“This is finally true: deep on the inside everyone is like a church, and the walls are adorned with festive frescoes. In earliest childhood, when this magnificence is still exposed, it is too dark inside to see the images, and then, while the hall is gradually reached by light, adolescent foolishness and its false longings and thirsting shame set in and cover up wall after wall. Some people advance quite far into and through life without suspecting the original magnificence underneath the sober poverty. But blessed is he who senses, finds, and secretly recovers it. He presents himself with a gift. And he will return home to himself.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
- The Resurrection means that death is not the final form of things.
- The Resurrection means that the ache in my chest – and in all of our chests – for such a thing as forgiveness is not only real but found and satisfied in Jesus Christ.
- The Resurrection means that shame is a feeling and not a reality.
- The Resurrection means grace can touch the most graceless of circumstances, and the most graceless of people – which is to say, grace can touch ourselves.
- The Resurrection means that when I think, there must be more than this, I’m not expressing a fictional desire but an actual missing of Home.
- The Resurrection means sin is a reality but not the final reality.
- The Resurrection means the Sandy Hooks and Holocausts and ferry boat sinkings of this world are somehow going to be transformed into beauty.
- The Resurrection means that Love truly can conquer all things.
- The Resurrection means that there is always, always, always Hope.
- The Resurrection means that everything is inherently meaningful.
- The Resurrection means that you and I can be made beautiful.
- The Resurrection means that Jesus is good and true and worth following (and perhaps that is three ways of saving the same thing.)
- The Resurrection means that who I am is never who I will always be.
- The Resurrection means joy is always an option, even joy “with tears in its eyes.”
- The Resurrection means the things we do in this life have purpose and meaning.
- The Resurrection means the spirit of life has cast aside all condemnation.
- The Resurrection means there is an actual, concrete, breathing Truth in the person of
- Jesus, as opposed to the “truth” of society that is subject to whatever we make of it.
- The Resurrection means I am not alone (and you are not alone either.)
- The Resurrection means my life is not my own to do as I wish.
- The Resurrection means that whatever God asks of me is worth doing.
- The Resurrection means all suffering will eventually be redeemed.
- The Resurrection means my life should be anything but boring.
- The Resurrection means that fairy tales are as good a representation of truth as dictionaries and how-to books.
- The Resurrection means the orphans have families, the poor are rich, and the looked-down-upon are first in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- The Resurrection means that even the ugliest thing is capable of incredible beauty.
- The Resurrection means that “the best is yet to come.”
- The Resurrection means that I must die to myself and there I will find life.
- The Resurrection means that I know the end of the story.
- The Resurrection means that the end of the story is incredibly, indescribably good.
There are days when the truth doesn’t feel true. When believing is harder than it was yesterday, when faith is more of a conscious decision than an intuition. These are the days I have to preach to myself what I know to be unconditionally true.
God is good – not just in the grand meta-narrative of the world, but in the here and now, in the presentness of today, in the places of ambiguity in my heart that I want so badly to understand and yet I can’t. He is good in the midst of the not knowing, in the thickness of the epic whose pages represent to me my own nostoi of which there is meaning, even where I cannot find it.
Some days are just days of missing; today is one of those days. I miss home – not so much my home as in the structure that I live in, but the fullness and nostalgia of the concept itself. The comfort of it, the familiarity of it, the way it is a word I can trace with my fingers even with my eyes closed. I don’t know where this home is, or what it is, but I miss it even so.
God is good.
I miss the clear role I had in a play that I understood and loved and that I no longer am a part of. I miss the stage and the backdrop and the script. I miss the people in my life that were a kind of rock to me – a constant in the midst of many variables, a steady comfort that I could lean against and not worry about falling. I miss that time in my life when everything was laid out clearly, and I didn’t question all of the questions. When the future looked safe and secure enough to fit inside of my arms. Now it fades ahead of me into a blurry and unfocused night without the promise of stars. And I miss it.
God is good.
I want so badly to stretch out my arms and grip the fabric of this temporal world and tear it to the ground – to open fissures in the thick cloth and step outside of it into the realness that I know is waiting. I want to step out of this darkened room and out of the cobweb, the murky sky, and soak in the life – not just through a straw, like I am now, but drink it in, the fullness of it, the choking ripeness of it.
God is good.
