Saturday, January 17, 2009

When Boxes Are Empty and Diamonds are Lost.

You're not going to believe this--the diamond in my engagement ring is gone! Yep. You heard me! Gone. I still remember when Jeff and I were looking at rings. We had seen every style imaginable and given my affinity for old things, I'd really admired several estate diamonds. Jeff and I both figured we'd end up buying a vintage ring but then I saw it--a princess cut solitaire and apparently I literally squeaked out loud. Needless to say the evening Jeff proposed--a hot summer night under the blanket of the moon on the end of a dock spread like an arm dangling into the sweet Michigan lake--he placed on my finger the princess diamond. Now, ten years later I look down at my hand and it is gone. Four vacant and somewhat dirty prongs stand like an empty pitchfork on the golden band and my diamond is not there. The shock of realizing the valuable part of my engagement ring was MIA was quickly replaced by retracing of my footsteps. Where had I lost it? Talk about a needle in a haystack! Still, we haven't found it. It's just not there. When I told Jeff I really wasn't sure how he'd respond. "I wanted you to have that forever," was all he said. I looked at him and said, "I know. Me too." But then I got to thinking, our love isn't in that diamond. Sure it represented ten years of marriage, but my real treasure was sitting right there beside me on that couch. "I'd rather have you than that diamond any day. And I've got you forever," I told him. And that's the truth. Sometimes the places we believe our treasure to be turn up empty and we discover the truth that they never contained them in the first place. Several years ago when Alzheimer's began to stake its claim on my grandmother I remember receiving a Christmas parcel from her in the mail. On Christmas morning we opened the packages from her. Inside one was a gift for our eldest son, Nathan. When we opened the other--labeled for our newborn Corton--it was empty. We all laughed out loud. Thankfully Corty was just a couple months old and didn't have to experience the disappointment of an empty Christmas box. Grandma had forgotten to put the gift for Corton inside the box before she wrapped it. Nothing inside that box. And nothing inside the prongs of my engagement ring. Nothing. You know I can't help but think about how this relates to my view of Jesus. Without ever intending to do it, I often try to find Him in boxes and He too just isn't there. We hear it said all the time, "Don't put God in a box." And I've always tried hard not to do that. But we are born with boxes so big we don't even realize that's what they are. It's like that movie with Jim Carrey--The Truman Show--where a man lived his entire life on a television set so large he had no idea his life wasn't real. We can have boxes for God so big that we have no clue that we're actually living within an entire framework that limits who God is. I've been reading the gospels since the new year began and what stands out to me is how Jesus constantly blue the walls off the boxes of the people with whom he interacted. I love in Luke chapter five when a paralyzed man gets lowered through the roof of a house in hopes of physical healing and Jesus says, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." (Luke 5:21) It's as though he was saying, "Buddy, you think I can heal you physically and that's true, but you've got no idea the extent of what I can do for you and the ramifications of the power of God that rests on me, at work in your life." The more I look for Jesus and search for who He is, the more I discover He's just not in the places where I think I'll find Him. Every box I look in turns up to be empty as though He's whispering in my ear, "Sarah, I'm not there--I'm more. I'm bigger. I'm greater. I'm simpler. I'm deeper. I'm wider. " Sometimes I even stop and ponder whether it's a great form of pride to assume we can discover and understand one tiny iota of who God is. He's God, for goodness sake! God. GOD ALMIGHTY. GOD CREATOR. GOD REDEEMER. As a human, is that something I can even begin to fathom? Though there are Messianic Jewish people, consider the vast majority of Jewish people who still look for the Messiah. They are looking in a box that is empty--their Messiah has come, He has lived, He has died and He has risen to the right hand of the very God they worship--Elohim Himself! Consider the disciples and followers of Jesus--they believed He would usher in the kingdom of God during their life and had no idea that He would literally die and rise again. He blew the doors off of what they thought they completely understood. And get this--he LIVED WITH THEM! He was right there under their nose telling them of His plan all along and yet they could not understand it. How much more then is it likely that the very parameters in which we view Jesus are probably our feeble attempts to understand a concept so vast and broad that we are merely building walls which will at some point collapse like a house of cards? I love how Paul puts it in Colossians 3:11, "Christ is all and in all." And in chapter 2 verse 9 he says, "For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of God bodily." To begin to intellectually grasp the magnitude of those passages is I believe humanly impossible. How can I even know what all is? Christ is all. All. Everything. What I can begin to grasp is this: Is He ALL to me? Now that is something I can wrap my head around. Is He the beginning of life for me? Is He the source of joy for me? Is He comfort to me? Is He peace to me? Is He love to me? Is He provider to me? Is He redeemer to me? Is He satisfaction to me? Is He contentment to me? I'm not one for making New Year's Resolutions--never have been. I like New Year's themes though, and this year I've asked God to blow the walls out of my vision of Him. When I read His Word this year, I'm desperate to view it in as pure an understanding as is possible. I want Him to erase my previous conclusions and help me to see Him for who He is--who He wants to be to me. Like a kaleidoscope I want Him to shift my vantage point from what I've been told to what He reveals. I've been raised in boxes--not because anyone tried to put me in them but because that's our human tendency. Oprah Winfrey has coined the phrase--what do you know to be true? I'm not a raging Oprah fan, but I like that question. It's my prayer that this year I will stand on the simplest of truths--that God is all. I pray I'll hold loosely to the idea that I can figure Him out and tightly to the reality that my job isn't to figure Him out but to love every part of Him that He chooses to reveal to me. In the end, every time I think I've got God figured out it's like I'm looking down at a golden band with empty prongs. The treasure--the face of God and the heart of Jesus exist, but not in the bands we've melted down to fit the fingers of our lives. He is infinitely more. And above all, He is love. May we live as though we know that to be true and may we cast down the walls about us and breath afresh and anew the presence of God in 2009. Amen. Pray with me: Jesus, I am honored that you would grace my heart with your presence. May I never miss who you are and what you stand for. May I not look for you where I think you are, but may I wait for you to take me where you are going. Show me your heart and soften my own. Jesus you deserve my awe and my amazement at all that you are and I honor you for being far more than anything I'll ever fully comprehend. May I walk in you--the way, the truth and the life. Amen.