This is the second post about my apartment's flood this weekend. You can read part 1 here.
Last week, after dealing with frustrating and worrisome health insurance issues (thank you, [un]Affordable Care Act), I was aware — very aware — of the effects of sin. Governments mess up, bodies break down, and life can be so stinking hard. Our lives are not the way they were supposed to be, and we all know it. Deep down we all know we were designed for perfection, for paradise, for the greatest good we can imagine.
And we can imagine. We can imagine a life of comfort, ease, and pleasure — a life insulated from pain and loss. And since God endowed us, not only with imagination, but with free will and sovereignty to effect a measure of change and control in our lives, we strive to make our lives better. We manicure our yards, keep our homes free of mold and critters, make our bank accounts swell, escape to tropical vacations, and break away from routine to grab a nice dinner. We create our own little utopian Kingdoms, trying to recreate the perfection God intended for us before sin's curse ruptured, poisoned, and twisted the good, true, and beautiful in us and our world.
|Deep down we all know we were designed for perfection|
All this striving is evidence for Eden. Our controlling, our reaching: they're signposts pointing to heaven, the place we belong. We all feel the pull of paradise, but few of us feel peace in the face of that gnawing, aching pull. Jesus, in the book of Matthew, explained why:
"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Few find Jesus; few find peace; and it grieves God's heart because oh! how he longs for everyone to be saved, to be pulled back into paradise, to participate in re-creating a utopian Kingdom of heaven on earth. The difficulty is that the Way of Jesus doesn't guarantee manicured lawns, swelling bank accounts, and lengthy vacations. God is the giver of good gifts — bank accounts and nice dinners included — but the best gift he can give us is himself. Unity, fellowship, and co-creation with God are our greatest possible goods. Sometimes, if he's going to give us more of himself, he has to take away the comfort and ease in our lives. He uses the hard stuff for good. Really good good.
And yet, when I tell God I want him to turn the hard stuff into good stuff, I find I don't always want fellowship with him or opportunities to tell other people about restored relationship with him. Instead, what I often mean when I pray is, "God, please turn this hard stuff into comfortable, pleasurable gain and fulfilled desires. Please use it to help me create a utopian Kingdom in which I am safe from the difficulties of the world. Thank you, and Amen."
My tendency to fixate on cultivating my own, self-serving utopian Kingdom is one of many reasons I'm thankful for Corrie ten Boom. Because her decision to thank God for the fleas, with the assurance that he'd use them for good, did not result in comfortable gain. After she thanked God for the fleas, she was still in a concentration camp; she was still surrounded by dying friends and family; she was still starving, cold, and covered in flea bites; she was still assaulted by sorrow and loss. But those fleas gave her and her sister space to share the Bread of Life freely with hungry fellow prisoners. They enabled them to participate with God in recreating his perfect Kingdom of heaven on earth. Corrie ten Boom modeled for me how to press into Goodness — the Goodness for which we were created — when life is a sad, hard, far cry from paradise.
|Corrie Ten Boom|
This Saturday, 10 hours, 12 towels, 5 blankets, 4 sheets, and 1 pair of sweat pants after my apartment flooded, a contractor came to survey the damage. He was hispanic, and soon we were speaking Spanish. I wanted to know where he was from; he wanted to know where I was from. We talked about Mexico, his culture, his people, and then he asked about my job.
"Does your job give you peace?" he asked.
And so I told him how my job is wonderfully satisfying but doesn't give me peace. I told him that the only thing that's ever given me peace is restored relationship with God, and that this peace was available to everyone because of Jesus' work on the cross.
His listened intently and he asked questions, and we talked about suffering and sin and how to understand God's goodness in the thick of it all. And then he looked me in the eyes, with tears in his eyes, and said,
"When I walked in here I thought to myself, 'This is a place of peace, and the girl who lives here is at peace.' And now, I see it in your eyes."
I felt my eyes well up, and the carpet underneath us squished and splashed, and the towels in the tub were heavy with water, and I thought how utterly, heavenly perfect it was that all this water would give me an opportunity to share how Grace has changed my life, because His embrace is like taking a warm bath in acceptance, purity, hope, renewal, and peace.
So I'm thankful for that flood. I'm thankful because, even though it was discouraging and far from my utopian weekend plans, God used it for good. A deeper, truer good that tastes like Living Water.
Image Credits: sosickwithit.com; thetinytwig.com© by scj