a new map of the world.

Posts tagged “restoration

in the light of things hoped for.

tumblr_ljvrxhR1Jj1qa0k7fo1_500It is no secret that our culture is saturated in an environment of pretending and ‘fakeness’ – or better, our lives are saturated with these things. There is a constant need to belong, yet a constant feeling of insufficiency. Have you ever noticed how people will speak highly of others to their faces, but degrade them behind their backs? Have you ever noticed how those people are referred to as ‘small minded’ by people who essentially do the same thing? Deep inside there is a gap – something we lost – that tells us: if you were to be judged you would not be enough, you would not measure up.

I think the answer to the riddle is – people degrade others because people are constantly evaluating themselves against the approval of those around them: guys notoriously do this through their conduct, while women typically through their words. If someone is found who is better looking, or has more money, or seems to have their life in order – there may be a twinge of insufficiency inside. Of course generalized, since this changes with maturity, we see something in them that we feel we lack in ourselves and so the immediate response is attraction, but when this causes us to cast doubt in our lives there is the temptation to distance ourselves to maintain an image of self-rightness: that we are ‘good enough’.

When we are hurt emotionally: either an unkind word or even a broken heart, the response is to diminish affection for the other person and create a distance between ourselves. Why? What makes someone go from loving a person to being a complete stranger to them?  When we are out-right rejected it is easy to internalize all of those problems – we begin to feel less worthy, less attractive, less lovable. Yet diminishing affection for the other party is a superficial way to protect our pride and ignore why we really feel broken inside and what makes us feel undesirable…

I have had friends who have said things to me like: ‘I’m just a waste of time and space’, or ‘I’m worthless’.

Who told you that?

The question is striking because the answer is rhetorical – we feel insufficient because we have lost something so fundamental to our lives, but nobody had to tell us that. The first time I remember hearing this question, perhaps the first time it is ever mentioned, is in the book of Genesis at the fall of man and their sin of disobedience in touching/eating the fruit. When God came to walk with Adam and Eve, they were hiding and covered themselves with leaves and answered God: “I heard the sound of You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).

“Who told you that?”

The uniqueness of God’s response gives huge understanding in the intention of His creation, who He is to them, and what His plans were for the human race. I recently spent a significant amount of time studying the story of the monomyth throughout different cultures in history, and since this caught my attention because it sets the Bible apart from ancient myth and makes it really relevant today. Uncommon to ancient myth at the time, this is not a question from an angry God to benign creation, but it is a statement of relationship – in fact, God questions Adam and Eve first without pronouncing judgment – but He never questions the deceptive serpent.  This reaction gives fundamental insight into the character of God in dealing with creation – and lays the ground work for the plan of redemption by explaining what sin actually means.

To understand this, we must first understand our position before a Holy God; that He is not the author of holiness; He is holiness. Isaiah recounts being before the alter and hearing the angels call to one another: “Holy, Holy, Holy!” (6:3): in Hebrew the repetition of a trait brings significance to the characteristic. They were calling: HE IS HOLINESS! (Ironically, there is no English word for concept holiness that would apply to God, the word we have is proto-Germanic and it means “to be made holy” which is for us). He does not need, nor is He compelled to need. He does not suffer. He is perfectly content in His will. He is perfectly just in His ways. He is sufficiency. It becomes easy to think of ourselves as though we are at point ‘A’ and He at point ‘B’, which means we talk up to Him and He talks down to us, but this misses everything.

But we are all unclean and our righteousness is as filthy rags… – Isaiah 64:6

What changed before and after man ate from the tree? They were butt-naked before and they were butt-naked after. The only thing the Bible alludes to is that their eyes were ‘open and they knew they were naked’ (Gen. 3:7). Since holiness belongs to God, Adam and Eve had literally been walking in innocence under the covering of His righteousness, and their fault in eating from the fruit was not merely disobedience, but side-stepping His sufficiency for the misguided promise of understanding self-righteousness and seeing God the way the serpent did. They knew at once that there was a problem, that the rightness that comes from anything other than God is not enough – they were insufficient and hid themselves at the presence of sufficiency. The response was to create distance, blame, and diminish.

