29 April, 2009

Reflections on a Loss ~ (3rd of 3 Meditations)

There are some things that we lose for which we have opportunity to share the experience with others. Most recently, my family - as I have mentioned in previous posts - has been going through the time of life when the last remaining patriarch passes from this life to the next, and his children who have become parents in their own right now take up the role as the grandparents, and the whole lot of us shift ahead 1 full generation in the span of a week.

In that, we lose respectively our Dad, Granddad, Great-Granddad, and we each of us also lose something of our own previous innocence as we are called upon to step up into the next phase of life.

But there are other losses for which, sometimes, we cannot be prepared. Perhaps they are, nevertheless, universal experiences, but somehow the weight of them is something we must carry Alone. Like harboring some very deep and abiding Torment within our breast, and even "torment" is not strong enough a word....Some very agonizing pain as our heart has wrapped itself in love around some thing or some one, and then without warning - as if to defy that happiness or Forever that we innately expect - that some thing or some one is wrenched from our grasp, torn from our affection, and we are left standing there trying to make sense of these dripping, coagulating pieces of what once was a pulsing, life-giving organ.

In Galatians, chapter 6, the Apostle Paul states very early on in the chapter that we are to bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. This is a verse with which I have been familiar since childhood. But I find it somewhat funny, then, that I didn't notice that very few verses later he states that each one must bear his own load (v. 5). My pastor had pointed this out to me in a conversation a couple of years ago, and the thought has been rolling around in my head ever since - not as though there is some contradiction, here, but how could he be stating both things, how could both be true, and NOT be opposites as they might appear to the naked eye. My pastor had also suggested the solution to the problem in that same conversation - namely; when you come alongside someone and thrust your shoulder, for example, up under a corner of his heavy load (thinking metaphysically) to help him carry it, it is NOT as though you are taking it FROM him, but simply carrying it WITH him, as was your intent all along. Thus, some of that weight is still his, and his Alone, to shoulder....

So too, I am coming to appreciate that there are some pains in life which, in the attempts to explain them to others and in this way so rid myself of them, I simply must bear Alone. Only I can feel and endure the hurt of what I have lost. And in my reflections on this - as I am currently enduring one such loss and praying to God for some relief lest I be done in - I am reminded also of the counsel I received from my much younger brother - who is, every now and again, very wise beyond his years - just this time last year.

He had been meditating on what it means to possess and cultivate that "quiet and gentle spirit" which is precious in the sight of God (cf. 1 Peter, chapter 3). And the Lord revealed to him again the passage in the account of the birth of Christ which described how his mother, Mary, had "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." And so, the Spirit convicted my brother, and through his testimony convicted me, that one - perhaps even the Main - way in which I could [intentionally] cultivate that very same "quiet and gentle spirit" which I have so longed for and which has always seemed (to my view) to ellude me, was to recognize those moments when some thing or some one was only mine to treasure in my heart, and ponder it there, untouched, as it were, by any other onlooker.

A way of cultivating a greater intimacy with and indeed dependence on that same Christ who is by this means the only One left with whom I can share the inner workings of my heart - for joy or for sorrow - when I discipline myself to withhold that which I would otherwise (by my particular and perhaps peculiar nature) feel "compelled" to spill to any listening ear!

So the pain isn't necessarily even lessened, but it is somehow mysteriously sweetened as it becomes a means of communion with the God who made me and who is conforming me each day more and more to the likeness of his Beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.

Still, I must bear my own load. This is only mine, and by it the Lord teaches me to wait on him, to treasure up all these things - my joys and my sorrows - and ponder them in my heart, as if a sacrifice or an offering just for Him....

10 April, 2009

God, Lord over Life AND Death ~ (2nd of 3 meditations)

Recently, in the space of one week, our family experienced both extremes of life....One Sunday night, the passing of my Granddad, a man satisfied with years and the grace of God in Christ, into the presence of the Lord from this life, and the following Sunday night, the public dedication of my infant niece, as my sister and her husband stood before the church Body and committed themselves to raise their daughter "in the nurture and admonition of the Word."

That second Sunday evening, as my parents were able to be present to stand up, and commit themselves also to displaying Christ before their little granddaughter, there was a very sensible passing of the mantle - Granddad had gone on to Glory to be with the bride of his youth who had preceded him, and Dad and Mom were now the grandparents, and my sister and her husband are now the parents, I and my brother now the aunt and the uncle respectively, and my niece - along with her older brother - the new generation.

These are moments that occur in every family - and no doubt it was the space of the experiences - both Sunday evenings but a week apart - that highlighted for me this graduation of the generations, and this connectedness with the "human" experience of this life. But more than this, I was overwhelmed with a desire to worship God - the Lord of both life AND death. He has been working in me (at least for this moment) the ability to see that "our times are in his hands" and that he knows the numbers of our days before we have as yet lived even one of them.

I rejoice that my Granddad is now with Christ, because he was revealed to be one of the sons of God in Christ...and I pray with great depth of soul and longing that my nephew and my niece, now but in their first years of life, will eventually also come to be revealed as having been chosen in Christ before the foundations of the world.

And I rejoice - in our smallness, in our powerlessness, in having the "illusion" of control stripped from us for at least a moment, and I worship God, the author of salvation who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion. Who am I that I should say back to him "why have you made me thus!" And again, who am I that he would be mindful of me? have mercy on me? redeem my life from the pit - and give me a new heart, soft and teachable rather than a heart of stone? Surely it is not because of anything that I have done, but because of his OWN purpose and grace.....

How merciful is our God.

07 April, 2009

Worship ~ In Spite of my "Self" ~ (1st of 3 meditations)

**My Father, God - this is a morning in which I am having to FIGHT for joy. A spirit of depression is tempting me from the corners of my meditations, and I am having to keep your word ever before me lest I fail, and turn my eyes to myself. It is a weakness, to be sure, that I cannot (as if from within myself, or my own strength) keep my mind stayed on you, my eyes fixed on you, my heart treasuring that which is above - so I am laboring for discipline - setting about me quite literally various statements and promises and commands and declarations from your word, so that my eye is "caught" by YOU rather than the trappings of this world or my own emotions. My Father, God, please KEEP me, today, as I would be lost without your keeping.**


PSALM 118:13-23

13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous:
"The LORD's right hand has done mighty things! 16 The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!"

17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

20 This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected [Christ! HE is the gate of righteousness!] has become the capstone;

23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.