Retaining grace

I wore a retainer of one kind or another most of my childhood. One of the ones I wore was cemented to my teeth. Later I was placed with a removable retainer. ADHD kid that I was, I got in the habit of popping it in and out. That was fine and good for a while, but then came time for a more exciting feat. I started poking the tip of my tongue in and out of the narrow gap between the plastic and the wire as I popped the retainer in and out.

You can probably guess this didn’t end well. One day, whilst sticking my tongue in the gap, my tongue didn’t come out. Now this is not only upsetting, but pretty ridiculous and embarrassing, too. I either had to show my mom what I’d done—there was no denying how I got myself in this mess—or I would have to hide in my bedroom for the rest of my life.

I went to show my mom and tried to explain, which is no easy thing to do when a) there is no rational explanation and b) you have a retainer stuck on your tongue. I remember my mom’s immediate concern. She took me on her lap and began prying the retainer off my tongue. I started bawling because it hurt and I was scared. But at last she got it off and I was free.

She didn’t say much of anything to me about it, except for a quiet, “Don’t stick your tongue in your retainer anymore.”

Sometimes (okay, most of the time) we’re afraid to go to God when we mess up in a stupid way. Sometimes we’re afraid God will use our vulnerability to harass us even more than what we’re already feeling from the world and from ourselves. So many of us hide away from Him, retainer trapped on our tongue, not sure at all of what to do next.

One of my favorite verses is a prophesy from Hosea 3:5b (NIV) about God’s people who have rebelled: “They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.”

I was insecure to show my mom what I’d done, and I went to her as humble as could be. I totally needed her help and I totally had no excuse for myself. But instead of using the opportunity for a victory speech to smear more guilt on me, she simply pried the retainer off my tongue.

I kinda think about my retainer story when I read the verse above. God’s disobedient people will see that God is so good that they come back shaking like a cold, wet stray dog. And what does God do? Pick them up, wrap a warm blanket around them, and cuddle them.

There’s no need to fear coming back to God. Come trembling and find His awesome goodness.

When you feel like you’ve wasted your life

What if the last several years, or decades, of your Christian life have been wasted? What if you haven’t been changing much at all? Or what if you came to Christ later in life, and you are filled with remorse over all the years that were lost?

I think the most encouraging words in the Scripture for such a case is a parable Jesus told in Matthew 20:1-16. I’m retelling it here with my imagination.

It’s about a set of unemployed fellows waiting around on Main Street for a job. Some of them look eager—suit and tie, slicked back hair, briefcase in hand. But others look like they hardly expect to be hired at all—tattered blue jeans, cigarette in hand and one on the ground under scuffed boot.

Then out comes the president of a multimillion dollar crop industry. He owns all the land the eye can see and he’s got a monopoly on the market for all the wheat and corn grocers in town. No one can compete with the quality of his crops, and anything at all that’s made in the nearby factories with corn or wheat all use his products. He’s the most successful businessman in town and everyone aspires to work for him.

And yet here he is, going out on the street looking for the everyday unemployed.

He starts first with the men in suits. (The guys with the cigarettes went off for a while to get another pack and missed their chance.) The men in suits jump at the offer for a job, briefcases trembling in their hands. They can hardly wait to get started. They nearly have conniption fits when they find out how much they’re going to be paid. Already they can picture themselves at their kitchen table talking it over with their wives and bragging to their children that night.

Off they go, into the fields, rattling off a long list of their qualifications and education to ensure they get the job. The president listens to their blathering boasts, but doesn’t make any comment. Instead, he leaves them in his field to crop dust and goes back out in his limousine.

He drives right back to Main Street, and now he finds the down-and-out unemployed. (They came back from Kum-n-Go with fresh cigarettes.) They’re unskilled laborers. They did graduate high school, and some of them have a few years of college experience, but they just can’t seem to get it together. Their past is checkered with jobs that didn’t work out. But now, they assure him, they’re changed. They want to do better. They wear nice clothes they got at the secondhand shop, and they’re really trying to impress him—though they’re a little embarrassed they’re not wearing suits and ties like the first men he hired.

