The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning; then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.
It starts as subtle glow around the edges so that dark appears darker with contrast that wasn’t there before. Illumination slowly reveals the hidden niches. As it progresses, more details stand out in relief, creating both portrait and landscape. Then the color flows, emerging and submerging, encompassing and enveloping.
What was murky and undefined is now revealed with backlighting, and brightly adorned.
What was depths of tomb and grave is now opened and freed.
All the paths of the Lord are loving and faithful
“All does not mean ‘all – except the paths I am walking in now,’
or ‘nearly all – except this especially difficult and painful path.’
All must mean all.
So, your path with its unexplained sorrow or turmoil,
and mine with its sharp flints and briers –
and both our paths,
with their unexplained perplexity,
their sheer mystery – they are His paths,
on which he will show Himself loving and faithful.
Nothing else; nothing less.
Amy Carmichael–Anglican missionary to India 1867-1951
Sometimes we come upon forks in the road where we may not be certain which path to take. Perhaps explore the Robert Frost “less traveled” one? Or take the one that seems less tangled and uncertain from all appearances?
Sometimes we are walking along a particular path, minding our own business, and we start bonking our heads on low hanging branches, or get grabbed by stickers and thorns that rip our clothes and skin, or trip over prominent roots and rocks that impede our progress and bruise our feet.
Sometimes we come to a sudden end in a path and face a steep cliff with no choice but to leap or turn back.
Navigating the road to the cross must have felt like ending up at that steep cliff. There was no turning back, no choosing or negotiating a different pathway or taking time to build a staircase into the rocks. His words reflect His uncertainty and terror. His words reflect our deepest doubts and fears–how can we trust we are on the right path?
When we take that next step, we end up in the Father’s loving and faithful arms.
What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.
What love doesn’t look like:
it is not the Hollywood version
or the red carpet glittery gowns
or the fancy jewelry
it is not mostly uncovered magazine cover girls
or hooking up when it feels good
or a serial monogamy relationship of three months
it’s not an online status declaring “in a relationship”
or a choreographed and photographed proposal
or the designer wedding gown
it isn’t precisely planned conceptions
of predetermined gender and genetics
or discarding the imperfect
Love looks like
and forgiving grace
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
There are fewer more nurturing words than “time to eat.” Having someone care enough to cook a meal to feed body and soul is welcome indeed. So “come and have breakfast” after a long night of fishing must have been an irresistible invitation.
After Resurrection Day, Jesus appears to His followers on several occasions, but He is not always initially recognizable. The trigger for discerning who He is seems connected to sharing a meal.
This makes entire sense after His Last Supper with the disciples before His death. He makes it clear how He wants to be remembered, through a symbolic meal of bread and wine. So when He returns, when He breaks bread, cooks fish, and eats together with others, they recognize they are in the presence of the Lord.
In this instance, when the disciples have had a night of no success catching fish, He directs them to drop their nets yet again and suddenly there are more fish than they can handle. This is capped by His invitation: “Come and have breakfast”.
He then feeds them, both figuratively and literally.
Accepting the invitation is all that is asked of us. Who doesn’t want to have breakfast cooked for them?
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.
This is not like choosing sides on teams in grade school, numbering off one-two-one-two until everyone knows where they stand. This is not like an election year where choosing sides means aligning myself with the political party that seems to be the best fit at the time, even if I don’t agree with all their platform points. This is not like a Lincoln-Douglas debate tournament where I might represent one viewpoint for the first round, and then be asked to represent the opposite viewpoint in the second half.
It is more like being chosen for one side or the other, even if, klutz that I am, it means always being the last to be chosen for any sports team with all my limitations, my poor coordination, my weakness and my flaws.
This choice is not for an hour or a day or a year, but for eternity; whether to stand in the light as it shines on my dark, glum, sullen head or stay unexposed and hidden in the shadows.
It isn’t just about choosing,
but being chosen,
just as I am.
Though the light shines on things unclean, yet it is not thereby defiled.
Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.
We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn.’
The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.
C.S. Lewis ~~writing on suffering
The assumption on the part of some is that life comes with a “no pain” guarantee. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed childbirth knows better. It all starts out with a push and a cry, not exactly the most comfortable moments for mother or baby. No one escapes suffering, no matter how strongly they believe in God. It is what we signed up for once we exited our mother’s womb.
How could an all-powerful all-knowing God allow suffering, especially in innocent children? This is a standard argument used against the existence of God. The reasoning is that there is abundant suffering in the world so therefore no God in control. Somehow the gospel reality is set aside: God allowed His own suffering and experienced real pain in order to defeat death on our behalf and to ensure an eternal union with Him.
He mourned. He wept. He hurt. He bled. He died. Just like us.
What all powerful all knowing God would do that? Our God would, because He is first and foremost a loving God who makes imperfection perfect again.
No, there isn’t a “no pain” guarantee –neither God nor even the natural world ever promised that. But only our God promises “no stain” –that we are washed clean for eternity by the blood He shed in suffering.
For that is our greatest comfort of all.
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:5
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming.
It is close at hand—
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains…
Joel 2: 1b-2a
How can we prepare for the darkness of what is coming? It is so close at hand. We know our death is inevitable, that our return to dust is a given, yet we tremble in fear at that awareness. Even God Himself, praying in the Garden before His arrest, faced the inevitability of His death with painful anguish. As one of us, locked in our flesh, His heart beating and bleeding, He experienced doubt, acknowledged abandonment, knew betrayal. God forsaken of God.
Overwhelmed by the army of locusts descending in the cloud as described in this Chapter of Joel, our darkness has become His darkness.
Only one who knows that suffering can lead us out of the gloom into the dawn of a new day, into a new life.
“Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart and not your garments.