Shining through…

Archive for January, 2011

That Bwessed Awwangement

“With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow” – Book of Common Prayer, 1662.

The covenant and privilege of marriage takes such a beating in our society.   People nonchalantly enter into it with the idea that if it doesn’t work, they’ll “just get a divorce.”  Couples choose to live together without  ever getting married at all.  The world demands an “official” definition of marriage that can be stretched to fit any situation.  And so forth, and so on.  I am convinced that a – THE – official definition, while not “one size fits all,” is the antidote to divorce and cohabitation, would people merely accept it.

So what is THE official definition, in my mind?  I think Ephesians sums it up pretty well: 31” As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” (NLT)

Did you catch that?  It’s an illustration of Christ and the Church as one.  (This is the reason that marriage is between a man and a woman, incidentally: the Church is ALWAYS referred to as a feminine entity and she is half of the relationship, Christ being the other, masculine, half.)  Marriage denotes intimacy; this is EXACTLY what Jesus wants with His Bride.  That concept is a little scary to many members of the Church.  They don’t like thinking about intimacy with Jesus because the word “intimacy” has been so bastardized in our society.  But we need to remember that the world’s views are counterfeits of God’s views.  You may or may not know that the word used to describe Adam “knowing” Eve is also used many, many times throughout Scripture in reference to our “knowing” God and vice versa.  The word is yadha, and it denotes an interactive, emotional, personal knowing.  It is used 943 times in the OT, twelve of which referred to sexual activity.  It’s also the equivalent to the Greek ginosko, which refers to sexual intimacy.

What?  Well, that just muddies the waters, doesn’t it?  In a word, no.  Scripture is merely telling us that the Lord desires an intentional, interactive, emotional, personal intimacy with us.  Sexual activity between a husband and wife is about as interactive as you can get, and it’s another part of the illustration.  The key here is all-encompassing intimacy, throwing yourself wholeheartedly into the relationship.  The Lord wants nothing less from us.  Why do you think that the God who created all will one day say to some, “I never had knowledge of you; go from me, you workers of evil” (Matt 7:23, Bible in Basic English)?  How could He not have knowledge of His own creation?  If you realize the word for knowledge in that verse is yadha, you then understand that there was no interactive, personal intimacy with those particular people.  That was the choice they made.

Think for a minute about the phrase above from the Book of Common Prayer.  What if those were the vows Jesus was saying to His Bride?  I can’t make a case for the Biblical sanctioning of wedding rings, but I can say that rings indicate fidelity and commitment.  And what about “with my body I thee worship”? The word “worship” comes from the Middle English worshipe and means “to regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion, to honor.”  Is this not exactly what Jesus did for us with His own body, when it was broken and scourged on our behalf?  I mean, you’d have to reeeeally honor and esteem someone to go through something like that for him or her.  And what about endowing us with all His worldly goods?  If worldly goods are “any tangible or intangible possession owned by someone,” and Jesus gave us wisdom (Dan 2:21), strength and power (Is 40:29), desires of our heart (Ps 37:4), the ability to do greater things than He (Jn 14:12), and peace (Jn 14:27), among other things, I’d say He did.

If our society could just grasp the fact that marriage is a beautiful living portrait of Jesus and His Bride that we get to actively create and enjoy on multiple levels, we might not be so flippant about it.  But unfortunately, people also enter into relationship with God in much the same way as they do marriage.  Some “divorce” Him if they don’t like the way things are going.  Others live peripherally with Him for years without ever making a covenant.  I don’t know how to get from here to there.  I just know the clear picture Scripture describes for us of what marriage should be.

As for myself, I am profoundly grateful to be creating that living portrait with a man who knows he will always be second in my affections (as I am in his), and he’s okay with that.  Together, we grow closer to each other every day, and we also grow in our personal knowledge of the Lord.  It truly is beautiful.

***

Oh, and just in case you didn’t know where the title came from, it’s from The Princess Bride: “Mawwiage.  Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today.  Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam.  And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove…” -Impressive Clergyman

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Unfinished

One day in the attic I had found

A poem by a little girl.

Amidst the cobwebs and many trunks

I sat and read

Her childish scrawl.

And it was a plea for love,

A cry for the attention she deserved.

The words were from

My heart as well as the little girl’s.

And I, a grown woman,

Cried to think of

That poor, forgotten little girl.

For I was she.

***

Do you ever read something and gain deep insight into the person who wrote it?  Do you ever revisit your own writing, maybe years later, and find yourself surprised by your own work?  I do.  The poem above was a writing assignment in my eighth grade English class.  When I  found it in an old notebook, what caught my attention was not my teenage mad poetry skills, but the fact that I was a child writing as an adult recalling herself as a child.  I distinctly remember sitting in that uncomfortable old desk and wondering if my life would be so dismal that I’d actually feel what the adult me in the poem felt.  This wasn’t just teen angst spilling forth, either.  Life up to that point had been a series of rejections, one after the other.  And, as I was to find out, the series wasn’t through.

I guess you could say the poem was prophetic, because when I did find it (although it wasn’t in an attic), I sat and thought about my younger self – I looked over my life from the lofty heights of adulthood (yeah, right), and I really did feel a lot of sadness for what that little girl experienced.  It was life imitating art…or at least, imitating an English assignment.  But truly, the real life me had something the girl in the poem didn’t.

[DISCLAIMER:  I’m not crazy.  This stuff happened.]