Nevertheless, he extends an unbelievable offer to them. They too are hired on the spot. They can come work in his fields. It’s a bit later in the morning, and he doesn’t promise what he’ll pay them, he only assures them of this: they have a job and value with him. They LEAP at the offer. More humble than the first crew, they get to work quietly, hoping to somehow make up for their lack of experience by their dedication to him.

He smiles at them and gets back in his limousine for another trip to Main Street.

This time he sees the drop-outs. They’re easy to recognize with their tattoos and body piercings—so that’s where their college fund went. These guys never had a hope of higher education. They either flunked out, got expelled, or simply gave up on the educational system. Some of them have learning disabilities, some are chronic underachievers, others just never got why they were supposed to pay attention to any authority.

They are not particularly trying to get a job. They’d like one, sure, but they’re too cool to look needy. They share lights with each other, and not all of them are smoking nicotine. They tell coarse jokes and cough a lot and wait for something to come along worth capturing their attention. They haven’t met the president of the crop industry so far because they’ve been in the movie theater watching an R-rated movie.

The president comes back—for them. And they are so shocked to hear this, that this fact alone changes something very deep inside of them.

He came back to the middle of town, a third time, looking for them? He wants them to work in his fields? No one reputable has ever asked them such a thing before, or even hinted that they were worth the time of day.

They get to work in his field and have all kinds of responsibility? He is giving them the opportunity to showcase their responsibility (they didn’t even know they had responsibility!) and their integrity (what’s that, they ask him?).

You better believe they have a change of heart! Cigarettes are tossed to the cobblestone and stamped out. Packs are put in front pockets. Wild, long hair is suddenly combed back with fingers. Skull and serpent tattoos are halfway covered by shirt-sleeves. Coughs are made, and the troop is ready.

(Of course, the question comes up from one man who’s just learned the meaning of integrity, “You even want me—after you know I’ve been smoking weed?” One nod of the president, and a look comes over the man’s face that no one’s ever seen before. Tears stud his eyes, his hands shuffle in his pockets, and he brushes at his arms as if the explicit tattoos might just fall right off. The president offers to drive him back, since he’s more than a little high and having trouble walking.)

This group of men is the rowdiest yet. But they’re not rowdy anymore in a crass way. Rather, their laughter is downright contagious. The other men in the field look up in shock to hear joy so loud it’s almost frightening. The first men, with their suits and ties, squint their eyes for a few minutes as if they can’t be seeing correctly. Then they straighten their ties, mumble something, and get back to work. The second men smile in wonder, heads cocked to the side, trying to figure out what is going on. They wave back when the newcomers wave at them.

But the president is off again.

It’s late in the day now, almost dusk, and it’s time for the daily release of prisoners. They’ve just come out on Main Street and they have absolutely no idea what to do. Most of them aren’t wanting to serve any more time, but they sure don’t see anyone hiring them. They have not a clue what they are going to do. They don’t know if their family—what’s left of it—is still in town, or if they’ll even be welcome back home. They sit down at the fountain on Main Street with heavy hearts, wondering if they should try to fish around in the fountain for change even though a police officer’s watching them like a hawk.

They see the president in his limo, and cries of scorn and curses ring from the group. One man spits on the ground in contempt. They roll their eyes, rub their noses, and sneer.

Imagine their shock when the president walks towards them.

They have absolutely no idea what he’s doing, and they’ve never seen this kind of behavior out of the elite before. They don’t know if he’s gone crazy or if he’s coming to tell the police officer to have them re-arrested. But then he’s right in front of them, not one ounce of fear in his face. And he invites them; he asks them; he really wants to know: Do they want to come work for him?

