The Shadowlands

 

Isn’t God supposed to be good? Isn’t He supposed to love us? Does God want us to suffer? What if the answer to that question is, ‘Yes'”? I suggest to you that it is because God loves us that He makes us the gift of suffering.

I’m not sure that God wants us to be happy. I think He wants us to be able to love and be loved. He wants us to grow-up. We think our childish toys bring us all the happiness there is and our nursery is the whole wide world. But something must drive us out of the nursery to the world of others and that something is suffering.

You see, we are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves forms of men. The blows of His chisel, which hurt so much, are what makes us perfect.

C.S. Lewis

Lewis referred to this life as “The Shadowlands”.  The place where we see the shape of the promise but not its substance.

I am caught between the world I live in and the world to come.  There is beauty in both, but only in Eternity will my heart be at home.

Right now, I am Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

not your best life

 

 

 

 

 

Resurrection Power

I’m uncomfortable here in this world.

This world where children die and people hurt one another and justice is denied and babies go hungry.

I long for the day prophesied in Isaiah when the lion will lie down with the lamb, swords will be ploughshares and death will be banished forever.

Paul wrote:

All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.

Philippians 3:10-11 GNT

He wasn’t only talking about the final resurrection, when all in Christ shall rise and reign forever with their Savior.

He was also talking about the earthly resurrection-of life breathed into who we are and what we do by the Spirit of God living in us.

It’s exciting to think about the life of Christ residing in me.  It’s not so exciting to consider the death of self that must precede that life.

But

Without death, there is no resurrection.  

Without destruction, there is no restoration.

Without surrender, there is no victory.

My heart rebels against this.

I want life without death.  I want resurrection power without the grave.  I want to know Jesus more intimately without being stripped bare and standing naked before Him.

But that is impossible.  

To be a follower of the Crucified means , sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact.

Elisabeth Elliot

I realized very soon after the news of Dominic’s death reached my ears that the last vestige of pride had been ripped from my heart by force.

I was, and am, in the dust.

I cannot raise myself from this prostrate position.  I cannot breathe life into this dead body. I cannot, by force of will, pick up and keep going.

I am fully reliant on the God Who made me to give me life.

But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me, my glory and the lifter up of mine head.

Psalm 3:3 KJV21

This isn’t news to God, it’s always been true.  

But He has opened my eyes.

Forced to face the darkness of the grave, I can more fully appreciate the light of His promise.

victory over death

 

Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

“The worst conceivable thing has happened, and it has been mended…All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich

I’m not sure when I first read this quote, but it came to my mind that awful morning.   And I played it over and over in my head, reassuring my broken heart that indeed, the worst had already happened, and been mended.

Death had died.

Christ was risen-the firstfruits of many brethren.

When the Sabbath was over, just as the first day of the week was dawning Mary from Magdala and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. At that moment there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, went forward and rolled back the stone and took his seat upon it. His appearance was dazzling like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook with terror at the sight of him and collapsed like dead men. But the angel spoke to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here—he is risen, just as he said he would. Come and look at the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. And, listen, he goes before you into Galilee! You will see him there! Now I have told you my message.”

Matthew 28:1-7 PHILLIPS

Dominic had closed his eyes on earth but had opened them in Heaven-never to close them again.

My son’s body was here, but he was THERE-with our Risen Lord.

A few years ago, our church choir sang this song for Resurrection Sunday.  At the time, a very dear friend, a faithful follower of Jesus, and a beautiful, grace-filled lady was about to meet Jesus.  I sang this with tears streaming down my face, because I imagined her running, healed and whole, to the arms of her Savior.

Now, I can barely make it through just reading the words-because I see my son there as well.

 “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

Listen here:  I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin

So how does this broken-hearted mama face a new day?

How do I wait with hope while longing for that heavenly reunion?

I remember…

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:19-23 (NIV)

 

Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection beause the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

There were many points in the story when things could have gone a different way:

  • When taken by the religious leaders-surely, they thought, He will explain Himself, they will let Him go.
  • When taken before Pilate-Rome will refuse to get involved with our spiritual squabbles, Pilate won’t authorize His death.
  • When presented to the crowd-no Jew would rather have a wicked murderer released instead of a humble, healing Rabbi.

At every turn, every expectation they had for a “happy ending” was dashed to the ground.

But here they were:  Jesus was dead.  His body was taken hurriedly to a tomb.  And they were hiding, praying-fearful they might be next.

There is a popular church saying:  “It’s Friday….but Sunday’s coming!”

Meant to be comforting and encouraging, it can also be confusing and condemning.

Because there are many people who will live their lives on this earth between Friday and Sunday.  They will live out their years, wondering just what Jesus is doing, why He didn’t act in ways they expected and exactly when they will receive the fullness of His promises for abundant life.

Here I am: my son is dead.  It is certainly not what I expected.  It’s not how I thought God would honor my prayers of safety and long life for my children.

Yes, I live on the other side of the Resurrection-I know the end of the disciples’ vigil-I am convinced of the empty tomb, the ascended Lord and my Great High Priest’s intercession at the right hand of the Father.

But what I long for I cannot hold.  What I hope for I cannot touch.  What I know to be true I cannot see.

I live in the space between “it looks like everything has gone horribly wrong” and “Hallelujah!”.

It is painful.  It is hard.  And it will last for a lifetime, not just a few days.

I am thankful for the resurrection, and I live each day longing for Christ’s return.  But my heart hurts in the meantime, my arms ache to hold the child I love.

So be patient with me if I  cry harder when singing the hymns of heaven.  And be gentle when reminding me of my hope in Christ.

I am living between pain and promise and waiting desperately for Sunday.

There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on. When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!

I Corinthians 15:25-27 MSG