Friday, April 10, 2009

Drawing Near -- Broken Shards

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

Last fall, I worked in a corporate office as a project manager for a brief, three-month stint.  One of the projects I was always eager to manage was making the coffee in the morning.  I enjoyed having a task to focus on which I knew would result in happiness for the staff and also keep me busy with minimal human interaction until I was more fully awake.  One morning as I picked up the glass jar that held the coffee beans, to my surprise and extreme frustration, it slipped right through my hands and shattered into hundreds of tiny shards all over the laminate floor.  Nothing of the old form could be salvaged. Every part of the container was now trash.  And a few days later, the old glass container that had served its bean holding purpose well, was replaced with a sturdier, plastic canister.  The glass jar had been adequate but the plastic canister turned out to be a better option for an office environment.  It was tougher, lighter, handier, and more accessible.  And yet, I never would have realized the greatness of the replacement if it were not for the shock of brokenness.

Frequently, I find myself trying to avoid brokenness, or at the least, the appearance of it.  It leaves me exposed, humiliated, and needy - none of which sound very attractive.  And yet Christ, in his counter-cultural way, has been most apparent during my times of complete brokenness.  While enduring periods of great loss and disappointment, his gospel becomes experienced truth to me and no longer a learned religion.  Jesus draws near, and he so mercifully becomes my own.

Most often, I realize my intense need for Christ in my shattered piles of mess rather than when life is lived in the confines of my control.  A death occurs, a relationship ends, a job is lost, a disease detected - in those times where I can no longer strategically manage my life, I need to know that the God of the universe will see my shards, pick me up, and create something stronger.  His nearness and mercy hover in my brokenness, as he is faithful to fix my eyes on him and rescue me once again from the binds of my limited perspective.  

If you currently find yourself in a place of brokenness, or when you do in the future, embrace his nearness and wait for him to lift your head (Psalm 3:3). Wait for him to make you stronger (Isaiah 40:31).  Wait for him to give you the best from what appears to be shattered and only good for refuse (Isaiah 60:17). As you consider drawing near to the Lord as Easter approaches, remember that Christ came to bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).  And the cross was, and still is, the perfect, healing bandage for our broken shards.  Take comfort in knowing that restoration rises from brokenness and that resurrection is imminent.  Sunday is coming, my friends.  It just is.

"See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:19

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Drawing Near -- Better in Love

"This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
1 John 4:9-12

Sometimes it takes a theme ushered in by a circumstance for me to sense the nearness of God. Of all the themes of life out there that persuade me to recognize God coming near, love would have to be at the top of the list.  

I heard a musician perform a song he wrote the other day and the chorus said "I'm just better in love."  Those words resonated with me and I thought, "yep, me too."  The times in my life when God gifts me with someone to very specifically love and I actually jump in without worry of the outcome and just love lavishly, I detect without a doubt the nearness of God.  I sense his pleasure because no matter if the object of my love returns it in a reciprocal way, or in any way for that matter, I am identifying with Christ in his character. He is love (1 John 4:16).  No matter what I do or do not do, he remains love.

For this season of my life I find my heart a little worn from loving in obedience, loving fully, and loving in a way that considered another better only to have it end in seeming disappointment. And yet, to identify with Christ is to take the risk to love even when it is messy. The cross, the most beautifully tragic example of perfect love, was heart-wrenchingly messy.  My imperfect attempts at sacrificial love will always be tattered and unruly, my heart will always run the risk of being worn, but my joy will be complete.  And despite the wounds a heart will most likely incur when loving fully, I can say on this messy, frustrated, and disappointed side of my own circumstance, it was and is worth it.  His nearness hovers in unhindered love and it absolutely hovers in the aftermath.  His love makes the best kind of fool (1 Corinthians 1:18) and I am just better in it.

As we contemplate the nearness of God, consider his love.  For many of us, it's the love story that draws us to Him.  He found you worth it to go to the cross. To be broken, bruised, and literally tattered for you and his ultimate glory.  If you know this Christ, his love covers you completely. Even now, I sense his love crawling up over my skin and reminding me that love is worth the risk. Love is worth feeling like a failure, it's worth rejection, and it is always worth someone else seeing a picture of Christ that beckons them to lose their lives so they might really find it.  

Draw near to God in his love.  When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that "love never fails", even when earthly relationships seem contrary to that line of reason, I absolutely know Paul was right. Love never does fail.  The circumstance may look differently than anticipated but his love through us does not fail.  

Take the scary risk to be fully known in His love and to love unhindered.  His nearness is found there, it pushes us forward, and it absolutely sustains.

Consider the depth of Christ's love and let if find you.  While foolish to our self-preserving nature, within it lies transformation and nearness to the God of the universe -- and I am convinced, we are all just better in it.

"Love never fails..."
1 Corinthians 13:8

Drawing Near

"Draw near to God and he will draw near to you."
James 4:8

I wish I could say I wake up every morning longing to draw near to God.  Too often I am consumed with myself.  My life.  My agenda. My desires.  My confusion.  And I miss the beauty found in drawing near. Of being fully engaged with the God of the universe.  

As Easter approaches, the time on the cultural calendar that we are more inclined to consider our faith, it would be fitting, and hopefully even altering, to step closer to Christ and allow our eyes to be re-awakened to his movement, his heart, and his intention for all people as we realize his proximity to us.  To allow our lives to regain a footing with purpose.  And then, to walk with bold confidence in his nearness, like the beloved bride that we are.

Over the upcoming days, I plan on sharing a few instances/themes that help, and sometimes force, me to consider the presence of a vast God that is yet, so very near.  Some are practices, some are experiences, and some are choices. Each one however, have put me in a place to absolutely know God is love, he is active, and he invites us to engage in his reconciliation movement as the earth and everything around us increasingly groans for redemption (Romans 8:22).  

My prayer is that these next few days of reflection would set your heart on the God that came near to redeem you.  And that you would know with fresh confidence how his blood really did set you free (Galatians 5:1).  May Easter Sunday be a new day of joy for you that has nothing to do with a large, imaginary bunny and his colorful eggs, but everything to do with the knowledge of the depth of our reconciliation.  

Let us draw near in such a way that our ears would hear the groans around us, our eyes would risk looking at people and then loving them, and our lives would become his patient relief.