Monday, January 28, 2013

A Surprise: Love in the Winter of our Regret

If you were reading yesterday, you'll know already that I got stalled in this "January Blog-a-Day" project when I hit Jan. 21 and the topic was "Mood Boards." I floundered about for nearly a week then finally posted the first of two catch-up blogs yesterday.

Today's blog is the second of those two catch-up blogs, and I'll be discussing four more topics:

Day 25 - el-oh-vee-ee 

Okay, I'm going to assume today's topic is "LOVE" and not some secret incantation or Hebrew name for God. So, all lightheartedness aside, how do you talk about such an important subject that so deeply impacts all of our lives?

I think people make two mistakes about love. The most elemental is that love is merely a feeling ... an infatuation, a desire, a state you find yourself in, i.e. "in love." The second error is one I probably have been more prone to, and that's to hold that love is not something that happens to you, but rather: a decision that you make, a choice of the will, and demonstrated by action. You make your wedding vows, say "I do," choose to always do the best thing for the other person.

In Pulse's Sunday morning book study (Pulse is our church young adults group, in case you're not aware), we've been reading together a wonderful book by John Piper called Desiring God. He demonstrates the error of both extremes, for true love is both emotion/fire/ passion/desire, AND choice/will/action. First and foremost, Scripture commands us throughout to "love God" above all else. And the language of this love is often presented in the language of desire: we are to "delight" in the Lord, to "thirst" after him as the deer pants after water. If you are convinced that love is all choice, all will, all mental exercise, then obviously you haven't spent too much time in Solomon's "Song of Songs!"

And of course when we marry the person we love, we intuitively realize the truth of this holism. Emotion alone isn't enough to sustain a successful marriage; and neither is simple mental commitment.

I see in this truth — the fact that God has given us the capacity to love as He loves, holistically — an important reflection of the reality that we are created in His image. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: To lay down one's life for one's friends" ... which is exactly what He did. (And what we, also, are challenged to do for those we love.) And the amazing thing is that He considered us friends while we considered Him an enemy. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We love Him because He first loved us! We were created to follow in His footsteps. Challenging but hopefully encouraging!

Day 26 - Winter/Summer

Growing up in California, there really wasn't a significant difference between winter and summer, like there is here in the Northwest. As a result, our schedule was more or less the same from week to week. I spent a lot of time with yardwork or outdoors recreation on the weekends, and quite a bit less outdoor time during the workweek.

The effect on our lives of moving to the Northwest, in terms of weekly schedule, has been fairly dramatic. When the weather is nice and the days are long, I feel like I need to squeeze every minute of time I can outdoors, doing yardwork or cycling, hunting mushrooms, etc. But during the long cold and rainy season, when the days are short so that it's dark when you drive to work and dark when you drive home, you focus your time indoors and pray for spring, planning all the things you are going to do outdoors and around the yard once you are able! A seasonal lifestyle is much more ruled by what month it is than what I would have expected before moving here.

And I'm sure it's even worse in places like Minnesota where (in some places right now) if the daily high rises above 0 degrees Fahrenheit it feels practically balmy!

But I do really have to say my favorite seasons are the transitions between the extremes of winter and summer: spring and fall!

Day 27 - Regret

I must say there's not a lot in my life I regret. Almost all of it relates to my own character development (or lack thereof!). I regret the self-centeredness of my youth (that I didn't even recognize until our first year of marriage). I regret the temper I had (and too often expressed toward my kids when they were younger). I regret all of the dumb and selfish things I've said to people I love.

And of course, hindsight is 20/20. I regret not buying gold when it was a fifth the price it is now, or not selling my house in California until AFTER the real estate bubble burst!

I also (somewhat) regret not starting my cycling habit earlier in my life. And, I regret not taking piano lessons from my mom (a master piano teacher)!

Seriously, I guess most of all, I regret not being a more faithful and sold-out disciple of Jesus, earlier in my life. In many ways I feel like I have dallied away the years. Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning ... and tomorrow morning will once again dawn a new day and a new opportunity to move into all the blessing that He has coming my way!

Day 28 - A Surprise

I was trying to think of something that would surprise people who know me, about me. (And if you don't know me, I guess you wouldn't really be surprised by anything, would you?) I think I've told stories (many on this blog) already of many of the things people would be surprised about. My many transportation accidents (including being in a train wreck, and nearly in a plane crash). My spending a night in the same L.A. jail cell where O.J. Simpson languished after allegedly murdering his wife. (But, that was before he got there ... I guess I should have scribbled a graffiti message to him.) The time Eleanor Roosevelt told my mom I was the most adorable baby she had ever seen. (Well, this was my mom's version of the story, at any rate.)

But then I realized the surprise doesn't have to be about me. It can be someone else's surprise. Perhaps, the biggest surprise of all!

So, what do you think is the biggest surprise each of us has in store for us? For me, I think the answer to that question lies buried somewhere in Revelation 2:17 ...
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
The context of this verse is Christ's message to the church at Pergamum, which had experienced difficult persecution but endured. Now, our church hasn't (yet) experienced persecution of this nature; but we are still seeking to be faithful and victorious, and so I think the verse applies.

And you will see there really are two surprises here. First: What in the world is the "hidden manna?" Manna, of course, was the sustenance in the desert miraculously provided to the sojourning children of Israel. But it was not hidden; when the travelers awoke in the morning, six days each week, it was there for the taking, visible to all. I am VERY curious about the nature of that "hidden" divine sustenance which is coming! (Or, perhaps is already here? Is this a picture of the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives?)

And secondly, what about our white stone? Why a white stone? White symbolizes purity, of course; and a stone is reminiscent of Christ's words to Peter: Upon this rock (the confession of Peter's faith) I will build My Church. But I am most intrigued by the statement that this white stone contains "a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." Wow. Whatever that is, I have a feeling it will be an enormous surprise. (Or perhaps not? It does say, "Known only to the one who receives it" ... does this mean I already know the name that is on the stone.) One way or the other, I can hardly wait.

Don't you just love surprises? (Well, the good ones, anyway!)

No comments: