Too many posts

There are too many posts I want to write today.

I want to write a post about how today proves how wrong we can be about the story. We can feel like it’s all over.  Every sense and all our logic can conspire to convince us that Satan has won.  We can look around and seemingly see evidence that failure has overcome fight and darkness has dissolved the light and despair has cannibalized hope. And we can be wrong. What looks and feels like the end might actually be the beginning. The days that are darkest might prove in time to be the days of greatest light.

Unimaginable future

Before we moved to America, my mother painted the walls of my room with a mural of a village. At night I would lie in bed and walk my feet along the pathway on the wall.  And I would shut my eyes and imagine that Heaven was like that Village.  It was a place with no bad dreams where nothing bad ever happened.
 
When I was 8 years old or so, I used to find heaven in the clouds. I would look out the window and imagine that I was inside of Heaven, the clouds with all their fogginess wrapping around me like cotton balls and keeping me safe.
 
Less than a decade later, my version of Heaven shifted again.  Heaven was about being reunited with my grandmother.  Heaven was a place where I could see her face again, along with all those I loved that I knew I would one day lose.

A lot of people believe in a version of Heaven: a consolation for this life, a place where all the things they lost are made up for.

But the Christian Heaven is so strange and unique. It holds something better than consolation: restoration.

Tim Keller talks about the irreversibility of loss.  And I know exactly what the means. It’s the worst part of grief, the worst part of regret: waking up and remembering that you have lost something and feeling the powerless and helpless sense that you cannot regain it.

I know this sense.  I have felt the grasping in my soul to un-do the loss of my father; to un-do sins I’ve committed; un-do break-ups; to change decisions I’ve made; to make my friend alive again.  I have felt the horror of irreversible loss.

Heaven holds out to me deliverance from that horror.  A promise better than consolation. Heaven is not a ‘making up’ for all the pain and loss you’ve experienced, it is a making that pain and loss mean something glorious.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV)

That verse says two crazy things.  (1) Suffering is accomplishing something. (2) That ‘something’ is so amazing it makes our pain look small in comparison.

Suffering is not small.  This text isn’t saying that pain isn’t real and life isn’t tragic and terrifying and overwhelming.  This text is saying that if you and I could see what is to come, even our worst pain would seem light and momentary in comparison.  This verse isn’t about belittling your hurt and suffering, it’s about emphasizing how HUGE the glory is that is coming.   Think about how heavy your pain is. Now imagine how big the weight of glory must be if it can make that seem light in comparison!Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.18.31 AM

But, this verse says even more than that. Our pain and affliction is preparing that weight of glory.  It is not simply that what is coming in Heaven is so great that it is going to make up for your pain and loss, it’s that the pain and loss is making what is coming in Heaven.  The joys you’ll experience on the flip side are the fruit of the pain on this side.

I don’t know how that works, but here’s how I imagine it.  I imagine that the losses in this life are carving out room in my soul to make room for more of God in the next life. I imagine that the loss of a Father in this life has increased my soul’s capacity to experience Him as Father in the next.  I imagine that the pains of singleness in this life have stretched my heart to make space for His partnership in the next.

What I know for sure is that no pain in this life is wasted. It is accomplishing – preparing for me – something that is too great to imagine.

Who wrote your gospel

Who wrote your gospel?  Think about what you believe about Jesus: who told you that was true?  Did you pastor determine that for you?  Did John Piper or Beth Moore or Christine Caine?

In the church in Galatia, they had a problem. They had trusted in the truth, but then people they admired and respected came to their church and preached a slightly different version, and they went with it.

Paul spends a lot of time explaining why the Galatians shouldn’t tweak the gospel God brought to them just because someone who seemed influential came along with some edits.  The people, just like us, had two problems: they were (1) blinded by influence and (2) blinded by ignorance.

Blinded by influence

Protecting gods from God

And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” (1 Samuel 5:7 ESV)

The men of Ashdod saw how things were.  They saw that their lame god kept getting knocked over by the real God.  And so, seeing the weakness of their own god in the face of the God of Israel, they did the only logical thing: sent the presence of God away so that they could live in their delusion, feeling safe with a piece of rock.

Wish you were here. But glad you’re not.

I’m writing this in a small cabin in the Scottish Highlands.  And I might wish you were here so that you could see it, but I could never wish that because I am so glad that no one is here.

He’s here of course, heavy and thick around me and impossible to ignore. That’s the way He tends to be when all you see is His creation, uninterrupted in all its unfiltered glory; when all you hear is His voice and no other voices or sounds, but the wind and the rain.

It’s 2015 now.  The year of promise.  Promise of flying skateboards and floating cities in outer space and borderline immortality. Instead we have the internet and cell phones and other such tools that offer unlimited options and one single obstacle: being truly and deeply alone.  It feels almost impossible to find a place in this world where you become unreachable to others, and they become unreachable to you.  It feels unnatural and borderline unhealthy to even try to find such a place.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.29.36 PM

It’s an important discipline: solitude.  There is this space we all must carve out where we cannot be reached and where we will not reach out.  Places we will go into alone and take no one and nothing with us except our souls and the Soul Maker.

It’s a terrifying thing for some of us: solitude.  We are kept from it by fear of boredom or loneliness or isolation blaming our personality or our schedules.  It is a discipline for a reason, because it’s against our flesh – to be cut off from the things that distract us; to be forced to listen and forced to hear.  A terrifying and necessary thing.

We live in an extroverted world.  And how grateful I am for the gifts of the extrovert-culture.  It forces introverts to live out their worst nightmares.  Forces us all to push through the challenging work of sharing ourselves with other humans so that we might receive the blessing of being known.

But have we stopped forcing one another to push through the challenge of solitude and silence so that we might receive the blessing of deeper intimacy with God?  When was the last time you were alone? Really alone. Not driving in your car, not before you fall asleep at night, but dedicated and pursued time alone with your Maker?  Phone turned off.  Unreachable.  Willing to miss out on all the world that you might gain Him.  In your closet or in your cabin long enough that you began to run out of things to say or think about.  Because there is something to discover in the panicked fear of boredom and strange fear that creeps in with extended isolation.  There are things to learn if you will push through the feelings and wait until there is nothing left to do but talk and listen to the God who hungers to speak to you.

There are words you have read a thousand times that demand to be heard and will not compete with the noise of the world.  There are truths to feast upon that refuse to hurried, refuse to be rushed.  There are spiritual meals so complicated and glorious that they cannot be prepared and consumed in the five minutes you throw heavenward before you rush out the door to work.

There is Man who wants more of you than you feel comfortable giving.  And He longs to get you alone so that you will have no distractions and no where to hide while the crushing weight of His presence pushes down on you with all it’s weighted glory until you find that the thing you fear most is the thing you were looking for all along.