At first there are chuckles and peals of laughter. Then there are smart-alleck words and curses as the silence gets uncomfortable. Then they, each one of them, look at the man, and they all know. They absolutely know. He is, in purest form, serious.

Suddenly the regret and agony of how they have just acted washes over them. These are not men that cry, but their faces grow chalk-white. They shuffle their worn tennis shoes and wipe their nose on the sleeve of a shirt they haven’t worn since they first served their sentence so long ago.

And then one man says, in a voice nobody has heard from him before, “I’ll go.”

And another man stammers, “I’ll go, too!”

None of them care about the money they may or may not be making. They don’t care at all if they make a single penny. It’s the honor this man has given them. That’s why they go. That’s why a few of them swallow a lump in their throat. That’s why the walk over is totally quiet and absolutely reflective.

You’d think because they were hardened criminals that they’d go all scattered out, broad shouldered. But they walk close together like scared kittens, not sure what the other workers will think of them, sure, but mostly because they are in utter shock. These are men who believe dreams don’t come true. And yet here they are, working for the wealthiest man in the county, because he believes they can do his work. Because he wants them, specifically, and no one has ever wanted them, generically, much less as the individual souls they are somewhere underneath the burden of all their regrets.

They start to work shyly, without a sound. This time, the men in suits have eyes that grow as wide as saucers, and they shrink back in terror. They decide it’s time to go inside the headquarters building and add figures. The second workers, the ones who haven’t made much of their lives, are a bit more understanding of what’s been done for them, but they are equally worried about their personal safety. They work in another part of the field and hope the distance between them is respected.

The third set of workers, the drop-outs and the one still hazy from the marijuana, stand totally still for a minute. Then, suddenly—and some say the high one started it—they burst out in applause.

The day is almost over. The released prisoners know they don’t have a moment to waste. They work like machines. They don’t really know what they are doing and yet, somehow, their productivity and skill is absolutely eloquently astonishing. They do what they never even knew they could do as if they were born for it. And that’s exactly what they are beginning to believe.

The loudspeakers on the telephone poles blast a closing tone, and then a reminder for everyone to come to the office for their pay.

The men in suits rush out of the building and brave their way past even the prisoners so they can get to be first in line. As scared as they are of these prisoners, they are ecstatic to rush home and tell their families what an amazing day they had, and how they can afford that new dress for her and that new swing set for the kids and maybe even that new platinum TV for themselves (a.k.a., ‘the whole family’) they’ve been dreaming about for so long.

No one is pushing to get in front of them. Rather quietly, and more respectfully, the second group of workers walk up to the president’s office and line up behind the suited men. These workers have always felt they couldn’t find their place in the world, until today. They sigh in satisfaction, text their wives and mostly girlfriends (because they can’t wait to tell until they get home) and think of all the popcorn and candy they are going to be able to buy their kids. They glance at the prisoners, to make sure they’re not getting too close. (They aren’t.)

The third group, the drop-outs, come out just plain grinning. They’ve had the best day of their lives. They stand in line talking about how they’re going to come to work tomorrow better prepared. They straighten their shirts and talk about things they’ve never talked about before, like Where does someone get a suit anyway? And, when someone from the second group answers, What is Dillard’s?

A few of the drop-outs turn around to see if the prisoners are coming over, but not because they’re afraid. They just want to talk to them, pat them on the back. The prisoners, however, are still quietly in the field. They’ve respectfully stopped their work, but they stand lingering, looking around awkwardly at everything except the other workers.

“Good job today,” one of the drop-out calls out to them. He quickly drops his head when a man in a suit and tie glowers at him.

And this leaves the prisoners alone. They end their day like they started their day. They have absolutely no idea what to do. They stand around waiting for further instructions. They want to just leave—they certainly know they’re not getting any pay for the little bit of work they were able to get down in such a short time. But they also don’t want to disobey the orders of the loudspeaker. After all, there is no one in the whole world they respect or revere like they do the president, their president.

