A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Owning It

December 4th, 2006

Hope Covenant, my home church, is in Chandler, Arizona. Like the other towns in the Phoenix valley, it began as a small farming town that over the decades morphed into an urban area. About 3 million people live in the metro area known as the “Valley of the Sun”. Vestiges of the former agricultural existence remain here and there.  A small cotton field wedged between two housing developments. Horse properties along busy streets. An alfalfa field next to a strip mall. And a couple miles from our church, a large dairy farm.

Standing in the church parking lot, if the wind is right (or wrong, as it were) you get a good whiff of the Holsteins. Growing up an Iowa farm boy, I’ve always smiled at city folks’ olfactory sensitivity. A little scent of cow yard in the breeze and they run to their car as if trying to escape a nuclear cloud. “They’d never make it in the country”, I smile to myself.

A few days ago, walking across the church parking lot, I caught the scent myself. It brought back memories. And it got me thinking.

When I was on the farm everyday working around hogs and cattle, horses, chickens and sheep, I got used to the smells. It’s not that my nose quit working. It’s that the scents of animals, hay barns, feed bins, and manure became normal. So much so that when city friends came to visit and held their noses I didn’t understand what their problem was. After being away from the farm for a few years and going back, I was now the city guy. The aroma of the hog barn was more potent than I remembered it.           

As I stumble along each day, seeking God’s face in my awkward imperfect way, He is faithful to kindly show me more about myself. I am learning that my own fallen nature keeps me from realizing just how fallen I really am. Like the farm kid whose nose has adjusted and no longer experiences the full aroma of manure, my fallen sin nature keeps me from realizing, apart from Christ, how sinful I really am.

It’s taken years being away from the farm to realize how pungent the odor of a cow pie can be. Farm boy or not, there are other things I’d rather lay a nose to. Here in the city I can roll up my window and drive away from the dairy farm to the good smells of restaurants and mall stores. It’s not easy to drive away from my sinful self. Apart from Christ, it’s impossible. Still, somehow I need to get some distance from myself to get God’s perspective on who I really am if I am to become the man He wants me to be.

There’s no easy way to do that. It starts, I think, with time alone with God. Really alone. Time in prayer. Time reading the Bible. Time in honest conversation with God. Time spent doing a ruthless self-inventory to see where I have failed and where I need to grow. My friends who attend Alcoholics Anonymous put it more crassly, though I think more accurately. They call it the “process of owning your own shit.” I like that. Because that’s exactly what it is. It’s not a fun process. It’s a necessary one. I never looked forward to cleaning the hog pens, but it had to be done.

We shy away from it. We bury ourselves in activities and fill our schedules with every imaginable distraction. Anything to keep from “owning it”. Yet something happens when we “own it”. When we own it we are admitting to God that we are broken. When we own it we take a step away from self-delusion and a step toward truth.  To own it means it no longer owns us. When we own it we are living more truthfully. We are able to say, “This is who I am. Good, bad, and ugly, this is who I am. A person in process.” A person God, in His incredible mercy and grace, accepts with unconditional love.

It’s that unconditional, unfailing love that makes the process possible. As the Bible reminds us, “it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.” (Romans 2:4) God’s love creates a safe place where we can deal honestly with our stinky stuff. God doesn’t hold His nose at our sin. He loves us into submission. His kindness draws us back to Him.

Yet He doesn’t stop there. He is not content with that. He wants to grow us. To stretch us. Because He is committed to “perfecting the good work that He began in us.” (Philippians 1:6) God loves us too much to allow us to be nose-numb when sniffing the breeze of our life. He wants our senses fully awakened. To smell in our life everything that’s beautiful and everything that stinks. Then to make more room for the beautiful by being honest about everything that stinks. The more we “own” our stinky stuff, the more we experience God’s love and forgiveness. The more we experience God’s love and forgiveness, the more we become the people He wants us to be.

Owning it.

Lots of pain. Lots of tears. It’s not a fun process. It’s a necessary one.

But there’s no better feeling than being honest with God.

“Do you not know? It is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance.” – Romans 2:4

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.” – Psalm 145:8