Monday, March 9, 2015

Flinging Gold

These days I spend lots of time sitting in the sunny backyard eating blackberries. Normally, I inhale my food. This allows me to hit two birds with one stone: I can breathe AND eat in the same breath. I love being efficient and productive, baby. But lately, I've been savoring these blackberries. I close my eyes and chew slowly and I notice what it's like to eat a blackberry. Tangy, then sweet, then a little bit bitter. Firm, then juicy, then summertime syrup. 
Eating blackberries in the sunshine helps me live in the present rather than worrying about the future. I'm tempted to think about the future a lot these days. I wonder what's going to happen in my body in the next few months and how that will affect my life long-term. In the end, my body will be the boss and I will have to do what works for her. This is hard.

Remember how ten days ago I laid on a medical table for a dizziness test? I wore a pair of goggles with a black, plastic sheath covering them and all I could see was inky black. An audiologist sat at my side and stuck alternating hot and cold air in my ears to induce extreme dizziness. The doctor, sensing my anxiety as she stuck the air shooter in my ear, spoke:

"It's okay, Sarah. This dizziness will be over in two minutes. This isn't real."

Later, I wondered at her words. The dizziness was definitely real. A real gust of air really changed the temperature in my real ear canal which really gave me horrible vertigo and really inspired me to try the Lamaze breathing techniques I'd seen on TV.

But I think I know what she meant. As I lay on the table, my reality was a dark void threatening to suck me into its spinning vortex. And that experience was real. But there was a realer real than the one I experienced. The audiologist could see the realer real. She saw a room full of light in which an anxious, goggle-wearing patient laid on a medical table. She knew she was a caring, competent professional in complete control of my dizziness. She knew this would be over in a flash and would soon be a fading memory.

There's this dialogue I've been having with God lately.

"God," I say. "I am tired of being stuck in my body. What could you possibly be thinking by allowing this?"

Sometimes he answers me clearly; sometimes he doesn't. When he doesn't, I imagine how he might respond, based on what I know of him from the Bible.

I usually imagine him saying something like this:

"I want you to know how much I love you. I know it doesn't make sense right now, but your suffering is teaching you my love in ways physical health wouldn't."

"That's really wonderful, God," I respond. "But why don't you just take me to heaven now where I can experience your love in its fullness? Then you could teach me your love AND spare me a lifetime in my body."

His answer is the same every time: "Because there are people who don't know me yet, and I will use your suffering to teach them how much I love them. Courage, dear heart. I'm doing something big that you cannot see."

There's a realer real than one we can see. Our little globe is spinning through the darkness, and sometimes the darkness presses in so thick and close we can't see through it. Sometimes things feel hopeless and out of control. They feel like the realest real. 

But God sees the Realest Real. He sees heaven, bathed in light, and he sees the hosts of heaven peering down at our little planet, waiting with bated breath for the day Jesus will chase away every last ounce of darkness. He knows he is caring and in control, and in the end, this dusty life on earth will be like a fading memory compared to the eternal life he's preparing for followers of Jesus in heaven.

And heaven? In heaven we will feel really, truly known. In heaven all of our dingy facades and tarnished masks will melt away, along with sin's soul scars and stains. We will know what it is to stand before our Creator naked and accepted, and we will know God fully, the way he knows us. And I think, in that moment, it will feel like love and compassion are burning through every inch of us. All at once all of our deepest desires will finally be satisfied. 

What will it be like to hear the voice that spoke the stars into the sky, calls dead men to life, and courses with love say our names...?

Sometimes, when I sit in the sun and eat blackberries, I think I've glimpsed a sliver of heaven's light. And the more I slow down to notice, the more slivers of heaven's light I see. They're everywhere, dancing like fireflies in the darkness. They're especially bright when Christians serve others like Jesus did, with humility and generosity. Jesus said when this happens we're witnessing his children building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Isn't it a miracle? That he'd trust and empower us to build the Realest Real right here?

The poet Rumi once wrote:

"Find the real world, give it endlessly away, grow rich flinging gold to all who ask. Live at the empty heart of paradox. I'll dance there with you — cheek to cheek."

Millions of people haven't heard the good news yet: they don't know there's a Realer Real than all this earthy madness. They don't know that the darkness doesn't have to have the last word. They don't know that our chaos can be turned into a story of redemption. They don't know that the God of the ages loves them with an undying, unfathomable love. And they need to know. We all need to know.

So we remain faithful in suffering. We keep our hands at the plow, pushing through the hard stuff, because, somehow, God will use it like a megaphone declaring the love of our very Real God who is preparing an eternally glorious home for those who love and serve him. 

Somehow, he'll turn the darkness to gold that we can give away.

Cheering and praying for you today, Skillets,


© by scj

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