By Lisa Huddleston
“How have you loved us (1:2)? … How have we shown contempt for your name (1:6)? … How have we defiled you (1:7)? … Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another (2:10)? … How have we wearied him (2:17)? … Who can endure … who can stand when he appears (3:2)? … How are we to return (3:7)? …How do we rob you (3:8)? … What have we said against you (3:13)?” (Malachi 1-3).
The word I need to share is hard to hear. It was hard to hear when Malachi spoke it, and it’s just as piercing today. The Lord has loved us with a grace and mercy that we have not earned and yet we have continued to act as though he has done nothing for us. We refuse to show that same love and grace to others. We show contempt for his name. We defile him by offering our leftovers rather than our best. We weary him, rob him, and profane his covenant of love. Who among us can endure the day of his return? Who among us will be able to stand when he appears? Oh Lord, how do we to return to you?
So often when I see the ways that others act I am tempted to point my finger, shake my head, and cluck my self-righteous tongue in shock that those who call themselves believers would demonstrate such unkind or insensitive behavior. I hear their ridicule of other believers. I see their mocking contempt of brothers and sisters. I recognize their unwillingness to give of themselves and their time and their compassion. Oh yeah. I see their failings with crystal clarity. But I fail to see my own. That is, until God takes my head in his hands and, with gentle yet resolute pressure, turns my face toward the mirror of his word. Oh no! I look because I can’t turn away. I see the times I’ve failed. Times when I’ve seen someone suffering and refused to reach out with comfort that has comforted me. Times when I too have laughed behind the backs of those who are less jaded or sophisticated. Times when I have mocked and smirked and evaded and robbed and wearied my Lord.
Oh God, who can endure the day of your coming? Who can stand when you appear? Not I. Surely not I. And I flood the altar with tears. I weep and wail … wipe my nose and stand to walk away. But I don’t get far.
Return to me, my daughter. Come back to me. Then—I promise—I will return to you.
How can it be, Lord? How can I return to you?
I want it all, child. Bring it all to me.
Everything, Lord? Isn’t it all yours already? What am I holding back?
Trust me, girl.
And I turn to run to him, my child’s heart racing. Straight into the arms of my Father.