(Adapted from correspondence)
A thought at 6:40 AM.
Just a quick thought, not really a devotional.
I was just walking along the street this morning alternately praying and singing quietly. The 6 AM street in my corner of Seoul is bright - a touch hazy - quiet and cool. Older men and women wander the streets, but I live in a low-traffic suburb so, by and large, I was alone with my thoughts and my God.
Walking along, I was struck by the way that God has constantly been using ongoing relationships between myself and non-Christian friends to continually draw me closer to Him.
It can be incredibly frustrating to see close friends go through recurring struggles with sin. But I can't help but be awed and astonished at how uniquely God reveals Himself through seeing my friends' struggles with themselves and their compulsive needs to rely on inadequate sources of succor. I see truth occasionally breaking through in moments of honesty and reflection, and this must be exactly the same way that God sees me struggling with myself and my foolish, contemptible pride.
The life of the Old Testament prophet Hosea is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, hands down. Dude was a prophet and God had him marry a mad um loose woman. Why? "The people in this land have acted like prostitutes and abandoned the Lord." Burned.
God had Hosea go out and marry an unfaithful woman precisely so that he would have a personal experience of sin, from the other side. So often we sin and see the grievous marks it leaves on our own souls and lives; sometimes, even, we get a glimpse of what it means to grieve God or the Spirit, and we get a jolt of repentance and humility from that. But to understand Sin, even if only briefly and vaguely, from the point of the person pursuing the lost, rather than being pursued as the lost, is also a great (and terrible) gift.
I'm not advocating going out and trying to fall in love with/marry/invest in the most tragic person you can, simply to have an experience of what it's like to be God. That sounds vaguely blasphemous, if not explicitly foolish.
But I think God does sometimes put us in situations where He desires to teach us some specific lesson about what it means to Trust Him and, yes, even to Be Him (this is the same reason that the "Dark Night of the Soul" and the stigmata are considered gifts in various Christian traditions: they are experiences that allow us to partake in Christ's suffering and share a deeper understanding of His spirit).
I've heard multiple sermons about how difficult it can be to raise children without the assurance that they will follow after the Lord.
In the same way, it can be incredibly difficult to be so deeply invested in a person, without any assurance that they will be able to bring themselves to care about their own future. There is a lot that I have seen friends do, see them continue to do, and know that they will do that grieves me personally and spiritually; and I can only imagine how deeply it grieves our Maker.
But if I myself have sinned as much as I have, and yet God loves me; and yet He loves me; and yet again He loves me; then who am I to not extend that same forgiveness? And, in extending it, I feel some of the joy - and deep tragedy - of what it means to love an as-yet unregenerate soul; I can only imagine what it is to be really in love with every one of those souls. I know I couldn't bear it.
So, it's a good thing that I don't have to; not alone, anyways.
A thousand times I've failed;
still, your mercy remains;
Should I stumble again,
still, I'm caught in your grace.
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame
Sunday, July 13, 2008
(Adapted from correspondence)