Oct 27, 2009

What does it mean to grow up?

(A Response to the article and comments related to “Growing Up is Harder than Ever”)

It strikes me that in responding to the question “What does growing up mean?” few have offered a Biblical response.

Now, I must state that I do not have any real answers. I have been wrestling with this topic by another name quite a bit already, especially as I approach two months of unemployment followed by period of heavy job hunting. As anyone who has ever been unemployed may attest to, such a time is truly challenging. I believe it challenges men especially, as they are commonly pressed by our culture to pursue certain ideas of success. But that is yet another topic of discussion.

What does the life of Jesus teach us? In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes that the will of God is to pursue Christ-likeness. The Gospels seem less concerned with any cultural “coming of age”, but rather a maturation of our relationship with the Triune God and with our neighbors. The Word teaches that one of the ultimate truths, in fact the Truth, is Love. The mysterious triune nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is referred to by many names. YHWH could essentially be described in infinite ways. But one of the primary themes of the Gospel, of Christ’s passion—of the entire Scriptures—is that of Love. “God is Love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16). Thus, Christ is Love, and that is what we are called to pursue. It is the source of our hope. It is the source of our purpose in this world: to join the Spirit’s work in spreading the Kingdom of God to every heart in order that it might believe and receive Christ’s love.

But the pursuit is not limited to our relationship with God. It must be extended to those around us. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Romans 13:10; James 2:8) or “Love one another” (John 13:34-35; I Thessalonians 4:9; I Peter 1:22; I John 3:11, 23, 4:11) are calls saturating the Scriptures. From Love grows the fruit of the Kingdom. From Love the world was forgiven and offered the hope of redemption, the promise of eternal salvation from the chaos of sin. Love is our only true hope for peace. While we cannot fully realize Love in this fallen world, we can hope for its fuller reality when Jesus returns to assert his kingship.

I for one am humbled by this marvelous gift from YHWH. I then begin to wonder whether growing up is about the lifelong surrendering of our lives to the Kingdom of God as Jesus did. There surely cannot be a point where we have actually grown up; for, as another commenter notes, such a point would presume a lack of needing to continue growing. Knowing our frail natures, growing up must be a lifelong process; or even cycle of reexamining Truth with new or deeper insight. It is like the last refrain of Sleeping at Last’s song “Birdcage Religion” from their album Storyboards, which pleads “please be a broken record for me.” Growing up must have something to do with faith, with a peace found in the confidence of YHWH’s provision for our every need. That no matter how much we wrinkle and tear our clothes, His Love will “soften these edges and straighten out my tie/ and help me remember/ the hope that I have compromised” (Sleeping at Last, “Birdcage Religion”).

Growing up is surely a multi-faceted experience. If Love is at its core, it must not only have something to do with our connection with God, but, again, with the service and sacrifice we offer through the Holy Spirit’s stirring, Christ’s strength, and God’s faithfulness to others. Then again, perhaps growing up is not the facet we should be dwelling too long on. Perhaps it is so relative today that it is rendered rather unhelpful to discuss. I am not sure. There is probably much more to be said.

Nonetheless, if growing up is any of these things then we will be busy for quite some time . . . until the only one who truly “grew up” returns to make things right once and for all. To God be the glory, forever and ever. AMEN.

Oct 26, 2009

A Family of Meaning

We are all in some way like orphans. Born into a world of chaos, which is beset by a tempest who seeks to cloud all creation from the source of light and warmth, we can become overwhelmed by a sense of utter loneliness. We can come to feel separated from a “family of meaning;” the abuse and abandonment of such a sinful world even sometimes leaving us with a fragile trust in humanity. We orphans must come to recognize this sheer frailty. We must soon realize that, if we are to escape the chaos, we must find a hope to embrace. For in hope, there is light. In hope, there is warmth.

Above every storm, the light shines forth.

Forgiveness is the beginning. It is the foundation in which the seed of Hope can be fostered. The Spirit of Truth plants it freely in the hearts of those who humbly receive it. Yet, that is only the beginning. The source of such redemption, like an invisible Tree of Life waiting to be found, must be sought.

But, how can we find the tree? How can it be measured?

The beautiful freedom of Forgiveness, perhaps, is that no tangible value can bind it. For who can truly measure the Love that offers such a gift? Love is immortal. It has many names. It is the Tree of Life.

But, it also has a Keeper. He comes from a line of kings, and has also been known by many names. He gives himself wholly to the Tree’s care. In truth, he nourished the tree with his own blood. His blood is its life. His blood is the Love that makes it grow. His Love offers humanity forgiveness—a rich foundation promising eternal inheritance—as it is held in the Keeper’s palm of peace. His love helps the seed of Hope to grow. It grows in the hearts of those who accept it—hearts that were once empty dying kingdoms in this world, but are now filled with his Kingdom of Life.

Though such orphans are now heirs—no longer slaves, but free men and women—the world itself is not yet a place governed by Peace. The world is still dictated in part by chaos. Its ruler plagues the world with violence.

Yet, there is great significance in even one life saved. For the Kingdom of Peace is waging an invisible war against the kingdom of chaos. It needs every freed son and daughter to take part. The end is already written; it is the merely final moment that remains unknown.

Therefore, the heirs of the Kingdom of Peace are called to strive against the tempest who seeks to consume the world with chaos. The heirs are to help their companions when they fall down, and to free the lingering orphans. Freedom comes at a great cost, but hope in the Kingdom of Peace must endure. It must protect itself with the Shield of Faith. It must win new ground as more than a conqueror, which can only be achieved by actively wielding the Sword of Truth.

The Sword of Truth is Hope. Hope is the seed planted in Forgiveness, from which Love is the source of its maturation. Love is Peace. Peace is the promise of a kingdom: the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a kingdom of Peace, Love, and Hope. It is the Kingdom of YHWH. He is those truths, and those truths are Him. He is the Spirit, and He is the Keeper.

YHWH is everything. He is our Family of Meaning.

Proof is eternity. AMEN.

That family, however, must extend beyond the immortal invisible to include the mortal visible. In the beginning, YHWH walked alongside Adam in a world unmarred by corruption. Yet, the God of the universe still proclaimed that all was not good in the world. Though mankind enjoyed pure unhindered relationship with God, the great “I am” asserted that something was missing. The need for both spiritual community and physical community is perhaps one of the great mysteries stemming from creation. But it is the truth. It is written in the Word. From that truth so much has come to pass, including the ultimate community of YHWH: His gathering, the Church. Though surely blemished by the frailty of humanity, the Church is an important place for heirs to find and pursue deeper belonging. But their sense of belonging must transcends church walls if the heirs are to help liberate the lost orphans of the world.

Vocation, therefore, is a thread of the intangible and tangible tapestry of needs. Yet, vocation can be a difficult road to discover for some. The challenges take various forms. Some hardships are allowed by YHWH to strengthen His heirs. Yet, some are a result of the weaknesses that remain within their hearts. Some hindrances are even deliberate attacks waged by the enemy. The prince of chaos seeks tirelessly to hold his darkness over all life, to hinder the efforts of the Kingdom of Peace. What can be done in the face of such storms?

The heirs must endure. They must trust in the Family of Meaning. They must trust in the Final Victory.

But, how is that possible? The Keeper of Hope not only offers Forgiveness, but also Redemption. In Redemption there is Hope. To grow, however, it must take root within the hearts of both the individual and the community. Only then can they find the strength to persevere: to stand when members stumble and fall. Only then can they continue fighting when it seems that all is lost.

For even in the darkest of places, there is still light.

Proof is eternity. AMEN.