Saturday, March 28, 2009

a perpetual hallelujah

I have tried to find words to articulate what these images make me feel. Conor and I first saw them when the Discovery Channel premiered the BBC documentary series, "Planet Earth", in 2007. It took up many hours of our life when we were anticipating Copeland's arrival, and even when we knew of her condition, there was something calming about seeing the natural world in motion. It's difficult, in the face of grief, to watch humanity continue to twirl - people going to lunch, taking taxis, visiting the park, renting movies - but somehow, nature, in its finest display of continuity, routine and discipline reflected something more of a God who is not only creative in His storytelling, but also intentional.

Sellers has taken to great bouts of weeping whenever she sees this trailer; we weren't totally sure why at first, but as time has passed, and we've watched it over and over, we suspect it's because she, as a child, has a greater access to that part of her spirit that needs to connect with nature, a part that, without the dregs of time, is still sensitive to the beauty she sees and the impulse to be near it. I read, recently, a fantastic post on a friend's blog that discussed a possible correlation between our decreased interest in God and our decreased interest in the natural world. We say we aren't ones for camping, or hiking, that we don't like getting wet or dirty or that bugs or snakes or spiders or whatever else bother us - and perhaps this is true. But we are now a generation of people who see getting wet or dirty or dealing with natural elements as negotiable, a generation who could, effectively, almost avoid such events entirely by mildly calculated efforts.

I don't know what God wants for the rest of my life. Sometimes I find myself feeling suppressed, or depressed, or just anxious, as though my spirit knows there's more but my mind can't fathom what the 'more' is. I don't mean Heaven. I'm trained, as a believer, to understand that Heaven is great, Heaven is where we should want to be. But when I have absolutely zero framework for what Heaven might possibly be like, I find it difficult to imagine, much less look forward to. Isn't it odd that most of our musings on eternity focus on something more like a grandiose church service, white robes and Southern Gospel included? If the God who created the place I'm going to spend eternity also happened to create the place I'm currently residing in, wouldn't it benefit me to get a better glimpse of it than through my tinted windows as I drive 45 miles an hour to get groceries? Would it change your relationship with Jesus if you knew the place He was preparing for you was just like where you happen to live now - only redeemed, whole, new, fresh, more alive and vibrant? That when we look on these images of animals and plants and water and earth brimming with possibility, we can honestly know that, without voices like our own, each is singing a song of praise and anticipation and hope - a song that cries out for rebirth? What if you started a walk with God that began simply based on the acknowledgement of His creativity, the majesty and wonder of His works, instead of choosing to walk away from God because of a human effort to convert you? What if His message is stronger than anyone else's? What if this is all for you?

If you are a believer, it is your responsibility to honor this masterpiece. Satan has used the political dialogues we've taken to engaging in when it comes to caring for this planet to turn our eyes and ears away from what is true, and right. God has said that He has created this wonderland, this place of majesty and might, so that "everyone will see [it, and so that] no one can miss it— unavoidable, indisputable evidence that I, God, personally did this. It's created and signed by The Holy of Israel" (Isaiah 41:20). Who are we to question our duty to treasure and cherish this gift? We would never refute a Christian's calling to preach the Gospel by word or deed. Why, then, are we quick to shove the very creation upon which we stand aside, declaring it ours for the taking, assuming no passion or fear or respect for what God designed as His most faithful evangelist? It was the Pharisees, those who considered themselves the most devoted in their religion, who were stunned to hear that, even if Jesus' disciples kept quiet, the stones themselves would cry out (Luke 19:40). Oh, that we were more aware of the hallelujahs going up around us every moment!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

winds of change

I don't remember a time in my own personal history - nor the history of the world as I've known it - that everything felt so perilously out of order. Everywhere we turn, homes are being lost, businesses are shutting down, people are living in a much less free-and-easy sort of way. Perhaps this is good, perhaps this will be a blessing in disguise; in fact, I'm inclined to think that's exactly what it will be. But blessings in disguise rarely feel like blessings as they are being experienced. Mostly they feel like fear and uncertainty and pain.

As I drove to the park today (marveling at how our weather patterns can be, well, so patterned, back and forth like the zigging and zagging of the stitching in a dress), I noticed some daffodils growing beside a mailbox on a back road. And though a carefully examined patch of yard might not testify to its imminent arrival, spring is coming, and splashes of green pushing up in pastures and fields declare it over and over again. Spring is God's anthem of redemption. Every gentle breeze, each proud new blade of grass, the dizzying scent of a hyacinth bloom - all of it singing a song of promise. And today, as I drove, I realized: if my God does not forget to orchestrate all these things, in fact purposefully sets them into motion again and again, year after year, then who am I to worry? Who am I to question?

I must borrow from my pastor now. Two days ago, I listened to him speak about sanctification. His definition of it seemed rather clumsy to me at first; almost too much to digest. To paraphrase: "Gradually becoming what we already are and what we're meant to be." What? It felt word-heavy, as though it would topple under its own verbosity. But in essence, what he was saying about sanctification was that it's both a one-time thing and an ongoing process. We have a maple tree in our yard that wears each season boldly on its branches. In the summer, it's vibrant and lush. In the fall, its leaves begin to crumple and crisp, turning bright shades of reds and golds. Winter strips it of any and all signs of life. But spring. Spring comes and never has that tree looked so glorious. Green, yes, and on its way to vibrance and fullness. But still new, still young. still just dappled with color. Spring is that first, early morning yawn of summer. Spring is pristine restraint to summer's tawdry decadence. My tree seems to stretch its weary limbs up against the bluing sky and reach out for life again. Always the same tree - never the same tree. It, like me, is in a continual state of transition.

If you believe in Jesus, you are like that tree. You, too, are changing. Perhaps not in drastic leaps and bounds, not all at once, but the change is inevitable. It is not by choice but by His spirit. Sanctification is a difficult word. Maybe it's easier to digest when you think of it as this: being the you He intended you to be. Not in a you kind of way. But in a Jesus kind of way. After all, you were made in His image. Sin has stripped us of that, has made us prisoners to something other than what we were called to. But salvation sets in motion a metamorphosis, a hearkening back to what was the original design.

First we are set free from the penalty of sin - hallelujah! I, like the church at Corinth, have been "called to be holy" (I Cor. 1:2). My sanctification is immediate. But it's also ongoing. With each day that I remain on earth, a battle will be waged to keep me free from sin's power. I must keep awake so that I can resist the temptation to drift off into apathy. I will feel the transformation, slowly but surely, as I become more like Him, "from one degree of glory to another" (II Cor. 3:18). Always the same girl - never the same girl. If I am a believer, if I am walking with Jesus, walking in true relationship with Him, my growth will never stop. Just as my maple tree is constantly changing, even if not to the naked eye, I, too, cannot help but be constantly changed, as well. It is not choice. It is inevitable. When we finally reach eternity, however that door may be opened before us, we that are believers will be done. The transition will be complete. Emerging from the fog that was our understanding now, we will be perfectly holy. Just as He intended. "We will be like Him" (I John 3:2), free from the presence of sin. There will be no more death, or tears, or pain.

He is making all things new. It is immediate, and ongoing. He was, and is, and is to come! There is an end to this story. There is a purpose. And there is a calm behind the chaos. He is making all things new. It is happening in you who believe, and He is urging you on in the metamorphosis of the world around you. Breathe in and know: change is coming.

post signature