There’s an unspoken longing in their eyes. Did they possibly do enough to get to come back to work tomorrow?

The president steps out of his office, and there is a wad of cash in his hands so thick everyone’s knees shake. To top it off, his assistant is holding a large cloth bag, and everyone is sure it is more cash.

The suited man first in line immediately steps forward and extends his hand, grinning deliriously.

But the president turns away from him, and looks right straight at the prisoners.

Every worker’s mouth falls open as he invites them to come stand before him. To be first.

The only justification the prisoners can think for this in their mind is that he must be going to either tell them they can come back the next day or fire them, but he’s certainly not going to pay them. They struggle to get in an orderly line. None of them wants to be first. None of them feel worthy of looking the president eye to eye.

When they finally get in a line (and the other “line” has completely broken up as everyone is reeling from what is happening), the president hands the first bundle of cash in his hand to the first prisoner. He nearly falls over. Suddenly, tears he’s never cried come to his eyes as he bows his head and shuffles away—not ashamed, but totally humbled.

The second prisoner falls to his knees when he gets his bundle of cash. The third drops his and fumbles to pick it up. One by one, they each take more cash than they’ve ever even seen in their lives. All their drug cartels and every bit of pimping they’ve done in the past began fading away the moment they started work for this man. Now, even the memory of it is gone. This cash is far more than money to them. They are holding onto their new lives.

The high school drop-outs suddenly collect themselves and burst into applause. A little clumsily and quite humbly, the prisoners begin to bow and beam. The high school drop-outs are still talking about what happened, slapping each other on the back, and wiping tears from their eyes as the president calls them up next.

The president reaches in the cloth bag for more money, since he’s all out. While they are paid, high fiving each other, jumping up in the air, and forgetting all about how they were trying to cover their tattoos, the men in suits begin to fidget. Things certainly haven’t gone how they expected.

“This has been one weird day,” one of them murmurs to another.

“You’re telling me.”

“But can you imagine what we are going to be paid?”

This thought hadn’t crossed most of their minds. Nothing, in fact, for the past few minutes, has crossed their minds other than total confusion. But now that the man mentions it, they begin to think. Who, after all, was in the financial office budgeting earlier that day? Only them. Who, after all, are the only college graduates of the group? Wasn’t it them? Who, after all, had the only real job experience of the crew? Wasn’t it them? Who, after all, really knew what they were doing that day? Wasn’t it them? Who had been the most productive? Wasn’t it them? And who had worked the longest? WASN’T IT THEM?

Suddenly their shock is replaced by glee. They begin rubbing their hands together, calculating figures in their head, and shuffling their feet in impatience. Surely it will be their turn soon.

The second group, who has found their purpose in life, is invited up next.

“Of course,” the man in the suit and tie murmurs. “Of course we’re last. We’re getting the most.”

The men in the second group are beginning to get the picture of what’s going on. They tilt their heads a little as they accept their pay but then each and every one of them goes over to congratulate the prisoners.

And now, at last, it’s the men in suits turn. They form a fighting line, each one zealous to be first. Finally, they are all poised, straight as an arrow. Once again, the man first in line steps forward and extends his hand.

The president gives them a smile they don’t understand, and then . .

He hands the man the exact, precise, perfectly same amount of cash . . as everybody else got.

The men in suits are stunned. They gawk. They gripe. They snort. They growl. They cross their arms.

And then the president asks them questions that pierce their arrogant bubble.

Didn’t he promise this exact, precise, perfectly same amount of cash to each one of them?

Were they resentful that he could do whatever he wanted with his money?

Were they angry that he wanted to boost the reputation of the criminals?

And then there was the secret question that thudded in their hearts.

Hadn’t they been unemployed, too?

We don’t know what happened next.

I think the men in suits stood still for a very long time.

And then I think they tightened their loosened ties, straightened their suit jackets, brushed off their shoes, and went over to shake the hands of the prisoners.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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A question.

