When I was growing up, around Christmas time I often heard the kids around me talking about Santa. Always faithful to ruin the jovial imaginations of Santa were the words from mothers and fathers chipping in to say “If you aren’t good Santa will give you coal.” I wanted to be a black-hearted pirate in order to avoid the possibility of not receiving presents haha.
Cookies and holiday carbs aside… there is a sweetness about imagining someone who will give you a gift. To be appreciated, and to be shown that appreciation through trinkets and presents really does have a soul reaching power (especially when it is done right).
Yet we all do things, most often not intentionally, where someone somewhere thinks that we should be given coal. And not just any coal… NO SIR. Only the very best… Anthracite. The blackest of the black. To a kid, even getting dirt is more fun. At least you can throw dirt bombs at the side of a house (P.S. it’s amazing).
Joking aside, many offenses come from simple misunderstandings; others, come from poor attitudes of the heart. We say something and we wish as it is flying out of our mouth that we could lasso the words out of the air to stop that particular set of ears from hearing them. The worst part about it is you know, you simply KNOW that you have said those words before, just maybe in a different way.
This even applies to actions. Where we do something that is misunderstood, or we do something that speaks the wrong thing to a person we care about, and it in some way has happened before, in the sense that the attitude of the heart drove the commission of the similar action.
Regardless if the offense is the result of a misunderstanding, or from us not being at our best. If you want the best possible odds of not souring a good relationship, or many good relationships, they have to be dealt with.
I know I have written about this theme before, but I never see a day where it isn’t necessary to keep it in mind. For the more one is vigilant of their own actions, words, etc; doing their best to prevent the wrong kind of thing from coming across from them — the easier it is to repair the repercussions when that occasional thing does happen. An ounce of prevention is worth a TON of cure.
Going to the root of misunderstandings, especially chronic ones, requires a humble heart, and a discerning mind. You certainly can notice a lot about yourself and correct it, but other people often have the key you need to really get the drift of how you are coming across. Taken with a grain of salt, caring people that have the nerve to tell you how you are affecting them are worth their weight in platinum, especially when they know how to weave the benefit of a doubt in their discourse, and when they own their words in the midst of it. For in doing so, you can see they have a confidence in you that you will take it well.
There is a story about coals and corrections in the scriptures. The proud recipient of the coal is the prophet Isaiah. With God, his coals truly are presents, instead of punishments as will be seen here.
Here is the passage,
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.
Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”
And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
Then I said (Isaiah),
“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”Isaiah 6:1-6, NASB
Put yourself in this ancient man’s sandals. You’re walking outside and all of a sudden, this divine dose of DMT hits you; you see heaven open up, and Seraphims with six wings are chilling and praising God. You are a lowly inhabitant of Israel, and you are getting a view of the Most High that not even the High Priest of Israel himself gets.
You feel two things,
- THIS IS AMAZING!
- OMG I AM GOING TO DIE!
Isaiah… calm yourself. God wouldn’t show himself like that to you if he didn’t trust you, and he wouldn’t do that in any fashion such that you would be injured from his holy gaze.
Here was a man who clearly had “unclean lips”, and to have “unclean lips” means you have to have unclean attitudes, assumptions, etc… in the heart, for from the heart a person speaks.
To protect our “unclean lips” we put up walls against the love of God; against our friends, and even ourselves to prevent more pain, or to justify not spending any effort on becoming better and growing as a person.
Nevertheless… God sees that side of us always. He knows what lurks in our Shadow (prior piece I wrote on this topic), and as the Light of the World he seeks to indwell us with his warmth; good-nature, and grace.
Whatever God did with Isaiah in this story — his coal glowing with the cleansing fire of his nature touched Isaiah’s lips, and no doubt his heart, and he walked away changed. Later in the chapter, Isaiah preceded to offer himself in service to God; to warn his nation of the consequences of their evil and dysfunctional ways.
As was the case so often in the Old Testament, they didn’t listen to God, and they didn’t listen to his messenger Isaiah.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”Isa 6:8-10, NASB
He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”
Not like he wasn’t given a warning from the get-go that his people were SO STIFF-NECKED that a muscle bound massage therapist couldn’t even dream about getting out the knots!
What matters here is this (in my view), even if God could only spare one from the hell of an unclean heart, with all the destruction that that can bring. He will open up heaven and earth down to the very foundation that the pillars of its stability rest upon in order to accomplish that. That is how dedicated God is with saving those whom he can save NOW. Whomever else is stiff-necked in this life… he isn’t bound by the time of the living to accomplish his saving actions. He has all eternity to do so. His coals of healing are as eternal as the light of his Son.
If you take a note from this story I hope it is this — no matter where we stand in life; no matter what our issues are; no matter whom we have hurt, and any other poor thing we have done, said, etc., God is willing to help us change. He is also more than willing to constantly speak of his salvation even to the hearts of the stubborn. The state of their heart never shuts him up, nor does it change his will to save them.
With a humble heart, we can be corrected, and we can resolve misunderstandings, mend broken relationships, and when we have done wrong, and we know we knew better — we can be forgiven by those whom we have hurt. None of this is the case; however, if we don’t start with acknowledging the problem.
“I HAVE UNCLEAN LIPS!”, said Isaiah.
“I have a clean heart, and upon you do I bestow my grace; to cleanse you of your sins, and to make the words of your soul holy, for I am a consuming fire”, said God.
Yes, God is a consuming and refining fire, but only to heal (however painful that may be). NEVER EVER is his fire sent with a unvoidable purpose to steal; to destroy, and to maim the hearts of his human creations. We are but dust. We will screw up, sometimes dismally, but his love is infinitely greater than the torturous wrath we all so often hold against our own souls. The only unvoidable part of his fire is it will HEAL. His HELL is to HEAL. He is Love, and He is Fire.
In closing… this is my prayer for you, and myself. That the coals of Christ’s holiness would burn away the dross of fear, of sin, of negative self-image, and of any other impediment that is in the way of knowing the freedom that is in his Son. May that freedom be known in this life, and the next forevermore.
Thank you for reading.