Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bring it on

The last couple of weeks have been pretty difficult for me physically.  Because of this, I've also felt increasingly discouraged.  I was trying to remember the last time I simply woke up in the morning and just sprang out of bed, certain my legs, feet, back wouldn't protest.  It was about a decade ago, I realized with more than a little dismay.  Probably my trip down memory lane to find these particulars about my life shouldn't have been undertaken while pain is the overarching theme at the moment.  It did me no good whatsoever to think of who I used to be, what I once could do instinctively.  Things like helping E paint the house, as she's been doing this week--Beve and I used to be great painting partners and now I can hardly hold a brush, let alone a roller.  I used to take long walks with my small children, dogs, Beve.  At the moment, walking down the bowling lane that is the hallway through our house is a fairly arduous task and leaves me gasping. 

But during this week, in my New Testament reading, I've been living with the Corinthians, reading Paul's second letter to them.  And from where I sit, Paul's on about one thing (as my Australian New Testament prof at Regent College would have said).  He begins the letter talking about the Father being the God of comfort and compassion who comforts us in all our troubles.  This alone is good news.  For one thing, it takes for granted that we have troubles.  And this is fair warning, because Paul spends the next several chapters (ok, I've only gotten through chapter 6, and know there's plenty more ahead of me--great stuff in there, too) talking about those troubles.

In 3:17, it says, "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory."    Being transformed into His image.  That's His goal for us, and what a goal it is.  Alright then, I think.  Bring it on, however you will, Father. Whatever it takes, as I've said before.  Really.  Whatever it takes to make me reflect you, whatever it takes to make me transformed into the Image of your Son, the image I was actually created in.  Be ruthless with me, I pray sometimes.  Not for me is Him being gentle and easy with me--I want whatever it takes to make my life more Christ than me.

And Paul is pretty clear that what it takes is equal parts His power and our human difficulties, according to 4: 7, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." The end of the chapter tells us that our afflictions produce 'an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all.'  These words radiate power for me.  They help pull me out of bed when I'm feeling that 'run over by a mac truck' pain day after day.  And eternal weight of Glory.  I WANT this.  I am every bit this hungry, covetous, needy.  I want everything He offers.

And then in chapter 6 there is a tremendous passage where Paul actually lists those things that help achieve that eternal glory.  Paul commends himself to the Corinthians with a list of 37 things.  When I listed them this morning I discovered that exactly half are 'troubles'--things like beatings, imprisonments, hunger, sleepless nights, being regarded as imposters, having nothing.  When I read through it, I realized that though most of us don't experience those severe hardships, there is something for every one of us on that list--troubles, hardships, distresses, to quote him.  And as those things are worked into our lives, as the Holy Spirit works His eternal glory into us through them, we also learn the other half of the list: Purity, understanding, patience, kindness, sincere love.  

Light and momentary afflictions.  I dwell with them.  Learn to trust them to do the work that a mere healthy body and easy road cannot do for me.  For others, there are different kinds of hardships, but these are mine.  And I rejoice in them.  Because here's the bottom line:  My utter weakness reveals the all-surpassing and total power of God.  It's worth it, every bit of pain, every hard step. Bring it on, I say to this diseased world.  Bring it on, I say to Satan who wants my weakness to be my undoing. There's purpose here, there's eternal glory at stake. So bring it on, and Father, glorify yourself in my life.

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