How much of what I do has eternal value? And what do I think the part that doesn’t is going to be useful for?

Published in: on August 5, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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The monkey bridge game

I got to go to the fair with my husband last Saturday.   One of the games we saw was a monkey bridge (suspended ladder). If you could climb it, without using your knees, in I think it was 3 seconds, you won a prize.

I don’t think I even finished looking at the obstacle and rules in 3 seconds, much less could I climb it in that amount of time! Besides, I’d want to win a prize just for going up it without using my knees, even if it took me half an hour!

We think up some pretty crazy games for people to try to lose at.

Aren’t you glad that we have a Father in Heaven who doesn’t think up crazy games for us to lose?

God never plays games with us. When we sinned, a righteous sacrifice was needed to pay for our sin—not as an unnecessary rule or surprise twist, but because that’s really what our sin costs. God is just, and He knows exactly what justice requires: a price we can never pay.

If there was ever any doubt that God is simply tampering with us, there can be no longer since the death of His own Son. God gave His child to pay for our wickedness, something He would have never done if there was any other way to pay for sin.

When I have challenges in this life, it’s comforting to me to know there is not some Divine game-playing going on, but rather that whatever happens to me that is bad is a consequence of sin, not of a cruel god. And as a believer, I have the promise from God that He is working even the bad things in my life for my good (see Romans 8:28).

There are no monkey bridges with 3-second rules in God’s Kingdom. Rather, we have a loving Father who is dynamically participating in our world and protecting us from the effects of sin, even at the price of His Son.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29: 11, NLT)

Fragrance

One year a friend of ours came back from Egypt with a bottle of pure, undiluted perfume. I’ve never seen perfume so strong before. Unlike what I’m used to in the states, this perfume was so fragrant that it had a strong aroma without even opening it. Even kept in a closet, with the lid on it and never having been used, the fragrance filled the closet.

Fragrance can be so powerful, it’s almost as if you use all of your five senses to experience it. However, usually we keep fragrances at a tidy and polite low: just perceptible, faint upon the air, enough to touch the sense of smell and no more.

This isn’t what happened the day Mary anointed Jesus.

Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. (John 12:3, NLT)

The Bible tells us this perfume was a year’s wages (see verse 5). What Mary spilled out was not like an aromatic candle, puff of perfume, or mild air freshener. This would have been an explosion of fragrance, startling everyone at the dinner table. I think not one bite of food could further be taken without tasting only the perfume. The house became transformed into a palace of fragrance. No one could leave or enter without encountering the magnificence of the perfume.

All of this tells the story of what our devotion to Christ should be like. We should be so full of love for Him that no one can even step into our house without being overwhelmed by the fragrance of our love. No one should be able to eat with us and walk away without realizing our fervor for the King of Kings.

But there’s something to this story I have always overlooked, until today.

As she anointed Christ’s feet for the death He would experience, Mary’s hair became saturated in perfume.

Can you imagine Mary meeting any of her friends afterwards? Can you imagine her going to the marketplace? Everyone would have stopped to turn and look at her.

I can imagine them saying,

“Mary, what happened to you?  What is that fragrance about you?”

As Mary anointed Christ, and wiped His perfumed feet with her hair, she herself became a witness of fragrance. She set not only Christ apart for His burial, but she also set herself apart as His follower.

What an example for us to follow. Let us have Mary’s heart. Let us be so in worship of Christ that we exude His fragrance. As we worship Him, may our devotion be so costly and so extraordinarily unheard of that we draw the hearts of everyone around us to think of Him.

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Musing from Middle-Earth

Suppose that you live in Middle Earth and you’re an elf. But you’re not just any elf: you’re an elf with a secret. You know a secret that none of the orcs know:

You know that they can, all of them, be changed back into elves.

So you walk right up to a cannibalistic, cruel, disgusting orc and you say,

“You can be an elf again.”

