The warning of the Book of Job is that it could happen to us too: everything we have strived for, cared about, loved and valued taken away.
If we are stripped bare naked, nothing left to us but our love for God and His sovereign power over our lives, will we still worship His Name, inhale His Word like air itself, submit ourselves to His plan over our plan?
I know I fall far short of the mark. It takes only small obstacles or losses to trip me up so I stagger in my faith, trying futilely to not lose my balance, falling flat-faced and immobilized.
When I’ve seen people lose almost everything, either in a disaster, or an accident, or devastating illness, I’ve looked hard at myself and asked if I could sustain such loss in my life and still turn myself over to the will of God.
I would surely plead for reprieve and ask the horribly desperate question, “why me?”, girding myself for the response: “and why not you?”
The invitation that I most don’t want to receive, scary and radical as it is, is from God straight to my heart. He invites me closer, asking that I trust His plan for my life and death, no matter what happens, no matter how much suffering, no matter how much, like Christ in the garden, I plead that it work out differently, more my own choosing that it not hurt so much.
The invitation to His plan for my life has been written, personally carried to me by His Son, and lies ready in my hands, although it has remained untouched for years. It is now up to me to open it, read it carefully, and with deep gratitude that I am even included, respond with an RSVP that says emphatically, “I’ll be there! Nothing could keep me away.”
Or I could leave it untouched, fearing it is too scary to open. Or even toss it away altogether, thinking it really wasn’t meant for me.
Even if, in my heart, I knew it was.
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ ~C. S. Lewis
He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute. ~Augustine
It turns the mind inside out~ created inside His creation, cradled within an earthly embrace by way of heaven, bathed while cleansing the bather filled from emptying breast to become food for the hungry.
In the beginning the Word breathed and articulated life with such eloquence, knowing its utterance must come from human lips and tongue and throat
whether as infant’s cry, toddler’s chuckle, child’s whisper, adult’s prayer of praise, the aged’s last sigh.
We, who are ineloquent aside from the Word, are speechless, listening.
Man was added to Him, God not lost to Him; He emptied Himself not by losing what He was, but by taking to Him what He was not. ~Augustine
Look upon the baby Jesus. Divinity may terrify us. Inexpressible majesty will crush us. That is why Christ took on our humanity… that he should not terrify us but rather that with love and favor he should console and confirm.” ~Martin Luther
He was pushed out to take his first breath on earth, birth-bloodied, then cradled and held in human arms.
Three decades later, He was pulled down following His last breath, death-bloodied, cradled and held in human arms.
The symmetry of His birth and death mirrors the symmetry of our lives, a consolation that He belongs to us as much as we belong to Him.
The blood shed at birth is his mother’s alone. The blood lost at death is God’s alone, pumping through broken human heart and arteries, soaking the wretched ground below.
He empties wholly because He is fully human; He returns risen and whole because He is fully God.
We, who would be terrified, are deeply loved: cradled, consoled and comforted by such inexpressible divinity emptied into our humanity.
“When a newspaper posed the question, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response:
‘Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton.’
That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus.” ~Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God
O lovely apple! beautifully and completely rotten hardly a contour marred–
perhaps a little shrivelled at the top but that aside perfect in every detail! O lovely
apple! what a deep and suffusing brown mantles that unspoiled surface! No one
has moved you since I placed you on the porch rail a month ago to ripen.
No one. No one! ~William Carlos Williams “Perfection”
I am what’s wrong with the world and so are you.
Not one of us escapes the rottenness that lies not-so-deep beneath our shiny surface. We are full of wormholes, inviting the worms of the world to eat us alive.
One look at the news headlines of the day is enough mar the most perfect surface. No one moves to save us from our over-ripening fate; we sit untouched, withering and shriveling.
We are the problem and the problem is us.
We need rescue by a Savior who is the one good apple among a barrel of contagiously bad apples. We are so tainted, it takes Someone who truly is Perfect to transform us from the inside out, from worm-holes back to wholeness and on to holiness.
May we fall to our knees, weeping and grateful, that Christ, who is the Leader of all in His Kingdom, will grant us a grace and sanctuary we emphatically don’t deserve.
May He pick us before the worms do. We are in this together.
… having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:12
The night sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
The star represented a hope too long elusive; so weary and with so much need they headed out for unknown lands to follow a light seemingly beyond their reach.
When they found its source they could touch His earthliness. No shadow cast of darkness, and no iron nails could quell the beauty of its brilliance.
Having been so illumined they could only return home another way~ No longer could they be who they had been.