This is the beauty of grace. It was their disobedience that sent them from the covering of God’s righteousness and into the newly cursed world, but it was also God’s righteousness that calls us back  into that same covering of innocence. The fall of man only showed us what was already true, that we are not enough of ourselves. Yet to be given pardon and restored, a price had to be paid – nothing is free, not even forgiveness. In Mark 5 a woman touched Jesus for healing and He felt the power go out from Him: He lost power so that she could have healing. Jesus had to be born in poverty, He had to come in literal filth, because He was God born beyond the veil of God’s holiness, but Himself perfect. God wrapped our filthy garments of sin around His Son in weakness so that He could put the best robe back on us – so that we could be redeemed (Zechariah 3:1-5).

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness – Isaiah 61:10

I have been thinking about sufficiency and my own shortcomings. As soon I fix one area in my life, some other area springs a leak: something breaks, something falls apart, and I get discouraged. I feel insufficient. I don’t feel worthy of a lot of things and so it’s easy for me to separate myself and push away, diminish affections for so many things. Even the world breaks under this pressure every day and I think we miss it because we misunderstand sin by seeing it as something we do, but not that insufficiency is who we are. Who told you that? – we did: condemned by our own nature and own hearts to constantly seek innocence again, a better land, a far country of sufficiency.

The hope isn’t in us, but in the love that gives without demand, forgives without account, and supports us in our weakness without insecurity. This love that cannot be lost assures us of our worth and value because we are secure in it. This is God’s love. This is it. This is the gospel. This is hope.  The garden is where it started, the cross is where it changed, and heaven is where it will end. We are being translated, brought back, redeemed.

But now, thus says the Lord, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! – Isaiah 43:1


warriors and children

Nw8ImThere are moments in life when faith hits and weak spot and all of our weakness comes pouring out at once; Caught in a pool of information and emotions that feel so alien and the hope that once felt secure passes through our hands that try and clinch it so tight. Is it that the hope has gone, faded from view and luck has looked the other way? It’s like falling from a train and tumbling through the weeds. The thought of getting back on seems foolish, let alone to where we were? Or are we to assume that where we were is where we should be?

These are moments of reality. Life is messy. We are given hope and instructions with provision, but we must walk through this world, bumping and falling along the way. Yes, we are called to be warriors, but deep inside this armor we are children who have never fully understood ourselves, but we think we do. We fall down and nobody sees that we race home as fast as we can with tears in our eyes. Even the strong fall and even the secure lose hope. I scribbled a quote from Neitzsche: “The strongest have their moments of fatigue”.

I suppose the important thing to do is almost nothing at all. It isn’t to assume that the faded emotions mean that we have lost our way, or that our falling means that we have fallen from grace. God is in control. This never changes. He saw our fall from the beginning of time, from the vantage point of the cross, and He is not caught off guard. Although we assume the wheels of our world grind to a halt, and skid along the path of life, He smiles with the tenderness of a Father who will come to His children and is closest to us when we feel farthest from Him. Like warriors we run against the enemy, and like children, we run to Him when we fall.

We aren’t alone because we feel alone; we are only alone when we reject the fact that He still loves us. The water in the river is just as present at the beginning as it is when it pours over the rocks. He has called the end from the beginning and faith calls us to put our confidence in that. I suppose this is what gave David words to say “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” and “though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

Job fell through pain and came to the point of wishing he could die: no, that he hadn’t even been born, yet he said: “though he slay me, yet will I trust Him”. He came about to say “there is hope for the tree that is cut down because it’s shoots will not fail.” It will rise again. No matter the fall, there is always grace. No matter the heartache, there is healing. No matter the darkness, there is always light. “In the darkest night, men see the stars.” – Emerson

It’s not enough that we quote it, but that we open our hearts to the fact that He is present even when we don’t see Him and ask Him to show Himself as He wants to be revealed, not as we want to see Him. We would be with passion and want all now, but He wants us to experience Him in His time, not ours. Perhaps this is the price of trust; that is being broken, we are being remade into something much more beautiful. If we believe Him, let us also abide this truth in our hearts.

It is only human to fail and hurt. We must never be ashamed. I feel in my life that I am caught in a fog and loneliness and isolation fall. If I tell myself “I am alone”, what is that telling Him? In contrast, I am telling Him that I don’t trust what He has done. This is more to convince myself then anything because many things are mounted against me right now and I know I must stay strong if I want to finish strong and if this house of cards falls completely down, I must already know how I will respond, but I know that this world is no stranger to suffering. He is good and faithful and has been faithful and I must remember that. Our help is on the way. The onyl fear for the future is to forget how He has led in the past.