Tabula Rasa = “blank slate”
I’m spending a lot of time these days trying to erase some things that were etched on my slate many, many years ago. Interesting that this seems to be something I’m more focused on as I get close to my 50th birthday. The feeling I seem to most identify with this pursuit is one of discontent – tired of being the way I am, stuck with the old baggage I’ve been carrying around for years and years. Weariness of stumbling through my days without change, without growth, without progress.
What stuff am I still carrying around?
Weight – I’ve lost 45 pounds or so (might be less by now – I’m not being as diligent with the transition to food as I should be). How badly would I love to see me being below 400 lbs? Or even down to 350? Maybe down to 300? Evidently not badly enough to erase the writing on that slate that says “I love food” or “this is how I reward me” or even “I need this so I won’t be lonely.” Those things are not just written on the slate – they’re driven into the surface with a chisel, and the surface needs to be sanded and smoothed for them to be erased.
Selfishness – Only within the last couple of years have I realized what a spoiled brat I can be. I’ve managed to remain humble about my gifts, musical and otherwise, and to remember that they aren’t mine at all – but rather something given by God for His purpose and not mine. But so much of my thinking and my outlook on the world leans toward the selfish; it astonishes me. Over 27 years, I’ve put such demands on Vicki that I’m truly amazed she still loves me. The grooves on this writing are so deep they almost go through the slate.
Poor self-image – I watch my newlywed friends David and Suzie, and I see such wonder through their eyes. But something that Suzie said really rang a bell in my head – how that they both were complete persons before they wed, so their union is the joining of two whole people. I can’t say that – Vicki married a very fractured half-person, with many issues and much baggage, and any improvement or maturity I now display is more about her patient love and God’s resounding grace than about my growth as a person. And it still baffles me that she can truly love me so totally and without conditions. And to think that God loves me abundantly more than that – “inconceivable! ”
(nothing like a Princess Bride quote to lighten things up, eh?)
Past failures – Sightblinder can bring up every shortcoming, every failure, every disappointment, every sadness, and all in such detail and clarity that it makes the Imax look like a 9“ black & white set without cable. And I believe it – every time! I know that my past is covered in Christ, I KNOW that the sea of forgetfulness is deeper than any ocean, and I know that those things are past and gone, but they remain in my head, great fodder for the Shepherd of the Night to throw in my face.
Shall I go on? Shall I talk about my inability to clean my house? Shall we discuss five years of college and no degree to show for it? How about the hours and hours I spend mindlessly surfing the web, to the exclusion of anything else? Or how I get so distracted by the stupid things, that the important stuff never happens? Or how I spend hours thinking about riding my bike, or getting outside to enjoy the sun, sitting down and working on music, making jewelry, or writing, but NEVER actually do any of it? I have the titles and ideas for at least 6 new CDs, many new jewelry pieces, and new ideas to write about, but am I ever going to actually get them off the ground? Probably not.
As Scrooge pondered, I wonder if the future will be just what I see. Will these shadows remain unchanged, so that what is pictured here is what will be? My dad died at 53, my mom at 69 – do I have any time left? Is anything ever going to change? Or will I remain bound with these words written and gouged and carved into the slate? Can any hand wipe away the writing on the stone? (something else Scrooge asked…)
Guess it’s time to consult the Manual, eh?
”Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at Him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!“ (II Corinthians 5:17, The Message)
”If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.“ (Romans 6:2-5, The Message)
Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6b-8, NIV)
But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to Him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Ephesians 4:20-24, The Message)
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. (Colossians 3:1-4, The Message)
God is in the business of Tabula Rasa! Not just for those who have stepped from death to life in Jesus, but for us long-time battle-worn saints too. And that’s amazing! I don’t see anywhere in the Manual that there’s an expiration on the new life – use it by this date, or you’ll lose it. Apparently God invented the concept of rollover minutes long before cell phones – rollover life!! And guess what? Self-control and perseverance are a huge component in cleaning the slate and keeping it new…
”For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (II Peter 1:5-9, NIV)
Here’s how that passage reads in The Message:
”So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.“ (II Peter 1:5-9, The Message)
Self-control and perseverance. Alert discipline and passionate patience. (Not to mention godliness – or ”reverent wonder.“) As Jeff Manion said in a sermon on these verses, “This is not work God will do for you or without you. You need to get into the game. He’s given us everything we need in Jesus, but we need to be involved in the work.” He’s provided the eraser, the sander, the grinder to remove the writing from the slate – but I need to take up the tools, rely on His strength, and clean the slate. He’s erased it in Jesus, and now it’s up to me to erase it from the physical, day-to-day reality of life. To make what I say and what I do reflect what He’s already erased, and what He’s already written in its place. Jesus is risen, and He’s wiped the slate clean. Now I need to live that way – Tabula Rasa.