What do you supposed the response would be?

Well, you could certainly be attacked. Most orcs wouldn’t want to change. And most of them would think you were out of your mind to be coming over to their war camp with such strange news.

But . . not all of them would feel this way. There would be a few who would actually question you to find out what you meant.

Suppose one asked you, “How do you know?”

And suppose you said, “Because I used to be an orc.”

.         .         .         .         .         .

This is what happens when saved sinners share the Gospel.

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The thermostat & marriage

In premarital counseling, there is one question they never ask that they should ask right away:

Are you hot-natured or cold-natured?

Cold-natured people should marry cold-natured people. And hot-natured people should marry hot-natured people. And there’d be a whole lot less of a need for marriage counseling. :)

As you might have guessed, Ben and I speak different temperature languages. He’s hot-natured. I’m cold-natured.

In the winter time, I like to crank the heat up to 80. In the summer time, I set the thermostat at 80. 80 is a good temperature for me. And it really is true, I would turn my mother’s gas fireplace on in July when we’re over at her house IF anybody would let me. :)

One of the ways I knew Ben was really serious about me was when we were on our way back home from a trip to New York in November. His dad was driving the car and the temperature was pretty cool. By the time we got to Ben’s car—some four hours later–I was miserably chilly. On top of this, we stepped out into the freezing Pennsylvanian air of late November and I was ready for a sauna.

Ben, clearly delusionally in love with me, cranked up the heat in his car to an outrageous high. He hates to see me shivering. So the car was like the Gobi Desert in the middle of a winter wonderland. The heat stampeded over any cold left in the car. I sat half-asleep from blissful heat stroke while he somehow drove us back to his parent’s house where I was staying. Fortunately he didn’t conk out from heat. But he was mighty glad to get out of the car by the time we arrived.

By now you might have figured out: Ben and I knew before we were married that we were from different climates. And we still got married. Love is funny that way.

God said through Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4,

Love is patient and kind.

I don’t think this verse is only about the big things in life. I think it’s about the little things, too, like what temperature the thermostat is set at.

Love is patient and kind in our house when Ben sleeps without the fan at night.

Love is patient and kind in our house if I turn the air down just for him.

I think some of the deepest bonding in marriage is done when one person gives up a little for another.

(Even if it means feeling a few degrees too warm or too cold.)

More of Him, more of me

I know the usual expression is “more of Him, less of me” . . but this blog is going to be about “more of Him, more of me.”

More and Less directions.  Opposite traffic sign.

What do I mean by that?

Just this: the more of Him there is, the more of the actual me, the good me, the new me there is.

When we are saved in Christ, we become new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Bible talks about our work as believers being comparable to gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).  The more we follow God’s will, the more we build on our lives with desirable, lasting qualities that are like gold, silver, and jewels.  So the more we know God, the more beautiful our lives become.

When we say, “more of Him, less of me”, what I think we usually mean is “more of Him, less of my sin nature”.  This is true, too.  The more we know Christ, the less we will build with worthless materials that will be burned up in the fire of judgment.  But knowing Christ–following after Him–doesn’t mean I become less and less of a “person”.  Rather, I become more and more who I was intended to be.

Following Christ doesn’t mean giving up my identity.  Rather, it means finding my true identity in Him.  In giving up my dead old “life” for Him, I receive His alive, new Life (see Mark 8:35).

I love the analogy of building in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.  I had Legos as a kid, and I think of building something with Legos.  The more I submit my life to be restructured into building blocks for His Kingdom, the more of the eternal I become.  The more I do things my own way and hold onto my old ways of sinning, the less of the eternal I am.

It’s incredible the contrast in what people build with Legos.  A building can be as tiny as two blocks placed together, or as massive as the imagination allows.  In the same way, we can build for God’s Kingdom as much as our spirit yields to His.  What we find when we obey Him is that we become more and more of who we were meant to be . . not less and less.