Even when I can’t feel it, can’t touch it, can’t see it. Even when I am more filled with remembering than anticipating. Even when loneliness seems to have a short leash on me again. Even when Rilke and Shakespeare feel less than their usual comfort. God is good because it is only by His goodness that everything else falls slowly into place. Because it is only by His goodness I can face all of the tomorrows. Because it is only by His goodness that I am writing anything at all.
“You know that what appears inexorable must be present [in poetry] for the sake of our greatest desires. Beauty will become paltry and insignificant when one looks for it only in what is pleasing; there it might be found occasionally but it resides and lies awake in each thing where it encloses itself, and it emerges only for the individual who believes that it is present everywhere and who will not move on until he has stubbornly coaxed it forth.” -Rainer Maria Rilke
“Thou art most rich being poor
Most choice forsaken, and most loved despised!
Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon,
Be it lawful I take up what’s cast away.
Gods, gods! ‘Tis strange that from their cold’st neglect
My love should kindle to inflamed respect.” – King Lear, Act I, Scene 1
“And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8: 27-28
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6.
“Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33
“The longer i live, the more urgent it seems to me to endure and transcribe the whole dictation of existence up to its end, for it might just be the case that only the very last sentence contains that small and possibly inconspicuous word through which everything we had struggled to learn and everything we had failed to understand will be transformed into magnificent sense.” -Rainer Maria Rilke
“Maybe your judgments say more about you than them.” -The Twin
“It’s not about who you are, it’s about who you’re with.” -PJ
“Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.” -John Donne
She had a fistful of tryings and a cross-shaped
loneliness that kept
weaving splinters into rusted chains.
No name to her nothing, just
a worn-out canvas with a child’s scribblings
sprawled out like a constellation
somebody forgot to give a name.
She ain’t afraid, she got over
that kind of fear a hell of a long time ago -
learned to cross her ankles of her
own accord so nobody
else could trip her up first. Safer this way,
see. When you laugh at yourself,
you rob them of their jokes; when you
shackle yourself, your freedom is
no longer theirs to take.
She bites into an apple and
swallows the seeds – thinks, no fruit
tree going to plant itself in this blackness.
Too little sun. Chews the skin like
red atonement – thinks, my blood
is too thick for sacrifice. This be no Eden,
but the snake’s here in the poison of the
slavemaster, and the garden looks more like
and she wonders what she would do if
one sinful bite could tell her
the sound of her name.
Damn the world, she thinks, and “Damn
the world” - she thinks it again,
savors the words upon her
tongue because here,
in this place, perhaps
her heart can indeed make
a Heaven out of Hell.
Something I’ve been learning throughout this year is how to take things day by day. I get so caught up in everything but the here and the now. I feel upset by the past, or discouraged by some failure, or disheartened by reoccurring patterns of sin or loneliness or sadness; or else I get intimidated by the future, by the prospect of a healing that does not come in the time or fashion that I desire it, by the lack of control, the lack of knowing. But God has been teaching me to take life day by day. To be able to say, “Okay, today I am learning this. I may forget this lesson tomorrow, but that’s something else.” Or to say, “I feel sad tonight. But tomorrow is a mystery.” Or to say, “I’ve figured this out about myself. And there’s still a lot I don’t understand, but that will come in its time.” It’s a simple-sounding lesson, cliché even, but I’m realizing just how important of a lesson it is to learn.
I think one implication of this lesson is that I am now finding myself far more thankful to God – and far more expressive of that gratitude – than I have been before. I’ve had a really good week so far emotionally, and instead of telling myself that this is the exception to the rule, I’m just so thankful for the peace I feel in the here and now. It helps me not to rob myself of the blessing God is trying to give me. I’m thankful for conversations with a good friend, or sunlight, or a worship song with just the right lyrics. And I’ve discovered something interesting: gratitude doesn’t just make God happy (or so I assume it does), but it also makes me happy. It lifts my spirit to name some of the things I’m thankful for. I’ve never thought about gratitude in that way before.