What I had was reassurances from God that He was there with me through it all.  In fact, He had set me apart from the very beginning.  (Years later, I would learn to differentiate that being set apart, being different, from outright rejection, and that understanding was a major turning point in my emotional healing.)  I remember being around 6 or 7, lying in my bed one night and having a very clear vision of a giant hand floating in my bedroom.  It had my name etched on the palm, and I felt very secure.  When I was about 19, I stumbled across the verse in Isaiah where God says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands…” (Isaiah 49:16a, NLT), and I remember being astounded that God had given me such a personal glimpse of those ancient words.  Another time, I watched a scene unfold in front of me, in which I was about 9.  There was no sound, but I saw myself sitting on my bed, arms wrapped around my knees, head down.  My father was in the doorway, the very picture of wrath.  He was SCREAMing at me, enraged.  But I saw Jesus sit down next to me, between me and my father.  I saw myself take a small key, like a diary key, and turn it right over my heart.  I understood this to be the age at which I more or less shut my emotions off – but even so, He was with me, bearing the brunt of my horrible home life.  I can only imagine the kinds of things that didn’t happen because of His protection.

I felt the presence of God with me from a very early age – in fact, I can’t remember not feeling Him.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never had a crisis of faith.  He was the absolute only constant in my life for a very long time.  I knew that I knew that no matter what was going on, He was there.  And He spoke to me.  A lot.  He kept me out of trouble.  A lot.  He was true to me.  Always.

Don’t get me wrong – the pain in that poem was real.  I had a misogynistic, abusive, sociopathic father (who also committed polygamy on the grounds that Solomon had more that one wife, so he could, too.  This was the reason my mother finally got up the courage to leave him).  I had a severely emotionally damaged mother who saw my father when she looked at me.  I didn’t have a lot of friends because I didn’t know anyone who could fathom what I lived through on a daily basis.  No one really knew what was happening…except God.  And he kept me close through all of it.  He kept me close when I made stupid choices motivated by all the hurt I carried.  He kept me even closer as I walked through long, sloooooow years of healing.  And He keeps me close today.

In retrospect, that poem is unfinished.  I did cry many tears for the little girl.  But I also know the liberation that comes from being lavished with the healing love of God – and the girl locked in the lines of the poem never got to experience it.  Perhaps I should write another verse…

New Year’s Resolution Revolution Revelation

Ah, the new year.  A time to start fresh.  This is the year I’m finally gonna get to the gym six days a week.  This is the year I will get up every morning at 5am and read my Bible.  This is the year when – yeah, right.

I never make New Year’s resolutions.  I know full well that I won’t keep them, so what’s the point?  The last thing I need is one more reason to be annoyed with myself/feel like a failure/stare my shortcomings straight in the face.  So nope, no resolutions for me.  However, I’m not totally immune to the sense of tabula rasa that comes with each turn of the year.  Every 31 December, I lick my proverbial finger and hold it up to see which way the wind is blowing.  The wind of the Spirit, that is.  You see, I need to know what God is up to.

We all know Jeremiah 29:11 by heart: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. But I think a lot of us interpret that future as some far-off, nebulous time.  Do you realize that twenty-four hours from now is your future?  Ten minutes?  Half a second?  Anything you haven’t experienced yet is your future – and you don’t need to make resolutions because God has plans for each millisecond of your life.  He wants to infuse each moment of your existence with hope – and He knows exactly how many moments that entails.  All you need to do is line up with His plans. (It’s been my experience, by the way, that His plans are not only far superior to my sad little intentions, but they’re also easier to stick with.)

Let’s take a closer look at the verse.

For I know the plans I have for you: The Maker of the universe has taken the time to decide what He wants to do in and through your life.  And He hasn’t forgotten.

declares the LORD: To declare means to make known formally, officially, or explicitly, to make clear, to make evident, to state emphaticallyHe’s going on record regarding YOU.

plans to prosper you and not to harm you: The Lord’s intent NEVER is to hurt you.  We attribute far too many things to “the will of God” that are actually far from it, like illness, for example.  To paraphrase Bill Johnson, if we see sickness as God’s will, then we can no longer call the devil a thief.

plans to give you hope and a future: God’s plans encourage us, lift us up.  And again, if everything we have not yet experienced is the future, then God is planning for every minute of our lives.

So maybe you’re thinking along the lines of If God is planning everything down to the millisecond, what happens to free will?  I don’t want to be some kind of automaton, just blindly going along in life with no thoughts in my head because it’s already all set in place. But friend, you’re not!  That’s the beauty of a living, dynamic relationship with God.  You ALWAYS have free will – He cannot and will not take that away because HE doesn’t want automatons, either.  You are free to make your own choices, but God wishes you to choose His way because His plans are nothing but good.  Notice there’s still a choice there.  It’s like being a kid and obeying your parents because you love them and trust them and they have never failed to provide for you.  Or like being in the military and following the colonel’s instructions because you know he sees the bigger picture and knows things you don’t.  Only it’s better than both of these scenarios for two giant reasons:  One, God sees the ENTIRE picture and has taken ALL the details into consideration.  Two, He’ll let you know what’s going on, partner with you, when you keep in contact with Him.

I know that I have a sense of optimism regarding 2011.  With everything going on in the world, that’s pretty counterintuitive, right?  But I’ve chosen not to make resolutions in my own strength (which will fail) and I’ve moved into seeking revelation.  There’s a step between those two things that involves having a thought revolution.  In other words, to do this, you have to change the way you think.  Turn it on its head.  Instead of setting a goal, let’s say losing weight, and saying, “I’M gonna do this.  Every day, I will go to the gym and I will punish my body for an hour and a half because I need to get into shape,” try this:  “My body isn’t at it’s healthiest.  What does the Lord have to say about that?”  AHA.  Thought revolution in action!  Be ready for the revelation He gives you – and act on that.  You’ll see better results all around.

I wish all of you a blessed, revelatory New Year.  May you all recognize and embrace the amazing plans He has for you!

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