Discerning Life's Romance
I long for a romantic life. I imagine travelling some mystical world, one that does not include high health care costs or excel spreadsheets. There I enjoy adventure and leisure, with problems that are immediate challenges rather than long term budget shortfalls.
Of course, that place is mere fantasy. And yet, do we not all desire for life to have a romantic flavor, an epic feel, a powerful thematic storyline?
I think this desire explains John Elderidge's popularity. Though theologically imprecise, he captures our internal wish to participate in a story larger than our lives and more poetic than balance sheets and alarm clocks.
It's here that reading Deuteronomy and Augustine's Confessions simultaneously has been such a blessing.
In Deuteronomy, Israel comes together to remember all that God has done for them. Their hearts are strengthened for the coming wars against Canaan (a land of people viewed as "sons of Anak" for their size, living in cities, "fortified up to heaven.") by the memory of all God had done for them, and by reminders of his promises. They are readied to enter this terrifiying land, but "Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you." (D. 9:3)
In Confessions, Augustine celebrates God's action in his life, even referring to the joy of God making him miserable while he was in sin. He prays, "...I confess my shame to Your glory. Bear with me I pray, and give me the grace to retrace in my present memory the devious ways of my past errors and so be able to 'offer to God thanksgiving.'"
In both cases, the people of God find comfort by remembering their past, and discerning the part that past played in the larger story of God's action in the world. Their participation held meaning because both ups and downs had roles in proclaiming God's glory to the world.
From all this, I am reminded to remember. I am called to spend time appreciating (perhaps even articulating) God's action in my history, and to take joy in how he uses my life to glorify His name.
So today, as I fight annoyance at the cost of healthcare or impediments to financial stability, I remember. I recall my wife and son, both brought to an undeserving man desperately needy of their stabilizing influence. I recall my varied job history, and the incredible frustration it brought... along with great preparation in a variety of areas. I recall years of embarassment at having a quick mind that cannot seem to settle down and master any one area- and yet I now see how it has prepared me for ministries that favor just such a mind. I recall anger at my many failures, and then appreciate their value for sanctification.
Joy takes work, and today I celebrate the way God shows himself in our histories, allowing us to see the epic romance of participating in God's plan of glorification.