The last thing I want to write about is on a slight tangent. I’m taking Old Testament right now, and though the class itself is brutal (it’s a three-hour night class and plus or minus fifty chapters of Scripture and another five or six chapters from the textbook per week), I find that I am so glad I’m in this class. I find that it’s actually an answered prayer. Back in December, one of my goals for the coming year was the love the Word more. And I think I can say definitively that this has happened. I’ve never really studied the Old Testament, never had that big-picture understanding of the historical events that took place during the time before Christ. But now through the class, I’ve come to see this incredible story of the covenants Yahweh made with His people Israel. I thought that the OT was the story of prophets, or of nations, or of Israel. But while all three of those are huge aspects of the OT, I’ve come to see how really it is a book that follows God’s covenant with His people.
We studied pretty deeply into the Abrahamic Covenant, the Sinai Covenant, and the Davidic Covenant. I love how when you read through Scripture, you see pieces of those covenants appear again and again throughout the different books. Certain phrases like “a God merciful and gracious” or “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”, or “I will be their God, and they will be my people” are repeated throughout the Old Testament, and it’s covenantal language. It’s amazing. Israel was so unfaithful, so sinful, and though God withdrew His blessing from them at certain points, He never abandoned His covenant. Ultimately he fulfilled it in the person of Jesus Christ. His faithfulness to Israel is astounding. His faithfulness to me is astounding. I have five more weeks of my freshman year of college. Somehow I am almost finished, and I look back to all that has happened this year and all I can say is thank you to the One who has been covenantally faithful to me, just as He was covenantally faithful to Israel.
I will end by sharing some of the verses I’ve come across in the OT since taking the class that have really just amazed me.
“For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am Yahweh, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me.” -Isaiah 45:4-5
“‘For Yahweh has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.
For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.’ says Yahweh, your redeemer.” -Isaiah 54: 6-8
“I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon.” – Hosea 14: 4-5
“Return to Yahweh your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for Yahweh your God?” -Joel 2: 13-14
So many times I tell myself lies. I tell myself that God doesn’t love me, or that I am alone, or that the way things are now are the way things will always be. I tell myself that I give up. That I choose to stop. In the past couple of days, I’ve had some really meaningful conversations with a friend, and through these conversations, I forced myself to acknowledge things that I wouldn’t have acknowledged otherwise. So many times I tell myself lies. Here is me telling myself some of the truths:
I have tasted the beauty of the Gospel, and I have been forever ruined. I can no longer choose to let go of it, even if I want to. Years of experiencing the devastating beauty of worship, of corporate and individual prayer, of the power of Scripture, of the grace that is extended to me over and over again despite my faithlessness, of the love of a God who had every right to divorce me and who instead made me His beloved and reclaims me as His own every morning that I wake up… I realize that no matter what is thrown at me, what trials and sufferings, I can never turn my back on this man named Jesus. He is too beautiful for me to stop looking at.
About a year ago, I wrote in my journal that I would go wherever God wanted me to go, do whatever He wanted me to do, live however He wanted me to live, as long as He would go with me. As long as it would make me love Him more and experience Him more deeply. There are times this year that I’ve wanted to forfeit that promise, but I realize that I’m deceiving myself. I have tasted this Gospel and I am ruined for anything else; I will not give it up, no matter how hard, no matter how painful. God has been too good to me. Even if the only good thing He had ever done for me was die on that cross, that would still be too much. I would still have been bought at too costly a price to let go of Him. But He has blessed me with so much more, and it doesn’t make sense. It is a radical scandal. And it is a scandal that deserves my life.
So I tell You, Lord, what I’ve admitted to myself: I’m Yours. I always have been, and I always will be. I love You too much to do my own will instead of Yours. I have failed so often and I will continue to fail everyday. I may keep telling myself the lies, and Satan will try to keep me doing so. But the Gospel has ruined me from being able to consider my life my own. You don’t have to tell me how long I’m going to go through this. You don’t have to give me any answers. It’s enough that You let me keep asking. You don’t have to make any promise of healing; I’ve found enough promises in Your word to keep me going for a few lifetimes. I will go wherever You want me to go, do whatever You want me to do. Just keep ruining me with Your beauty. Keep letting me see Jesus a little bit more each day.
Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labour through the storm.
You have called me to this passage,
And I’ll follow, though I’m worn.
May this journey bring a blessing,
May I rise on wings of faith;
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With your likeness let me wake.
Jesus guide me through the tempest;
Keep my spirit staid and sure.
When the midnight meets the morning,
Let me love you even more.
Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go,
And at the end of this long passage,
Let me leave them at your throne.