Tag Archives: perspective

See Eternally: Homesick, Part 2

In the waiting, do you lose heart? God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The hiddenness of God does not indicate his absence, his apathy, or even his inaction, just our own blindness. We can’t see God or his host of angels any more than we can see electrons whirling around in our fingertip. That doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

imageInfants enter the world without the ability to trust the invisible. Peek-a-boo is startling to a baby because the baby cannot fathom that Dad, having disappeared, is still in the building. Psychologists say that developing a sense of “object permanence” is one of the first milestones of an infant’s cognitive growth. So it is for the born again. Christ, the Rock, must be to us a permanent object, or we are forever stunted, spiritual babies, subject to panic. Where is he? I can’t see him! I have been waiting five whole minutes!

In the waiting, faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is unnecessary when visual evidence is in supply. Should God condescend to give you a roadmap of his plans, you can hang your faith on a hook and rely on divine GPS. In the meantime, faith is the choice of a blind man to trust another’s eyes, to trust enough to run.

While we wait, heaven, too, is waiting. In Hebrews, we read that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, believers gone before us, cheering us on. Run, therefore, even when you are afraid and blind. The finish line is near. The stands are packed, the cheering is a roar. The reward is sweet.

“If I weep,” sang Rich Mullins, “let it be as a man who is longing for his home.” Are you homesick? What a home you have to look forward to.

In Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation we are treated to bizarre descriptions of heaven, relayed by people powerless to articulate what they have been privileged to see. No time traveling involved, mind you — what they glimpsed of heaven was there all along, is there even now, out of sight. The veil briefly lifted, the vision cleared, and hey ho! More than meets the eye. A crystal-clear sea, a city gleaming like jewels, the river of life overhung with orchards straight from Eden… above all, seated high on a throne, the King of Kings, so magnificent in power and glory that even the seraphim cover their eyes, overcome with perpetual awe. This is your home. Seeing eternally means seeing with eyes of faith what we cannot yet see with eyes brown, blue, or green, and translating that faith into footsteps.

Homesick, Part 1

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Well, I’ve written a book, y’all!  Over the next few weeks I am going to post a few excerpts, so stay tuned.  Comment like crazy, the more the merrier!  Here goes…

I have felt it since I was a child. I do not belong here. I am an alien, a sojourner. This place is foreign to me, and though sometimes it reminds me of home, more often it is slightly toxic. I am ET, breathing strange fumes. I need to phone home.

But here I am, here we all are, stranded on this hostile planet, waiting. Longing. Maybe you feel it, too. Maybe, stuck in traffic, you realize that you feel equally stuck in life. Alone, maybe, or just out of place. The things you’ve given your life to don’t seem to amount to much. You can’t remember how you spent yesterday, or what it was you wanted to be doing at this age. Maybe what you’ve waited for your whole life has never come to pass, or when it did, it wasn’t what you expected. Maybe your life has been one heartbreak after another, or maybe, if you’ve had a happy life, you live with a vague fear that it just won’t last. Although the waiting seems interminable, there are reminders that in truth, our lives are short. A healthy older man, chopping trees one day, struck down with cancer the next. A young mother, collapsed on the cold tile floor after a spider bite. A baby, slipped away during the night in his sleep.

In one of the most-quoted passages of one of the most-performed plays of all time, William Shakespeare said it this way:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

It is a howl, frustration and sorrow and loss and fear — what is the meaning of life? I’ll tell you — life is a tale told by an idiot! Life is meaningless! Life is too, too short.

Ah, but with Christ, everything has changed. Out of disorder, he teases beauty, out of tragedy, he orchestrates grace. The waiting is charged with purpose, urgency, even. Time is short. The song is growing louder. We are going home.

In the meantime, we are undeniably stuck here. “Under the sun,” says Solomon, cynic of scripture, “life is really lousy.” As various translations put it, life is meaningless, vanity, vainglory, futility, vapor, emptiness, falsity, smoke. Under the sun there is toil and heartache and devastation and bitter, angry days on end. So how is it that Christ, unflinching, proclaims, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly”? Is he speaking of earth-bound souls? Is he mocking me?

Under the sun, Ecclesiastes said — squirreling out from under God’s hand, choosing instead the slippery, deceptive rulers and authorities, thrones and principalities of a fallen earth, well, there, “futility of futilities!” life is without purpose. It’s reminiscent of creation un-breathed upon: “formless and void,” dark. Oh, but then! The world did not remain untouched; the Word said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Light, shining on confusion, suddenly spotlights God’s sovereignty, and in a blink, chaos becomes meaningful. Delay becomes opportunity, tragedy is transformed into triumph, and along the way, snivelling, petty humans acquire the dazzling likeness of Christ.

“Patience,” says Oswald Chambers, is critical here, under the sun, where suffering seems to linger forever. It’s “more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says–‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’”

Patience I have in short supply. Perhaps that is exactly why I am asked to wait so often — how else will I learn? He stretches, I strain, the longing becomes so loud a roar in my ears that I cry out. Home! Take me home! And he will; one day, ordinary in the beginning, will by close of day be my homecoming, and looking over my shoulder I will see there is no going back.image

How do we spend the days granted us? How do we live abundantly, fully, richly, deeply satisfied before the sand in the hourglass is gone?

See eternally.

Worship wholeheartedly.

Walk purposefully.

Care passionately.

Give generously.

Hold loosely.

Love deeply.

Stand firm.

Choose light.

Rest.

The Habit of Seeing

Annie Dillard has mastered it.  To see — to see closely and to see expansively — to see the habits of crickets and the wide-wheeling stars, behind them both wisdom, and grace, and fearful purpose.  And there are those who see people — see the quirks and the guiding passions, behind them the yearning for God or power.  And there are those who see God, who see a bigger story, who see angels and demons, light and dark, truth and lies.

I want to see, to see it all.  I want to understand.  Joy comes from understanding, said Solomon. Understanding — the ability to embrace the particular set of dominoes you’re dealt, to nurture that overflow of faith, patience.  Awe.  And gratitude, not only for the future, but for the intricate, beautiful, now.

Even the ability to see swallows, aspen, bear tracks, cumulus clouds, contribute to understanding this human condition, contribute to joy.  To perceive the incredible complexity of life in an acre of Colorado forest is to know how vast, how incomprehensible, is the universe, how staggering the intellect of the one who sustains it.

I love mystery.  I love unanswered questions, paradox, mind-boggling enormity or microscopic detail, and even more, vast love, the purpose behind the mad tragedies of the world.  Funny, the mystery section of the bookstore isn’t usually regarded as the place to head for great literature, but somehow I think the best mystery writers, in the pages of a good whodunit, tap into that greater mystery of the universe:  what is it that motivates the human heart?  And how, set next to evil, can there be light?