I love like You do

Thursday, the fifth
I title "Drivers Beware"
Temperamental and I don't really care
I gave 'till I bled
You laughed when I fainted
Don't want to live this life
Bitter and tainted

(Repeat chorus)
The above is reprinted without permission of the copyright owners. I doubt the Newsboys are going to sue me over it, though, since I'm using it to testify that this song did to me exactly what they were hoping for: it convicted me.

This song became a recurring devotional for me. I still listen to it often - it's currently one of the tracks I carry on my jump drive for easy access. It's a great reminder that I, of all people, need to keep praying the chorus.

Time for a quick sidebar. What is a "saint"?

Fair warning time - my theology is really, really Protestant. Those of more universal creeds may disagree with me on this, and lots of other stuff that'll come up as I run out of surface-skimming topics to write about and begin digging a little deeper. I don't plan to set out to offend, but I'm not promising it'll never happen.

I am a saint.

So are plenty of my friends, and millions of other people worldwide. Including you, as far as I can know.

You see, scripturally, a saint is anyone who has accepted Christ as saviour and is trying to live for Him as best they can. Any and every professing, practicing Christian. Being a saint doesn't require passing any tests or performing any miracles, and it certainly doesn't depend on recognition from any ecclesiastical organization. Don't take my word for any of this. Check out I Samuel 2:9, Ephesians chapter 1, Philemon 1:4-7 (the chapter is unnecessary; if you don't know why, look it up and you'll see), and anywhere else the Bible uses the word saint (check out a concordance).

By calling myself a saint, I'm certainly not saying I'm perfect, particularly holy, or anything else positive. Just that I'm trying. That's all sainthood requires. When it comes to behaviour, I'm no saint (in the sense that phrase is normally, carelessly, tossed around). If there were an actual distinction to be made between sinner and saint purely on the basis of behaviour - or for that matter, thought or attitude - I would fall firmly in the sinner camp. Praise God that there is no such distinction. We are all sinners - the only difference is that the saints have repented and accepted the free redemption.

My "beloved sin", the one that keeps bobbing to the surface and making those around me question my sincerity, the one that I keep welcoming back, is irritability. In more theological terms, failure to love those around me as I have been called to do. I can be a royally cranky jerk. Out of the same mouth - mine - come both blessings and curses. My brothers, this should not be.

So, Oswald Chambers and the Newsboys speak to me. Or, more accurately, God uses them to speak to me.

This blog did not originally have a subtitle - it just said Zirbert across the top of the page. Then, very early on, I remembered that Chambers quote, and slapped myself in the forehead. "That would have made a much better blog title!" A few minutes later, another slap as I realized I could just add it on. Now I'm happy with it.

It also pleases me that I now come up on the first page of Google results for "Irritable saint" (yeah, I'm sure that gets searched a lot). I wonder if this post will make me the number one result....?

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the light fixture in my hallway.

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