I boarded a train for New England yesterday. Said goodbye to Beve and our New Jersey friends in Trenton and said hello to my baby brother in Providence, Rhode Island. And in between saw a whole new world. Back in New Jersey, Beve read a book, waited through the afternoon for his 6 PM flight home. A flight that was first postponed then, when he and ML (who was driving him) were fifteen miles from the Newark airport, canceled. CANCELED. Poor Beve. Poor me, too, since I'm nothing if not selfish. My first reaction was that he could have boarded that train with me, spent the night up here in Plymouth, Massachusetts at my brother's family's home, then fly home from Boston when we drive up this afternoon to pick up my sister, RE. If only we'd known. Sigh.
How often I have said these words: "If only we'd known." If we'd known what the future held, we would have planned a different course. If one step had gone a different way, we could have done this and that and the other thing, and wouldn't that have been grand? Then I sigh, thinking I've missed out on something, wishing I could have known to plan differently.
That's the thing, of course. Most of the time, we don't know why things happen as we do. We live life in a deep fog, with only the headlights of our faith lighting up the smallest path in front of us. We keep moving, but God doesn't allow us to see in the distance. He never intends that. The future would be too much for our feeble brains. They might explode. The suffering we'll face just because we're human and live on earth is hard enough--the missed flights, the things that don't go the way we expect, the tornadoes, floods, infirmities, death dates of our best beloveds (from pets to spouses). But then there's the pain we'll face via sin--either as the trespassed or the tresspasser. It would overwhelm us until we'd be reduced to a muddle unable to move.
And hence the fog. Hence, the shadowy headlights God lights before us. He alone carries out future. He knows and bears it. As hard as it is. Our future is safely where it should be. The Psalmist says we are held in the shadow of His wings. Since I'm not especially enamored of birds and find their flapping wings particularly unnerving, these words have never comforted me. However, this morning, there's something to them. Rather than the full glare of a hot future that would burn us, we are protected in the shadows of His wings. He soars--with us--into OUR lives. Carrying us with Him, doing for and with us what we cannot do.
Yet there is also this. It cost Him. Of course. Carrying us cost Him. The pain of our lives burned Him. He knew our days--past, present and future--and it cost Him. The actual knowing and bearing of our lives killed Him. Too much sin, of course will do that. And ultimately, it came down to sin. And He died. But even as He died, or perhaps I should say, because He died, we were protected. We were kept safe in the shadow of His wings.
And then out of His dead, or (as the old myth goes) out of the ashes, He rose. Out of ashes, came beauty. His so beautiful, scarred hands and feet, and sword-pierced side. NOT exactly the same as He was before. Our God is no Phoenix. When He rose, it was with a body full of the markings of what that death had cost. What our lives had cost Him. That is the beauty from the ashes. And now, in His resurrection, we live. We live. Safe within the shadow of those nail-scarred wings.
It's all we need to know about our future. He knew. It cost Him. And it's beautiful, indeed.