Saturday, November 9, 2013

Life Everlasting

 "I lay in dust life's glory dead." This lyric comes from a song called "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go" and it struck me today. "I lay in dust life's glory dead, and from the ground, there blossoms red, life that shall endless be." I take this life, put it on the dirty ground, and let it die. I let this life die, surrender it, and in that death, life blooms. Not the life I gave up, not the life of this earth, but a life eternal, a life that will never die, that will never end.

Failure and heartache and trouble, even trouble you didn't cause like illness and freak accidents and natural disasters -- they all make you realize that this world is broken, broken in ways that can't be fixed by me or you or the president or international organizations, not even the really good ones. Mother Teresa didn't end world hunger and Gandhi didn't bring world peace. I don't know that either of them expected those achievements, but I think sometimes we expect them, if not from ourselves, then from others. We expect things to go right, to work properly, even though they never do.

I thought about yesterday's post a little more after I wrote it. I challenged myself to take my own medicine, find the joy in my evening, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that sometimes, everything is just broken. Sometimes, you are right in the middle of ugly ugliness and while you can be thankful for your life (if nothing else), sometimes what you really want is for things to just be right. Instead of seeing the joy in the moment, you want your whole life to be joy. You don't want there to be broken pieces; you want a whole, completed, peaceful RIGHTNESS.

When you feel that tug in your heart, when you stare off in the distance and picture that perfect place, you, my friends, are longing for heaven. CS Lewis said it this way: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." Made for another world. Yes. This one feels like a pair of jeans that just don't fit right, like I'm a round peg trying to fit myself into an oval hole, like it kind of works but also kind of pinches. If we are made for another world and find ourselves living in this one, things just aren't going to jive.

That tugging, nagging, poorly-fitting-jeans feeling can make life very disheartening. Yes, we can find joy all around us because God loves us and blesses us with those things, but ultimately, life is never going to "fit" properly. And that is why laying that life down, letting it die in the dust, sings so sweetly. This life doesn't have to be good enough. This life doesn't have to make you happy, soothe you, cradle you in its arms and tell you everything is going to be okay. That's not what this life is for. This life you lay down to die, and Jesus promises us a new life in Him. "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)" This sounds like some kind of weird tautology, save for the fact that Jesus is the only one who can give life. Surrendering our lives to the dirt in order to follow Him is the only true life. It seems that the down-and-out times are the ones that allow us to see this most clearly. When we are the man who has "gained the whole world", it is harder to feel the emptiness when we can distract ourselves with money and cars and worldly joys. But happiness isn't in those things. It isn't in other people or money or things going right. "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise. Thou mine inheritance, now and always. Thou and thou only, the first in my heart, high King of Heaven, my treasure thou art." Money, the praise of man, they will die. Jesus is my inheritance, a treasure that will never cease and one that fills that longing forever.

Glorious, wonderful, FREEING. I can let go of my pretty picture and embrace life in Jesus. I can set aside my worries and my fears and my life reins and my terrible-awfuls and walk into the life that awaits."I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)" The life I leave to die will pass away regardless. We all meet our end and then we return to the dust. Surrendering my life while it is mine to give and welcoming the gift of life in Jesus means that I get to see this place, this tearless, deathless, painless place. A place where no baby ever has to have a tube shoved down her throat, needles stuck in her head, holes cut in her belly, where no mom ever has to watch the life she created endure that kind of pain, where the death that can seem so scary here doesn't even exist.

How is this possible? How is it possible to take all the brokenness in the world, to take all the lives that don't fit right, and bring them into something so new and beautiful? "[Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)" Jesus heals us through sacrifice. Jesus repairs our brokenness by breaking. We die to sin in ourselves and have a new life awaiting us. Jesus has the power to heal all my daughter's wounds. And one day, we will see a place where all the brokenness of the world has been healed by the One who offers the hope of a life that will never end.

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