And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21.3-5)
Yet I still disobey. I still think of myself as better than others. I still yell in anger at those I love. I still struggle with wanting to spend all day reading rather than taking care of my responsibilities.
Why is this so difficult? Why do I view God’s laws as restrictive?
I search God’s Words as I am searching my own heart, and I read David’s words in the Psalms:
Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long.
When I am honest with myself, my difficulty is that I don’t truly believe God. I don’t believe that His way is better, that obeying Him will bring me happiness.
I continually choose my own way and am always disappointed.
While I contemplate this striving, I hear an interview with Gerald McDermott on my Mars Hill Audio Journal, discussing these very ideas, discussing the beauty of law.
McDermott is discussing Jonathan Edwards’ views on God’s laws when he speaks about the beauty of the Triune God who loves His human creation with deep father love, Who wants us to be able to participate in His Being (which is, in itself, astounding and worthy of much more searching and study and writing!). The way that we do this, the way that we are able to participate in the Being of this Triune God is to live the way that God lives.
The way that we do that? We live the way that God lives when we live by His laws, by His teachings, in His ways.
This turns everything upside down and over around on its head. Are you as astonished as I am?
I can live the way that God lives.
If God has given us His law so that we can live like Him, so that we can participate in His Being, then I can no longer view that law as unpleasant or constraining. God is simply giving us the ways that will bring us the deepest, most lasting sort of happiness. God’s law is beautiful!
God gave them other rules…The rules showed God’s people how to live, and how to be close to Him, and how to be happy. They showed how life worked best. ~ The Jesus Storybook Bible
Teach me, Abba, how to obey. Teach me to believe that Your law is beautiful, that living in Your ways will bring me happiness and will help me to be more fully myself.
Yes, yes. Forgiveness is good. But we cut away that barrier to You for healing. We want you to fix this. We want him to walk!
But this is Jesus. He is answering the deepest need first, and the deepest need is not to be able to walk.
It sometimes feels as though my deepest need is to be relieved of my burden.
Cancer is a heavy burden.
Rejection is a heavy burden.
Death is a heavy burden.
Yet over and over again, God’s best work happens when I am carrying my heaviest burden.
I can see this truth at work in the art that I love.
It is interesting to note how many artists have had physical problems to overcome, deformities, lameness, terrible loneliness. Could Beethoven have written that glorious paean of praise in the Ninth Symphony if he had not had to endure the dark closing in of deafness? As I look through his work chronologically, there’s no denying that it deepens and strengthens along with the deafness. Could Milton have seen all that he sees in Paradise Lost if he had not been blind? It is chastening to realize that those who have no physical flaw, who move through life in step with their peers, who are bright and beautiful, seldom become artists. The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain…Pain is not always creative; received wrongly, it can lead to alcoholism and madness and suicide. Nevertheless, without it we do not grow. ~ Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water
In the midst of these hard things, Jesus wants to be certain that I am still able to rest in Him. He wants me to know that He has overcome all of these burdens so that even while I am underneath my burden I can have peace.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
The knowledge that I will have trouble is a hard truth. One that I don’t like most of the time.
A large part of me wants to clutch tightly those I love best and protect them. Yet a tiny part of me knows what is truly important.
God’s way of forgiveness and transformation is more important than relief from my heavy burden. I try to trust and let that smaller part of me grow.
I long to be who God intended for me to be. I want to grow. It seems that transformation requires hard things.
Paul, the one who was beaten and imprisoned and shipwrecked and stoned and rejected by many, calls these hard things “light and momentary troubles“.
I can’t do that yet. I cannot open my arms and embrace these burdens.
I can, however, accept them and choose to voice words of gratitude and praise to God for them, even if I don’t truly feel grateful. I can choose to allow these burdens, this pain, to help me grow rather than to drag me down into depression.
I am tempted to try to avoid not only my own suffering but also that of those around me, the suffering of the world.
Instead, I will continue to allow suffering to inspire my art, to trust that God will make all things beautiful.
Instead, I will allow pain to deepen and strengthen my life rather than to destroy it.
Instead, I will pray this grace for those around me as well.
In the midst of the dishes and laundry and cleaning toilets, snotty noses and bedtime stories, the routine can seem mundane, dull…
Until I really look. Until I really stop. Until I really see what is around me.
Nothing is ordinary.
Those dishes mean a miracle of earth producing food that can be purchased and eaten at our table.
That laundry means a miracle of cotton growing from the ground and being woven into fabric that keeps our bodies warm in this cold winter.
This filthy toilet means an act of service, a deliberate dying to myself in a beautiful sacrifice for my family.
Those snotty noses mean a miracle of beautiful, sturdy bodies that are growing so very quickly.
These bedtime stories mean a miracle of imagination, of minds that eagerly search for and grasp new meanings and ideas every day.
These very things that seem so ordinary are the very fabric of the miracle that is my life.
The Christian faith does not simply, or even mainly, propose a few additional facts about the world. Rather, belief in the Christian God invites a new way to understand everything. ~ Andrew Davison in Imaginative Apologetics
I hear a story about a company that allows you to rent a grandma.
I am intrigued and turn up the volume to learn more. I learn that you can rent a grandma of your own ethnicity who can teach you about your roots. She will teach you your traditions and will teach you how to cook your ethnic foods.
As I smile to myself and think about the silliness of the idea of renting a grandma to try to fill a space that can only be truly filled by someone who has known you from birth, who knows your good and your bad and yet loves you anyway, my mind drifts off to what I might wish to pay someone to accomplish for me.
Cleaning my home. Birthdays. Decorating my home. Planning a vacation.
The more I dream about not having to do any of those things anymore, however, the more it occurs to me that perhaps hiring someone to plan a birthday party or to clean my house is not really all that different from paying someone to be a grandma.
Both are about avoiding a process that might be a bit messy and difficult, as well as trying to achieve a result that will be more perfect than what I am able to accomplish on my own.
Yet if I search my own memories of childhood, or if I ask my own kids what they love and remember most, it is that very same messy process and not-so-perfect ending that bring the most smiles and laughter. Perhaps, if I truly want a beautiful party or an inviting home, the only way to really get that is for my family to journey through the process together.
Later, as I watch my girls with their finger paints, I can’t help but wonder if these ideas in my head about process and journey are perhaps true for more than just the activities in my life.
Perhaps they are true for life itself.
When faced with the ugliness that can be found in this life, in this world, I often echo John’s words: E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.
I sit at the piano and play through a bit of Bach.
As I play, the music reminds me that time is good. That delay can bring out beauty. That tension makes the release infinitely more beautiful than could be had otherwise.
Music challenges the belief that the longer something takes, the worse it will be…Music, in a very concentrated way, tells us that something can take time AND be good. Music takes time to be what it is, and as such can be glorious. It can remind us that it is not a failing of the created world that it reaches its fulfillment only through time. This is part of the way God made things. The created world takes time to be what it is. ~ Jeremy Begbie in Resounding Truth
I need this reminder.
I want to look for the purpose in this time we have here. I want to see the beauty in the way God created our world to need time in order to become as He intends.
I want to enjoy God’s glorious ending (beginning?) when God will make his dwelling among us, when there will be no more tears, when we will forever enjoy the beauty of the new heaven and new earth.
Listen and revel in the way the music takes us through the delay, the messiness, and the tension of time on into a glorious ending.
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