November 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Our longings remind us of the essential human fact that we are talked and touched into life, and that a human race struggling to do all its talking and touching for itself faces a paralyzing unhappiness and anxiety.”
Rowan Williams, A Ray of Darkness
It is difficult to imagine that in a few hours this mall will be utterly packed with shoppers. Yesterday (Black Friday) was so crazy that I never got out of my car. Having no reason to be here other than to witness the madness, I just circled the parking lot a few times, then went home.
But now, in this early hour, it is empty. Quiet.
There was a day when I couldn’t handle emptiness or sadness. It was worse than idealism. Something within me actually believed I deserved life to always go well. I know, it sounds ugly – and it is, and it gets uglier, because it was rooted in a practical rejection of my need for Jesus.
It is Advent, that sweet time of the year when we celebrate longing, of all things. We celebrate because we know that Jesus has come. And every December we rehearse this cry in anticipation that He will come again and make everything new.
The temptation is to translate these longings into sad things, and to be sure, there is a place for sorrow in a broken world, but I think they are more than that. God put these longings within us, not as cruel reminders of despair, but to serve as hints of something better.
I am convinced that Jesus was addressing this longing when He told His disciples of His ‘Father’s House’ (John 14:1-6). It is an emptiness we will feel, sometimes in huge gulps, and other times in small doses – until we are Home.
And in this hope we are liberated to live life to the fullest. To grieve unashamedly. To laugh unapologetically. To love boldly. To give generously. To forgive freely. To serve humbly. To embrace our longings, and live!
We celebrate a God who satisfies us with Himself and not from a distance – this is at the heart of the Incarnation – God has come, in the flesh, and until He returns nothing will satisfy completely. And this means we can embrace every sadness and longing as daily reminders that God has prepared something better. Because in Jesus… He has.
What good news.
Oh, come, Desire of nations,
bind In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!
Translated by John Mason Neale
November 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
Last night Katherine and I saw the latest 007 movie, Skyfall. It lived up to expectations and was one of, if not the finest James Bond movie we have seen (of course I’ve seen them all). The action was over-the-top, the story was riveting and it was perfectly cast. And it didn’t end too soon, which was nice – it was longer than most – you know, one of those movies that you wish could keep going – well it did, and we were glad.
Part of what made the experience ‘work’ was that Katherine pre-purchased the tickets and I got there early enough to get us the best seats in the house. For us, the best seats are the ones in the second row of the second tier of the theater. The front tier has those seats that are right under the screen and undoubtedly are the cause of most of America’s neck problems. But in the second row of the second tier, there are rails that you can rest your legs on during the show. They are perfect – and I got them (yes, those are my shoes in the pic).
It got me to thinking, even as I sat waiting for Katherine (I won’t tell you how early I got there because it would provide evidence as to how desperately I need a life). But I got to thinking that this is who we are. We want an edge. We will come early and stand in line for the best seats in all of life. Already the ads are out, and will only intensify – Black Friday is coming and the name of the game is to get to the stores early enough to be close enough to the front of the line to get the best deals before anyone else.
This used to be our tradition. I would waken our son and daughters, and whichever of them could come out of their slumbers would stand in line with me at our Best Buy some time around 4 AM on Black Friday. A few years ago, when we visited our son and his wife in Florida for Thanksgiving, he repaid the favor and dragged me into sitting in line all night!
Here is the thing: Everything about following Jesus is the polar opposite of this – It is about taking the back seat and offering up the front of the line to someone else. It is about serving those one desires to lead and becoming great by making oneself the least.
I know it’s crazy and utterly counterintuitive, but when you think about it, there is no other way for change to occur, in marriages, in friendships, in love, in work and at play. The one who serves sets the agenda for putting the things into motion that we most desire – in life and with one another. The one who says, ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong,’ is the agent through which reconciliation breaks through where there had been cold hostility. The one that steps aside so others may shine counteracts the law of the jungle with law of love.
Yes, it is counterintuitive, but there is no other alternative, because our native instinct is to put self first. And in that scenario there is no room for anyone else.
It is also impossible, and only God can enable us to do what we so naturally resist. But I have come to realize that in every relationship, every conflict and every seeming impasse in love and friendship, there comes a moment when someone can change the physics of hostility simply by taking the path of humility rather than power.
God has to give grace for this, but He does, and He has. In Jesus we have One who demonstrated such selflessness from the time of His birth all the way to the Cross. His was a life of reserving the best seat in the house for someone other than Himself.
Friends, this is good news.