In the book The Velveteen Rabbit, in probably the most famous passage, the Skin Horse describes what it is like to become real.  The Velveteen Rabbit thinks the process sounds terrible: his fur will be worn off, his whiskers will fall out, his stuffing will become limp–things such as this.  But what he discovers is that, only when he becomes real (when he is truly loved by the boy who owns him) does he experience the outlandish joy of becoming a real rabbit.

We don’t have to be afraid of losing our value as we open our arms to God’s love in our lives and as we yield to His will for us.  Rather, we are discovering our value in Him!!!  And we are building on an everlasting, unimaginably wonderful Kingdom.  In the process, we ourselves become real–new creations full of eternal Life.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (Jesus, quoted in John 10:10b, NASB)

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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From elf to orc to elf

“Do you know how the Orcs first came into being? They were Elves once, taken by the dark powers. Tortured and mutilated . . a ruined and terrible form of life.” –Saruman, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by New Line Cinema. [1]

If you want to know the first half of your story, J.R.R. Tolkien had it about right.

Elves. Beautiful, immortal, flawless.

We were like that once.

If that were where the story ended, the Happily Ever After would follow straight after the Once Upon a Time. But . . it isn’t. Between the two lies the biggest catastrophe of human history.

We were taken in by the dark power. Satan, to be exact. Oh yes, he tricked Eve, sabotaged Adam . . and within the halls of time became the worst memory of all:

The fall.

But what happened next is something so unexpected, not even the great J.R.R. Tolkien could capture it in his stories.

The orc . . had the chance to once again . . become elf.

It’s as though time unwinds. The torture, the mutilation, the ruined and terrible life . . all play backwards, like a movie on rewind. And suddenly, we’re back at the beginning, beautifully, stunningly standing in the Garden of Eden once more.

This is what it means to be redeemed.

To go from elf to orc . . to elf.

This is the story of everyone who has ever believed the sacrifice of Christ has the power to change you back into who you were created to be.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
 (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

__________________________________

[1] Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema.  Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson.  Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

The wait

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I’m really jealous when I hear people say they’ve already been married five or ten years, and they’re my age. I feel like I’ll never “catch up”.

I know that if God blesses Ben and I with fifty years of marriage, it will be extraordinary (Ben will be 87 and me 80). I wish I could go back, undo time, and marry Ben when I was 18, just to have more time with him.

But then . . there’s the sweetness of the wait.

Oh, I don’t mean the wait itself is sweet. The wait is anything but sweet. The wait feels very bitter at the time. But the wait leads to something almost indefinably sweet: the time together.

Mathematically, it’s true: Ben and I won’t have as many years together as if we’d been married when I was 18 and he was 25. But philosophically, Ben and I maybe stand a much better chance of realizing just how good this marriage is than others who were married well before us.

Today I remember: Wow, this is good. This hand I’m holding? Wasn’t holding it when I was 25 or 26 or 27. This man who’s willing to dance around our living room with me? Didn’t have him when I was prom age. This kiss he gives? That Cinderella moment wasn’t mine until last year.

The wait feels bitter . . but the ending is so sweet.

It’s so much like that in our walk with God.

Right now, I can’t pick up the phone and call God. I can pray to Him (and I do!) but I don’t audibly hear His voice. A lot of times, I’m unsure of what decision to make. I don’t have the gift of walking with God in the cool of the day, as Adam did.

Waiting to meet God face to face can feel bitter. Maybe you’re filled with questions, or even doubts. Maybe you just long to get to know God better than you do. Maybe you want to be free of sin so you can worship Him exactly how He deserves.

For the believer, the promise is here:

One day . . one day.

One day the bitterness will become very sweet. And the waiting will be as nothing in eternity . . except . . it will do something like my waiting for Ben did: give us an awe for the gift when it comes.

When it’s time.

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. (1 John 3:2,NLT)

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