Thursday, June 30, 2011

Children of the Burning Heart

“Coming to Christ is not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.  That is where  we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end…To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.”  
A.W. Tozer

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gaining the Horizon (pt 1)

A couple years ago I realized I didn’t have the constitution that I used to.  After doing 2 rounds on an amusement park ride with my kids, my stomach was flipping and my head was spinning.   I occasionally have had a similar feeling during a rough trip on an airplane.  During these occasions I find it necessary to fix my gaze on the horizon to bring stability to my mind and stomach.   Without the horizon as a reference point, I am left at the mercy of my body’s temporarily wacked out equilibrium. 

Lately, I’m seeing the need for a horizon not only to stabilize my stomach, but a horizon to stabilize my soul.  Life has a way of tossing us around and messing with our soul’s equilibrium through the slow grind of day-to-day monotony or through tumultuous events.  In the midst of the unsettling fears and frustrations of life, I want to say “It is well with my soul” but in good conscience, I often cannot.  When I cannot say “It is well with my soul”, I’ve been saying instead “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”  I need a higher reference point than my feeling and understanding to gain stability for my soul. 

I find a few areas of life in particular where my soul gets queasy and I need to gain the horizon of God’s truth to set my soul at rest:

We live in a world where the norm is to find our sense of worth in what we DO versus who God says we ARE.  Whenever I attempt to find my identity and significance in things I do (for instance: vocation, good behavior, relational acceptance, athletic prowess, etc) my soul gets seasick on the up and down waves of pride and shame.   I feel pride when I deem myself to be performing well and shame when I deem myself to be performing poorly.

When I find myself caught in this storm, I turn to the One who calmed a storm swept lake with a few simple words of peace.  Christ speaks the same peace to my soul by reminding me who He has made me to be.  Because I am “in Christ”, all that is true of Christ has been applied to me:  his holiness, blamelessness, and righteousness.  As a child of God through Jesus, I have the Father’s unconditional words of approval: “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” In that approval I find significance that I did not earn and cannot lose therefore there is no reason for my soul to ride the waves of pride or shame.   

Seasons of suffering send seismic tremors through our souls that can shake us to our core.  During suffering, our souls naturally question, “why is this happening” and seek a way out.  That is a right response, since suffering is not as life should be.  But we can get trapped in our own response to suffering if we aren’t able to gain the horizon of God’s reality. 

That is why I find it necessary to gaze again and again upon the horizon of love painted for me in Christ’s crucifixion.  If the Father loved me enough to sacrifice His Son, and Jesus loved me enough to lay down His life, then I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me and his intentions toward me are good – despite the current suffering He has allowed.  I do not find comfort in searching for the reason for my current suffering, for I may not find that answer soon.  Instead, my soul is comforted and put at rest when I gaze upon the vast and beautiful horizon of Christ’s death on my behalf. 

When I consider the future, whether it be the future of my children, my finances, or my health I often find my soul beginning to pucker at the sour taste of fear.  Fear’s bad taste is overpowering and ruins my appreciation of the many good things God has given for me to enjoy now.  The sour taste of fear can only be overcome when replaced by another, stronger taste.  For that taste, I look to the horizon of heaven where a feast of love, joy and peace awaits.

As I gaze upon the horizon of heaven, I become confident that no evil, no hurt, no lack has the last word in my life.  No matter what transpires in the mortal decades that remain, I have an eternity awaiting that is better and greater than all my fears.  I don’t get weary of gazing upon that horizon which has no end. 

In the next post I’ll explore tangible practices for gaining the horizon of God’s reality.