The Now and Not Yet

IImage’ve been thinking lately that the Christian life is weird.  There, I said it. 

But what do I mean, you ask? 

Well, it’s weird in that we are promised the blessings of the resurrection life, yet are stuck on a broken planet.  Weird in that we are told of a crown of glory awaiting us, yet are stuck in fragile bodies.  Weird in that the heaven of streets of gold awaits us on day, yet we are stuck in a land of war and greed.  I find this weirdness best described in the Church’s term about this very concept—the “now and not yet.”  The Apostle Paul said that we see things now through a mirror, darkly.  You have an idea of things, but not the full picture. 

As a child, I remember many a Saturday morning waiting for my father to come pick my older sister and I up for the weekend.  His arrival at my mom and stepdad’s, in my mind, was to give rise to a succession of events that would be wonderful, taking my sister and I to his home where a world of different rules, different traditions and different people awaited us.  We had an idea of things ahead, but not the full picture.

There was always something mysterious about the agenda for the weekend. Would we visit with my grandparents and enjoy their company? Would we spend time at the tidepools, casting rocks for Maggie the golden retriever to fetch out on the breakers?  Would the weekend allow for a visit to Friendship Park with the climbable bubbles (pictured) in the playground, begging for a game of hide and seek?  We had some idea of the weirdness of the weekend’s agenda ahead, but not the full picture. 

The wonder of a weekend at my dad’s is the intrigue I picture the disciples having as they waited for “when the Helper comes, who will testify of [Jesus]” (John 15:26).  Who was this Helper and what was He to help with?  How?  Who said they needed help anyway?  And what sort of help would He provide?  What sort of things would the disciples be able to do with the Helper’s help?  Like Alice, we too cry “Curiouser and curiouser!

The disciples found out just how deep the rabbit hole went on Pentecost Sunday, which we celebrated this past Sunday, when they saw the power that they received.  The Apostle Peter shows a great example of the Resurrection Life, of the power that was received by the early Church, and that is also available to those of us who reach out in faith to Jesus today. It’s the unleashing of God’s power from heaven.   It’s the power to forgive when circumstances just don’t make sense.  It’s the power to go beyond what we feel we’re able to do.  It’s the power that can only come from a God who knows that the life we live in is truly weird in that we know of His promises now and His promises not yet. 

This power, yearned for by everyone, is what is called for in Emilie Griffin’s Souls in Full Sail.  She writes:

What we need most is spiritual courage.  We need a biblical imagination to see God as He really is, in all His tenderness and power.  Before us, there is a whirlwind, and in the midst of the whirlwind is I AM.  I AM to whom all the world yearns; I AM, who yearns for His people with a boundless love.  I AM is the one who drives all loves, who guides all paths, who walks before us on the yellow brick and every other road.  I AM will give us the heart, the mind, the sense of being full, not hollow, who will satisfy all our yearnings and bring us home at last.  His city is more than emeralds, more than sapphire and rubies; all perfection reigns there; in that city the falsehood of our perfectionism is burned away by the fire of God’s enduring love.  

What sort of God do we serve that gives us this yearning but not the full picture?  It is a God of grace.  A God who knows that I can only take things piecemeal.  It is the God of Moses who covers his eyes because, while wanting to see Him fully, he could only see His back as the full glory of the Lord would have crushed him.  It is the God who allows you and I to make our own decisions, to have free will and wants growth and health for all of us more than we ever will. 

I AM is there in the midst of our life’s weirdnesses now and He, too, is also in charge of the not yet that lies ahead. 

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