Wednesday, May 22, 2013

glory in souls

I think the mark of spiritual maturity isn’t that you have a safe life where you follow all the rules and look respectable and have a clean house and don’t cuss.  I think the mark of spiritual maturity should be looked for in the soul, because it starts in the soul.  Of course, it comes out in how you live. It should. That’s one of its proofs.  But we are foolish if we believe that because someone is clean on the outside, that they are alive on the inside.  It is easy to pretend on the outside. It is impossible to fake a dead soul.  

I think the mark of spiritual maturity is how much your soul yearns for God, and what it does with that yearning. I think spiritual maturity is how you talk to the God who made the Big Dipper and the inchworm and your one of a kind face.  I think spiritual maturity is measured in your relationship with the one who couldn’t just let you die without hope, who chose to bear everything on your sake, who forsook glory so He could awaken your soul.

Spiritual maturity isn’t about what you don’t do or the rules you keep or the verses you have memorized or the tv shows you don’t watch or the car you drive or your bank book or the hymns you sing.  Spiritual maturity usually involves some throwing out of the book, because it isn’t sufficient.  A soul who has been captivated by a God big enough to create a universe and loving enough to redeem it will not simply be ‘clean and orderly.’   That soul will overflow with glory.  Even if life sucks.  Even if sorrow and despair and sin and darkness characterizes its situation more than spiritual ‘cleanliness’.  

The soul who has been given glory will keep rambling on.  That soul will not be simple.  Life isn’t simple.  Even the cleanest of circumstances is still messy, because our souls are dark and complex and afraid and longing.  But for the soul that is known by God, there will be a glory big enough to overcome the pits.  There will be a rope that it clings on to even when the glory seems to fade into cracked lips and cracking relationships and cracking hearts.

Because that soul, that spiritually mature soul, it knows that glory does not die.
God will not be overcome, and neither will His children. 

Souls that overflow with glory, that spill it out in big ways and little, that eek with the beauty and depth and love that comes from the source of glory, those souls are spiritually mature.  And they are beautiful, despite their pain. Maybe even because of it.  God makes vessels of glory out of earthen pots.  And he likes to shine through their cracks.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I am not the hero.

I've talked with Micah quite a bit lately about living and dying and extraordinary faith, about how when you're in love with God, everything precious and insignificant about your life fades in comparison.  We sat in the van outside of her house after I drove her home from Bible study, and we talked about how we'd rather die like a French Revolutionist on the barricades then rust out in lukewarm mediocrity.   Christ is worth everything, we reminded each other, and I think we both felt that hole in our hearts bursting because it couldn't contain the majesty that is God and His plan.

(Micah wrote a beautiful blog post about some of those thoughts here. Seriously, go read it.)

But tonight, and the last few nights, I'm not sure exactly what it means to let my heart burst and my life burn like a torch- to die, namely.

I'm still doing things like homework and university applications and dishes and family quarrels and Bible studies and television and staying up past my bedtime.

Then there is this, which I've read several times over the last few weeks:

"We are afflicted in ever way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, 
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake."

Life right now doesn't feel like dying, and I don't feel like someone who is carrying that particular kind of death or life around.

Of course, following Christ in His death, being overcome by the majesty of God, isn't something that demands actual death in our North American culture.  There are no barricades for me to die on today.  Instead there is law homework and serving my family and prayer and speaking with love.  And God is no less present, and He is no less central to my existence, and He is no less glorious, but my eyes were captured by a fire and I feel like there's more smoke then fire here.

If I'm being completely honest, that's what makes me angst the most.  Dying isn't a path of actual thorns, and I'm not on the mission field or raising money for the needy or fighting abortion or evangelizing on street corners.

I watch my favourite characters on the screen, and they fight monsters.  They stare at death, they flame and burn and choose death and sacrifice and passion, and I come out of that with this ache, because how do I die like that?

Maybe that's the thing I have to give up in order to die.  I want to be the hero.  I want to fight the glorious battles that cost the most and hurt the most and I want to be victorious.   I want to die and get it over with, to be presented with an adventure and set off on it.  I want to die on the barricade, not in the green field of normal life.
We sang at church this Sunday that "our God is greater, and stronger, and higher than any other".   I had come from a week of mediocrity.  I had come from a week where the death of the barricades, of the gunshot wound, of the monster-fighting was more appealing to me then the death of Jesus.  My death more precious than his.

Our pastor reminded us, gently, from the pulpit that all the blood of the martyrs was not worth one drop of Christ's blood.  My pride want to fight that idea.   I want to believe that I'm the penultimate hero in the narrative of my life, that I am the focal point, that something I have done will make my life worthwhile.

"I'm not the hero of my story, am I Lord?" I asked, and it hurt to realize how I had valued myself over Him.

I am not the hero.  I have never been.  I can never be.

Instead, the man on the tree, the ransom, the passionately sacrificial son of God is the hero of my story. He is my worth, and my glory, and my joy, and my reason for dying.

How do I carry that kind of death in my body?  I don't feel like I know what that looks like.  And the burden of heroism and sacrifice and the battlefield is still an ember in my soul.  But how to die right here?  That may not be glorious in the way that I imagine, but that's not really the point.

Jesus is a better hero then me.

And I want to be His.

And what that looks like in the writing of the story, I want Him to decide.