My butt sat on the hard bleacher, the room hot with boredom and hundreds of bodies on an early summer day in California. My head rested in my hand, elbow on knee, anticipating the end of this forever assembly of the student body. Blah, blah, blah, award after award. Today we’d like to honor so and so…who has been a professor here with us since 1993. Lazily, I comment that was when I graduated from high school. Sten sits beside me and responds that was the year he graduated from 6th grade. My head jolts up and not long later nauseousness sets in. What? Oh my gosh! Am I actually thinking of dating this guy who was a 6th grader when I was a senior in high school? That’s crazy talk.
When Sten and I were first together, those 5 1/2 years seemed like a pretty big gap. I, at least, struggled for a number of years with the age difference. People would say, “well, he must be really mature for his age.” “Yeah,” I thought, “or I am remarkably immature and no one bothered to tell me.” We’ve been married 12 years now, and while the reality of our age difference does still come up from time to time (Sten still has no gray hairs and I have a multitude) – as time goes on, the impact of those 5 1/2 years diminish. There will for all of time, remain 5 1/2 years between the birth of myself and the birth of Sten. No future event or mass of future events, will ever, ever change that reality. Never the less, as time marches on, the relative time of those years gets shorter and shorter – their significance, smaller and smaller.
This is in away, similar to what God promises. He says that the trials and suffering of these days, will one day feel relatively light and momentary as they sit alongside the amassed glories of God’s fulfilled promises. No matter how much time passes, or what good might come out of these days, their sorrow and the “wrongness” of disease and death, will always remain real and true. Sickness will always be a brokenness that is not as it should be. Death is always an end we know in our gut should not be. We were not created for sickness and death. They exist because sin exists – BUT – one day they will no longer exist. They will be done away with forever. There will be no more sickness or dying or tears. And all of our weighty sorrows and suffering will diminish in their relative girth as they sit alongside all of the life and wonder and beauty that God has already begun and will continue on into eternity.
Such claims sometimes seem like a cop-out – like some handy explanation to make anything okay. They seem like they let God off the hook. But what if it is true? What if what He says in His Word IS true? Then it is not some flimsy explanation but glorious, wild hope and joy!!! The thing is, we are not there yet – God’s outrageous promises are not all fulfilled. How in the world can we put our hope, as we feel our lives battered relentlessly by storms, in some future hope that it will not only eventually be okay, but wondrous? You want me to bank on some invisible God I’ve never heard speak to me with my ears? You want me to look at this broken mess in front of me and call it momentary and light. How audacious! How offensive! Unless of course it is true. But how can I know?
So I used to just really hate hymns. Mostly I’m a horrible singer. I have absolutely no skill at singing and asking me to sing a hymn is like saying I should get up this morning and climb Mt. Rainier. Not going to happen. I’m still awful at singing, but I have actually learned to love hymns. Perhaps it is because of Augustus Montague Toplady – a ridiculous name really, and one I could not help snicker at every time we would sing “Rock of Ages.” His catching name caused me to start looking at the names of those who wrote each of the hymns we sang. Over time it came to me that I was singing the same words that some one hundreds of years ago, in a radically different time and potentially radically different place, wrote. We both, Augustus and I, were saying the same things about God. He wrote those words 240 years ago in England and we can both attest to the same experiences with this God! The more I looked for the names, the more excited I got when I saw that they were writing about their experiences with God and they matched my experiences with God. Surely the testimony of many witnesses who don’t know each other, who have lived in different times and different places with totally different life experiences, must lend great weight and credibility to their claims!
This morning I finished reading the claims of another sister in Christ. Claims about God being good in the midst of deep darkness. We are voices proclaiming the glories of a beautiful, good God who meets us right here, right now. The present fulfillment of His promises is why I put my hope, stake my claim, on the fulfillment of His future promises. I lift my eyes and look for Him!
Here are her words bearing witness: Charlies Song: Proof of God’s Goodness
Here are Augustus’ words bearing witness:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from it’s guilt and power
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
On a happy side note – Allistaire’s ANC today is 175!!!! Yesterday she got out and rode her bike around the Unit three times and did about 30 laps around our little 300-wing of the Unit. Her mucus is starting to look a little more like normal saliva. Go neutrophils GO!