Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Week Commences

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Glory be to Thee O Lord Most High,
Blessed is he who cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!

Heartiness v. Heartlessness to Others

Beware of outstripping God by your very longing to do His will. We run ahead of Him in a thousand and one activities, consequently we get so burdened with persons and with difficulties that we do not worship God, we do not intercede. If once the burden and the pressure come upon us and we are not in the worshipping attitude, it will produce not only hardness toward God but despair in our own souls.

God continually introduces us to people for whom we have no affinity, and unless we are worshipping God, the most natural thing to do is to treat them heartlessly, to give them a text like the jab of a spear, or leave them with a rapped-out [harsh] counsel of God and go. A heartless Christian must be a terrible grief to Our Lord.

~ Oswald Chambers (1 April, My Utmost for His Highest)

This past weekend was refreshing to my soul. It was spent with friends over cups of good tea, hearty conversation (and a box of kleenex), laughter, food, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, walks, more conversations, and more delectable food.

Over a breakfast of crepes and fresh fruit (and delightful tea), one of the women at 'The Awesome Ladies House' read the above text from My Utmost for His Highest. Several parts caught my attention, but in light of a conversation had the day before with the very same friends, these lines hit the hardest: If once the burden and the pressure come upon us and we are not in the worshipping attitude, it will produce not only hardness toward God but despair in our own souls.

If we run ahead of God, if we seek to care so deeply about others that even God Himself cannot care as deeply as we do (or so we imagine), then the burden becomes intolerable. We are crushed under our own compassion and concern. What is right to have our hearts broken over becomes despair to our souls. Whether it is love for another, a brokenness over someone's hurt, anger at the problem of evil, a hatred for death, or something else with a good root, if it is carried too far (and not surrendered to God) it breaks us.

Yet how could we think that we care about something or someone more than God? How could sin or death, hurt or evil break our hearts more than they break God's? We are tempted to think that God is not so good as He actually is. That is a lie. God is Good, even when we cannot see the outcome. God hates brokenness and the Fall far more than we ever could. And only the Christian God did something about it, because He could. Only He could become a man, live a sinless life, and as one with authority –yet innocent– die in our place and be raised to life by His own power.

Surely the One who did this hates brokenness, death, and pain more than we do. He hates it enough to not only desire to fix it, He actually stood death on its head at the cost of His own life.

As I have been reading the Matthew's gospel I have been brought to tears at Jesus' attitude. He pronounces woes upon the Pharisees (with whom I have far too much in common), but juxtaposes that with the desire for life and hope for all of Israel (and the world). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

Over and again the book of Matthew says that Jesus was moved with compassion for a person, a crowd, etc. It is this idea of a hen gathering her chicks to herself for comfort and protection that paints the picture of God's tender love toward us. The word 'compassion' etymologically means to 'suffer together'. Jesus is the only God in history who suffers with us. He suffered for us in His passion and death. Now He suffers with us when our hearts are broken. He even teaches us what is good and right to be broken over.

We only taste the barest portion of His suffering (either in our own experiences, or in suffering for or with others). Further, we only taste a fragment of what true joy, hope, exhilaration, life, and Beauty are. The more we know God, the more we cultivate a capacity to experience both the depth of pain and suffering, along with the heights of joy and hope. Imagine how much richer our experience and understanding of the good, true, and Beautiful, of life itself, will be when we are with God in the new heavens and the new earth!

This leads to what another of my friends said after we read Chambers yesterday: "When you rearrange despair it becomes praised". Indeed, as Chambers said, if we meet with suffering or burdens when we are not in an attitude of worship, we will despair. Instead we must seek to 'give thanks in all things'. If we are praising God for who He is, all that He has done, for His word, et cetera, because of or in spite of life's circumstances, then how can despair gain a foothold?

These are the thoughts given to me upon the commencement of Holy Week. Though I 'missed' church yesterday due to breakfast with 'The Awesome Ladies', I was given more hope, life, and hard things to chew upon than one hour of liturgy at church often offers. In fact, I will long remember what I was doing this Palm Sunday because I was living out 'church' (being the body of Christ) with these ladies. I am tempted to break church tradition and say the 'H word' a week early: Hallelujah! He is worthy of all praise, adoration, our hearts, and our very selves! Amen.

~ Johanna

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