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Monday, January 25, 2016

Same Rain


The house does not fall, but it is not exempt from the storm.

The parable of the two houses (Matthew 7) usually receives attention for the promise. Jesus says that if we live according to His Words, we will be like a wise builder who builds on a strong foundation, namely Himself, the Rock. One of my favorite songs in first grade Sunday school consisted of a repetition of the story that ended with hand motions highlighting the drama, "...and the house on the sand went SPLAT!"

This results-orientation glosses over an important element.

"And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house..."

It's true that it doesn't fall. It's true that the Rock holds it up. But the wind still shakes it and the floods still threaten and the house is beaten with the same storm that wracks the house on the sand.
The wording in the passage is identical for both houses. Not a drop of rain omitted.

Somewhere along the way, Christians picked up the idea that we would experience different rain than the houses built on the sand. Yes, Jesus said we would deal with suffering, but certainly it wouldn't be mental illness or sexual confusion or divorce or child abuse or incarceration. Maybe we expected that we would be persecuted for our faith or have a financial strain here and there, but there are some things (you know....the truly awful things) for which we think we'll get a pass.

We're Christians, after all.

But that's not the picture that we get from Matthew 7.

If your rain looks remarkably like the rain falling next door, do not despair. Your source of hope is not the difference in weather, but the Rock on which your life is built.

Let it rain.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Below the Stars

The sky enchants me. I love orange sunrises and watercolor sunsets, moody clouds and sapphire blues, sparkling stars and midnight cloaks. In the ever-changing canvas of the sky, I read the extravagant language of color and texture flung wide to the watching world, a message sent to a world peopled for praise. I AM here. 

How we need the reminder to look up.

I was driving through Staunton last night, near the rural farmlands of Virginia where the lack of city sky glow allows the stars a chance to sing a little louder. The cloudless night gifted me a perfect view of Orion, his glittering sword hanging from his belt and his arm raised in anticipated victory in the hunt. I thought about how the stars look to me and about the pictures we've made from them in an effort to classify, mythologize, and understand the infinite. And then I wondered how God sees the stars without the limitations of a sub-celestial perspective.

For a moment in the car as I gazed on the expanse above me, I felt a great distance from Him as lightyears of space and the eons of time pushed me from the Holy One who placed the stars on purpose in their orbits and can see them with perfect knowledge as if looking down on them from His exalted place.

But even this is not accurate. The picture I formed ignores His even greater transcendency. Even the way I think of Him includes false limitations, because He isn't merely "above the stars" as my locational perspective tends to place Him, as if He is part of the universe instead of the Source. He is incomprehensibly outside of that realm altogether. This chilled me even more, and I felt the naked ignorance of my humanity as if I was lost on a floating asteroid.

God, where are you? 

The answer was a quiet whisper to my soul. Not audible. Not visionary.
Just the reminder of who He is and the reconciliatory point of the story from the beginning.

Emmanuel. God is with us. 

When Jesus looked into the night sky, He saw the same stars that I can see. He walked under the same dying sun and lived based on a Jewish calendar using the phases of the same moon I marvel at. He is God With Us. He limited Himself to my perspective and walked below the stars to know and feel my distance from the Father. Now, knowing my limitations and being fully aware of my inaccuracies, He does not correct them immediately. He does not reprimand me for my inability to lift myself to interstellar vision. He did the reconciling by coming and living and dying for me. He rose with orange sunrises and fell asleep with watercolor sunsets on the same planet where I do my rising and falling and breaking and healing. We get to be together.

How can I not trust Him? He sees Orion, like I do. But He can love me perfectly because He also sees the whole universe like the Father. This is the kind of with us I need so much.